Sophistication, Middle Class, Sev Batata Puri

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The Sarabhai’s came into existence in 2005 with the airing of the cult television series Sarabhai vs Sarabhai. Featured in the wide list of pilots that Star One had in its roster, the pilot of Sarabhai vs Sarabhai was not great. The mere projection of Sahil Sarabhai, one of the protagonists of the show stuck in Goa talking about his dysfunctional parents wasn’t as funny as the actual portrayal of the dysfunctional family itself. Needless to say it didn’t actually affect the trp of the show itself which built a loyal fan base among the critics and the audiences alike. Indian television was at a transition from the old-world family shows of like hum paanch and dekh bhai dekh to the slapstick and spontaneous comedy of the stand-up comics. Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, a show about the pretentious and conflicting lives of the members of an upper middle class family, was a gentle reminder that a show did not need to use murky jokes or forced comedy to make its audiences laugh. All it needs is heart and authenticity which when identifies with the audience itself is not only funny but also endearing.

 

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The lifeline and the main protagonist of the show, which featured four extremely potent protagonists, was Maya Sarabhai. The masterful Ratna Pathak plays to her strengths in this extremely convincing and tremendously witty role. Maya Sarabhai is raised in a foreign country and returns to India in her post-teens when she falls in love with her now husband, Indravadan Sarabhai. A beacon of courtesy, etiquettes and high society mannerisms, Maya Sarabhai is a socialite. Her socialism skills may put Pippa Middleton to shame and the allure of the high class society is magnetic for her. Imagine her horror when her elder son, Sahil Sarabhai falls in love with a small town Punjabi girl who at best can be called a scrooge. The altercation between an elitist sophisticated super-critical mother-in-law and her save-every-penny, loud-mouthed Indian soap gulping daughter-in-law is genius which drives the show. In an Ekta Kapoor dominated television scenario where the Saas-Bahu relationship is accompanied with tear jerks, plotting and various other stereotypical Indian emotions, this bitter sweet relationship is a breath of fresh air. She is strong, confidents and highly maternal- she fights for her older son’s attentions and tries to steal it from her daughter-in-law and she vociferously supports her younger son to fulfil his dreams of making it big in the literary scenario though he seldom shows any spark of talent.

 

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Indravadan Sarabhai is best described as the happy-go-lucky wealthy Uncle you meet in weddings and family occasion. Satish Shah is in his elements when he consistently opposes the views of his uber-sophisticated wife and sides with his poor defenceless daughter-in-law. He is plagued with the same kind of problems that any upper middle aged man in his 50s- over weight, pot belly, altercations with his son, a zest for whisky and the regular bouts with his wife. However inspite of these, the character is hardly stereotypical. He unfailingly criticises and picks upon his younger son, Rosesh Sarabhai, because of his enthusiastically written poems, most of which are senseless and terrible, and his unusual vocal sound. The prankster, the leech and the eternally paternal, Indravadan Sarabhai is endearing to say the least.

 

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Sahil Sarabhai is the straight man in this dysfunctional family. He is the sanest character in this plot who is constantly trying to appease his mother and his wife. Stuck between two widely contrasting personalities, Sahil is the reflection of a quintessential Indian son, someone stuck between the immense affections of his mother and his wife. And speaking of his wife, Monisha Sarabhai is one of those people who Ekta Kapoor tries to target, a housewife with a thirst for the dramatic who eats up the clichéd television soaps like sev bata puri. She is a miser and most of the stuff which she uses cost absolutely nothing. She uses Ganguram Dant Manjan as tooth paste, for her birthday lunch she wanted the have a cheap South Indian buffet buffet and most of the stuff she actually buys are substandard and a thorn in the sight of her snooty mother-in-law. This leads to repeated critical assessments and sweet-sweet wordplay, which adds charm to this series.

 

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Probably the funniest member of this family is Rosesh Sarabhai. He sounds like a duck who has just learnt to talk (Indravadan’s words, not mine), he calls his mother Moma (with an extended a sound), he writes terrible poetry, he is his mother’s pet and his father’s punching bag and he is oblivious to everything written above. He publishes a book of poetry with tanks and he gets side roles in preposterous plays. Rosesh is lovable as the goofball, untalented imbecile with a heart of gold. His poems are some of the high points of the show. If you don’t believe me, read this.

Momaa ka purse jaise hospital ki pyaari si koi nurse
purse mein rakha tissue paper karta hai paseene ka ilaaj
aur lipstick ho jaise bhookhe honton ka anaaj
momaa ke purse ka hai makhmali sa sparsh
momaa ka purse
momaa ka purse…

 

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And that is not the end of it. Added to this crazy roster are the daughter of Maya and Indravadan who is a psychic, her irritating technocrat husband, Maya’s sister who looks awfully like Sahil, the hilariously deaf uncle of Indravadan, his gossip queen wife, their distant relative named Kissme and many wonderfully originally characters. An IMDB rating of 8.8 justifies the genius of the show. It’s an ageless and a weirdly appropriate reflection of our society which every person can relate to. Many fans were sad to learn that the tv show was not renewed for the second but its many re-runs still make my day.

 

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