The Sarabhais are not perfect people.
The family clearly has problems communicating with one another and quite honestly, they can be really rude to each other at times. They didn’t often get along but you always came away with the feeling that they loved one another. They are without a doubt dysfunctional.
Perhaps that’s why they felt like a real family to so many of us across India?
When Sarabhai vs Sarabhai first premiered in 2004, most of the TV shows that ruled Indian channels were ones modelled along the lines of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. While they seemingly promoted the power of family, they also reduced everyone, especially women, to mere stereotypes. If you were a “good” woman, then you wore minimal make-up, spent a lot of time in either a temple or praying at home, your clothing was muted and modest and you worshipped your husband even if you were being wronged. If you were a “bad” woman, then you were relegated to wearing sleeveless blouses, loud make-up and painted as being extremely selfish and headstrong.
Making matters worse, the plots of some of these shows were so outlandish that it made it hard to identify with them.
Photo source: Facebook
While all of this may sound dated, those who still regularly guzzle through Indian television can vouch that similar shows and plots bafflingly still dominate the airwaves. Women are either villains or sacrificial lambs. And the only way a villainous woman can atone and reform herself without dying is by changing her wardrobe, throwing away her red lipstick and going along with anything that her husband and, by extension, his family demands of her.
But the Sarabhais were the real deal.
Sure, they were rich and privileged. But the show cleverly made fun of their privilege at every turn that we were never made to feel inferior. The characters (especially Maya Sarabhai played pitch perfectly by Ratna Pathak) could be really shallow but the show grounded them in reality and gave them real quirks that humanised them to millions in the country.
Think of the hilariously set-up scene from one of the earlier episodes that finds Maya Sarabhai throwing a fund-raiser to help underprivileged teenagers who have become alcoholics. So tone-deaf is the rich and privileged Maya that she tries to raise money by cracking open a bottle of champagne and selling Bloody Marys to her friends for 1,500 bucks a glass. And Maya, who is so set in her own ways and life, hilariously, never sees the irony in her actions. But we as the audience are allowed to shake our heads at her and laugh at how ridiculous it all seems.
I was a teenager when Sarabhai vs Sarabhai came out. At that time, I felt I had outgrown shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh and Hum Paanchbut I certainly could not identify with the traditional ‘saas bahu’ dramas that had taken over our television sets. What was left for me was Sarabhai vs Sarabhai and my connection to the show was instant.
During that half hour, I could forget about homework and exams and laugh deliriously along with these characters who walked and talked like people I might otherwise meet in my own life (albeit rather ridiculous ones at times). The women wore make-up but weren’t demons. The men didn’t have to be macho heroes to be desirable to the world. No one came back from the dead. In the land of Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, the jokes never stopped, the laughs never ended and every problem was resolved with clever one-liners and quick quips.
I couldn’t get enough of it.
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While my personal favourite will always be Maya Sarabhai because I absolutely love the way Ratna Pathak plays her with a knowing wink and cheeky grin, I could relate with nearly every member of the Sarabhai universe. I understood Sahil’s exasperation at dealing silently with the hijinks of his family. I cringed when Indravadan would ridiculously berate his wife and his younger son for loving poetry. I would nod along with Monisha’s disbelief at the carelessness of the rich and the privileged and I would shake my head every time Maya tried to impress her friends.
I saw my own flaws and insecurities in the members of this family and I could laugh at their atrocious behaviour when the situation demanded.
Photo source: Facebook
And I was devastated when the show was cancelled after just two years because that meant I couldn’t spend more time with the funny and loving family that also happened to be absolutely nuts.
But as news broke that the original cast would be back for another season (this time as an online series), I, along with anybody who was glued to their television back in the 90s and 2000s, did a secret jig of joy. It’s not that I am not concerned but I am hopeful as well. I hope the writers address some of the bigotry that seemed to seep through the walls of the glossy and perfectly groomed Sarabhai residence. And most importantly I hope the writers are able to keep the show fun, fast and irreverent as it has always been.
The Sarabhais may be fictional but I can’t wait to invite them to my home and to my (laptop) screen once again.
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With the show returning, the creators (and the Sarabhai family) are giving viewers a chance to actually come up with a name for the new season and series.
Watch the hilarious video below:
ATTN: The Sarabhai family is in dire need of YOUR help!
Posted by Hotstar on Tuesday, April 18, 2017