Sunday, May 01, 2005

the great indian ripoff - season 1

Some time ago I wrote about Shashi Tharoor's the Great Indian Novel. Tharoor the international bureaucrat / graduate of a top Delhi school was inspired by Mahabharata, and wrote . I'm no bureaucrat, nor did I ever attend a fancy dame school. I do like to write, but I'm much more influenced by soap operas than epics. Kahani ghar ghar ki and Dallas rather than Mahabharata. So while Tharoor comes up with the Great Indian Novel, I conjure the great Indian ripoff - the ultimate Desi soap opera. Here we outline the first season.

We set our scene in the fair city of Calcutta. It is some time in the first half of the twentieth century. Mohandas Karamchand owns several small businesses. He is married to Moti Bai, twenty years his junior. Their son Jawahar Lal is a student in the Scottish Church College.

Mohammed Ali, a young man from Mohandas' village, arrives in the city to study. Mohandas takes Mohammed Ali into his house as a tenant. Yeah right, you say, didn't you hear your grandmother talking about those Hindus treating Muslims as dirty and all, I hear you ask? I argue that the social norms of the village often break down in big cities. A Desi is a brother, regardless of which Desh passport they carry. Not convincing? Well maybe it's improbable, but hell, this is a soap opera, not social history!

Anyway, back to the story. Ali and Jawahar are of similar age and it's not long before they become good friends. They go to the movies, talkies as they called them back then. They support Mohunbaghan against the Goras. They debate the merits of socialism and nationalism. They are like any other young men of that era. And like any other young men of any era, they are mesmerised by pretty girls. Well, one particular girl - Archana Wavell, a local Anglo-Indian hussy - besets both Ali and Jawahar.

A good soap opera must have love triangles and twists, who will get girl, the audience must be made to wonder. This is no exception. Archie Wavell flirts with both our heroes, but she actually has a boyfriend - a local tough called Sirdar Ballabh. Our heroes are unaware of this, but soon become aware of the other's attraction to the girl. They maintain their outward friendship, but secretly, each plots the other's demise.

Jawahar comes up on top, stealing his mother's necklace and framing Ali. Mohandas kicks Ali out of the house. But Jawahar's triumph is temporary. He gives the necklace to Archie, who sells it, takes the money and sails off to Vialayat with Ballabh.

We end the first season here, stay tuned for more.