So, how many different kinds of parents can you spot in your favourite TV soaps? Let’s count –
Hitler Ma-G and Hitler Babu-G : The ultimate Power Couple of Indian television. They sit right at the top of the food-, social-, decision-, financial-, delusional- and all other kinds of chains you can think of. They are in their mid-50s. Always impeccably dressed – she in formal silks, elaborately coiffured (sometimes ghoonghutted in front of the Fuhrer), and he in formal dark achkans. They have never had any truck with ‘Emotions’, except, of course, anger and disappointment with everyone around them. It is remarkable that they might have ever shared a romantic moment together, imagining that they might have ever had sex is positively inconceivable if one looked at them. And yet, they have 4 sons. Who live with them with their 4 wives and 6 grandchildren. All adults, except the brand new youngest daughter-in-law (formally referred to as chhoti bahu), live in agonizing terror of the senior couple each day of their lives. The house they share is a palatial one with a giant staircase, though everyone likes to hang around in the main hall downstairs at all times. They run a super successful “family” business, which, presumably, runs on its own steam because no one in the house has ever been seen to be headed to work. Oh, and they never watch TV (because there is no TV to be seen in their large palace)
Hitler Ma-G and a pappu Baba : Most of the above applies. Except that the father is no Babu-G, he is more of a Papa, wimpy and ineffectual in front of his Eva Braun. She wears the proverbial pants in the house, he is usually in kurta-pyjamas. He smiles a lot when his wife is not around. Sex is again a curious proposition, because an unsuspecting onlooker might be surprised that the Black Widow didn’t eat him up right after they had their first go. The terror, the palatial house and the family business profiles remain the same as above.
Hitler Babu-G and Doormat Ma : Role-reversal from above. Notice the “G” is missing from Ma since she is only pertinent enough to be seen as part of the furniture and hence, quite inconsequential. Babu-G walks with a stick even though it is apparent that he doesn’t really need one due to any physical deformity. Perhaps it is a weapon? Ma likes to cook and her favourite (and only) dialogue is – “tum haath mooh dho lo, mein abhi khana lagati hoon” (literal translation – you wash your arms and face, I shall just put the food)
Just call me Baba : This father-type extra-sentimental old man has kindly eyes that seem to be moist even on normal days. His mouth spouts only philosophies, most of them quite inane and definitely useless in the real world. He lives like a saint in an otherwise extremely affluent household. His grown up children are usually adopted (or could be his deceased younger brother’s?), and speak in whispering genteelness all the time. In times of extreme crisis, i.e. when the adopted child is about to take a stand that goes against Baba’s morality, expect to hear the dialogue – “aakhir mein hota kaun hoon tumhe kuch kehne wala” (literal translation – after all, I am who to you a teller of something). Which might make a regular viewer cringe because all that the Baba has done since the TV serial started is sermonize.
Nag Ma and Beleagured Baba : This middle-class couple usually has five unmarried daughters, each prettier and more qualified than the other, and yet, their marriage prospects still look utterly doomed. No real reason is provided, except perhaps that the girls have a certain je ne sais quoi…also known as confidence and self respect. This Baba is usually called Papa, and he is usually happy and smiling, except when he is at work where the threat is that he might lose his job any day. Maybe he is just not that good at his work, the audience is never told. The nag Ma is a nag because no one listens to her (or she could just be menopausal. Again, I suspect we shall never know).
Normal Mummy and Normal Papa : You need to watch more TV. Move on.
Lesson Learned : TV Parents may come in different shapes and forms, but, clearly, only one actor is able to do justice as the All-Time- and All-Weather-Baba. No wonder TV audiences across the country can’t get enough of Alok Nath, perhaps the hardest working actor of all time! So, next time you see a promo for yet another new serial featuring Alok Nath, don’t roll your eyes. Instead, applaud his efforts at making your ordinary father look like the best dad in the whole wide world.
The title of All-Time-Mom already rests with Nirupa Roy, or had you forgotten?