Category Archives: Why we are Sofa Aloos

So You Want To Produce A TV Serial…

Achala Srivatsa is back doing what she does best – give helpful career tips! It really is your lucky day because this time she is dispensing valuable lessons in the field of TV Serial Production, just one of her many, many strong suits. Let’s just say, Remarkable Success is just around the corner if you follow her sage advice.  

So you’ve managed to talk daddy into parting with some hard-earned (or perhaps not so much) to produce a serial of your very own. Your buddy has watched every season of every serial ever produced – boy meets girl meets saas, boy-meets girl meets murderous ex, boy hates girl but marries her anyway, girl meets boy meets murderous ex, boy meets girl meets palace intrigues (in the form of an evil Rajmata) and so on. He is now confident he can whip up a little something in the way of a … let’s call it a script for fun.

The real question now is, are you guys up to speed in the make up and accessories department. On the off chance that you might not be, I’ve decided to put down a few helpful hints.

a)     Let’s start from the top. Regardless of the fact that a large number of Indian women have unbraided and cut their hair short and are now tossing around glossy, silky hair to establish their empowered status and to prove that they are worth it, the rule of thumb for serials is very clear.  The Virtue of the Woman is inversely proportionate to the length of her hair. This is particularly so for the Saintly Wife (refer to Rickie Khosla’s  path-breaking work on this creature – The longer and straighter the hair, the more steadfast and strong the saintliness. Sunsilk apparently works on your hair and your moral rectitude (as an aside, this gives new meaning to the phrase straight and narrow) Fearlessly invest in hair extensions and wigs. Extensions are better.

b)     Moving on to the eyes – the mirror to the soul etc. The key thing here is to bear in mind is – Iago. Yes, he of the Othello fame. You recollect of course that he referred to jealousy as a green -eyed monster.  You must take this quite literally.   Your serial will doubtless have an Evil Skank. Or perhaps just an evil woman or just a skank. Anyway, the point is to ensure that she is readily recognizable by her eyeshadow. Her eyes must hit at least 4 shades of green on a colour palette. Our Indian audiences are simple. Quite often they may not listen to your dialogue (and who’d blame them, really?) But they’d take one look at Green Eyes and go… “Right, I know her- Evil Skank”. Also, her false eyelashes must be fully 2 inches, which makes that whole heavy-lidded, bedroom eyes look that much easier to achieve.

c)      The eye make up for the Saintly Crowd tends be inspired by their character – “earthy, son of the soil, saintly” etc , again taken quite literally – look for the browns , nudes and saffrons on the warm side of the colour palette and you’re safe.

d)     Moving on to lips. I must quote Anthony Lane and say that you must make sure that all women (of the non-saintly disposition) look like their lipstick has worn lipstick. A couple of coats of Siren Red followed up by two coats of gloss (Eerie Glow) will do very nicely.  Saintly women will stick to – you guessed it – Matte Beige, Earthy Dirt Brown etc.

e)     Nails will follow suit.  And add two more inches to the nails of our ES.

f)       Fortunately, in the matter of apparel, all women can wear similar clothing. The key thing here is to have every shade under the sun in each saree with as many sequins and sparkly things as you can afford.  Modern skanks will also need tiny skirts and oddly designed dresses.  If your serial is a costume drama involving royalty, all men should unflinchingly wear heavily embroidered sherwanis or jodhpurs/ breeches all. the. time.

g)     And last but not least – accessories. Since we are running out of time, I have only one word for you – jewelry. All women and men (in costume dramas) must be festooned in jewelry – poundage is as critical as colour here. Rich Saintly Women will wear jewelry that weighs them down so much they have no option but to keep their head submissively bowed.

Now that you are all set… go forth and produce.  We anxiously await your completely original family thriller – Mere Saas ko Kisne Maara…


Things We Can Only Learn From Indian TV Serials – Chapter 1

Glorious life lessons that Zee, Star and Sony TV teach us everyday. This is why Soap Operas are Educational.


  • Angry Hero (a.k.a. 8-Year-Old-Boy, a.k.a. Mentally Challenged Man)
  • Saintly Wife

  • Nagging Mother-in-Law

  • Plus other characters

Background (a.k.a. the first 5000 episodes)

Angry Hero does not like Saintly Wife, despite the fact that she looks like Princess Diana and behaves like Mother Teresa. There is no real logic to this, it’s just how things are. Despite his constant torments (he works late, never smiles at her, never buys her presents, and I don’t think they have ever had sex – though, it is hard to tell on Indian TV if anyone ever has sex at all – children come directly from Heaven), Saintly Wife continues to suffer in peace (readies his clothes and black shoes in the morning, cooks his favourite dishes, uncomplainingly listens to Nagging Mother-in-Law’s well, nagging).


Plotline (a.k.a. the next 5000 episodes)

A serious car accident is imminent. That causes Angry Hero to become amnesiac, and promptly attain the competence of an 8-Year-Old-Boy (or Mentally Challenged Man – it’s one or the other, deliberately kept vague by the writers, presumably for legal reasons. We shall use both these character descriptions interchangeably). Nagging Mother-in-Law, who was previously an avatar of Queen Victoria, collapses like a house of cards. However, Saintly Wife rises to the challenge. Takes on the mission to heal the 8-Year-Old-Boy back to health, despite the best Brain Surgeon having uttered the cruelest words on TV – “I am sorry”.

Challenges abound, but Saintly Wife takes care of every kind of crazy that the writers can think of – house fire, Mother-in-law’s heart attack, Scheming Uncle wanting to devour property and business, business upheavals, cash crunch, police raid even. There is even a Nasty Distantly-Related-Nephew, who occasionally casts a bad eye on our virginal Saintly Wife. Our Saintly Wife is not just Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, she is also Warren Buffet and Thakur Baldev Singh (of Sholay fame). Needless to say, the Nagging Mother-in-Law converts over time (and even saves Saintly Wife from Nasty Distantly-Related-Nephew).

After the audience has coped with many, many instances of impending-doom-yet-saved-in-the-nick-of-time by Saintly Wife, she and Mentally Challenged Man must conduct a huge puja in the house to thank the Gods. Amidst a lot of background music of chanting and temple bells, (and falling TRPs and drying up sponsorships), the Mentally Challenged Man must trip and fall a l-o-n-g flight of stairs, then wake up in a hospital after “Operation!”,“Brain Surgery!”, “Coma!” and “Unko hosh aa raha hai”, eventually to finally recognize his Saintly Wife as his wife, and smile at her.


Lesson Learned

It may take a decade, but eventually, all Saintly (or otherwise) Wives fix their husbands.