Every weekday in the Connected Hum Tum Blog we will be posting and talking about the latest goings-on of the six women cantering around Mumbai recording their lives with video cameras. (Read The Curtain-Raiser post for a quick intro to the show.)
Episode 2, June 4th.
By Jugal Mody
The first time I ran into Paromita Vohra’s work was at the Breakthrough Tri-Continental Human Rights Film Festival where I watched Q2P. I was 21 and finding a place to pee had never been a problem except when I waded through water for hours in one of Mumbai’s annual monsoon shut downs. On that day, nothing had been funnier than the guy on screen, from her film Q2P saying (paraphrased), “But ladies toilet takes more space, no.”
The last time I watched Indian television was in 2010, when my mom and dad (yes, both) were hooked to Bandhini. Because that was the only parent-son time we could find in the day, I ate dinner while they watched Bandhini. We spoke between ads or during a predictably long and boring scene. I was 24 then.
Something you must know is that when it comes to tv series and shows, I pledge allegiance to fiction and everything that stands under it. My profound hatred for what we all know as “Reality television” has only been summed up by the Sorkinism for it: “Illiterate programming.”
So when I heard of what Paromita Vohra was upto with Zee TV, I was fairly excited but not without a cup of cynicism. As much as I cringed at various points (involving the TV women and Abhay Deol) in the curtain-raiser, I was kicked by the footage that introduced the six women who make the show, the shape of their lives alongwith impending or existing conflicts. Before you read on, can we start an online petition to reunite Savita tai with Abhay Deol in the commentary box? She brings the chutzpah to Abhay’s chocolate.
In today’s (June 4) episode, three women shove the camera deeper into their lives. We get to see dentist Preeti Kochar and the dynamic she shares with her family and the servants. We get to follow Bollywood dreamer Mahima as she finds a good PG arrangement for herself. And we meet the family, Pallavi is excited about getting married into.
Preeti’s segment begins with her being ambushed by a Mata ki chowki. We also catch a glimpse of her baby in his birthday suit being chased by her cute white dog. Preeti and her in-laws live right next door to her husband’s in-laws. The servants of the two households jokingly call the two sides India and Pakistan, where the kitchen window acts as the Wagah border. The best part of this running gag: The servant from Pakistan (her parents’ house) side has shown up at the kitchen window holding a plate of rice and is asking the servant from the India for some ghee. The highlight of Preeti’s segment has to be her running commentary. She insists her husband is obsessively compulsive about ‘creating space for things’ by turning their house into a living thing that sprouts shelves and cupboards all over the place.
The highlight of Mahima’s segment has to be the dreamy wide shots of the Bombay skyline, the poetry of which is used beautifully by Abhay Deol as he wrapped up the episode. Although, I felt that the segment missed what could have been the best part of Mahima’s hunt for a PG – the various conditions and demands that house owners make. Although, by the time the segment wraps up, we meet her new landlady who has been an actress herself, can only be described as a meethi chhuri and visibly overwhelms Mahima.
While Preeti is sharp, Mahima is dreamy, Pallavi is sincere. She is in love. While she is excited about her upcoming marriage, she is also terrified of the patterns of her past. While she is diving headlong into this relationship, and embracing her brother-in-law and her father-in-law, she finds herself hesitant and pensive at times. The best part of this segment is her description of how in a household filled with only men, their emotional dynamic is stunted to the point that it is barely functional. About how the three men in the family are busy and set in their own ways and how her presence in the life of the younger brother acts as a catalyst for warmth.
Preeti’s camera is her watchful eye, Mahima’s camera is her dreamy eye and Pallavi’s is her introspection. The theme that seems to bind Preeti, Mahima and Pallavi is that of space. Preeti lives in a space that is incredibly familiar to her but is constantly changing because of her husband. Mahima has just moved into a new room as a paying guest, which she is excited about. Pallavi is leaving her independent lifestyle after her first marriage and moving into a house with her husband, his brother, his father and no women.
Three takeaways from the episode:
1. From what I can make out, the three women who weren’t in today’s episode have a common conflict or theme related to relationships and romance.
2. The music deserves a mention as much as Abhay Deol needs Savita tai.
3. Can we have the show in a one-hour format? While the show works in the half-hour format, it works only as a documentation of lives. The fun elements of these lives don’t see enough justice.
Hey Jugal, I really liked the music too. Do you know all the tracks they had on yesterday? Abhay is still a bit bland and polite in the anchoring. I was hoping he would bring a little more bite to it.
I thought the show was canny to begin with Bombay’s housing blues and its foundling effect on the three women: Ghar Gharwale aur Gadbad.
The footage has, I’m guessing, been curated so that the housing components have been stuck together to make an episode – so, for example, I suspect that Preeti’s husband Sanju didn’t go about installing yet another new cupboard the same day he organized that insane maata ki chowki.
So far so good. This kind of clever curation will be the test of all the episodes to come.
The women are utterly compelling to watch. They smile, then they remember and smile some more tentatively.
Did anyone else feel like Pallavi is walking into a setup? Impending doom? Why would she move in with those three men?! (In any other city those three men, her future husband/f-in-law/ brother-in-law would have their own separate three houses, but this is Mumbai and here we get one shared hotel-lobby apartment…)
And Mahima’s landlady! She had the best lines of the evening when Mahima claims she prefers to sleep with the lights on: “Bill tumhe pay karna he, tum [bulb] chota lagao, bada lagao (big smile)…koi problem nahin hai (HUGE smile). 630, mera bill aaya.” Mahima will need cucumbers for her eyes, not bulbs.
Those so far have been the most delicious moments: the folks on the side of the frame, the more unselfconscious ones. Preeti’s mother-in-law rotating her eye sockets while directing the puja thali, her son wrestling with the dog, Pallavi’s boyfriend yammering romantically on the beach, and the landlady, of course. Sanju feels mulish as you watch the show, but today morning in my memory he seems to have a touching quality of a cute gargoyle in a towel.