In India, there’s no escaping regional TV shows.
From the Hindi soap ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ and Marathi ‘Chuk Bhul Dyavi Ghyavi’ to ‘Kadambari’ in Karnataka and ‘Chithi’ in Tamil Nadu, Indian serials captured the imaginations of millions of viewers in the country; indeed, almost all of us have watched at least one episode of TV soaps with our mums, aunts and uncles, or grandparents.
As you know, each episode is drenched in melodrama, packed with romance, revenge, family drama, and lots of stare offs. But does the drama extend onto the sets? Are the actors divas when they’re off screen?
To find out, we visited the sets of ‘Pattedari Prathiba’, a Kannada show about a housewife who becomes a detective, and helps her sister-in-law’s brother who is a police inspector to solve crimes. Sharmila Chandrashekar stars as Pratibha and Chandan Vijay as Inspector Ajay. Here’s what we discovered:
1) Being on Indian time is unacceptable
Arriving on set, we discovered that everyone on set was prepped and ready to go including the actors who were ready before time, with their makeup already done.
The director guided the crew members about the scenes to be filmed for the day. Then, the actors prepped 1-2 minutes for their first scene, one mock shot was taken, and then the scene was filmed. The swiftness and ease of the entire process was amazing!
2) Improv (ing) Acting
Not all scenes for the day are rehearsed ahead of time.
We learnt that at times, actors sometimes deliberately don’t read all the scenes ahead of their scheduled shoot; instead, the director will read pieces of dialogue to the actors who respond to it organically for the shot. Additionally, if the director feels there is a need for a change in a scene or dialogue, changes are made on the fly.
3) The truth about crying on cue
Actors crying their eyes out on TV is a staple of TV serials, thanks to a truly diverse array of reasons: the wife crying about her husband cheating on her, the mother worrying about her children, the daughter-in-law having been insulted about her cooking by her mother-in-law, young love thwarted by various issues, the list goes on. Indeed, crying makes such a regular appearance that it leaves one wondering how on earth its cast managed to handle the requisite amount of tears.
We’re sorry to break the illusion, but the tears aren’t real. Usually, glycerin is used. It reddens the eyes, and having a similar consistency to real tears, streams out of the eyes easily. And sometimes drops of water are very carefully dropped near the eyes just before the scene is shot.
4) Actors have to bring their own clothes
Actors playing supporting or background characters often have to bring their own clothes to wear on set and sometimes the leads do as well. However, when a special costume is required, such as the police uniform worn by Inspector Ajay in ‘Pattedari Prathiba’. the production team will provide the outfit (if the budget for the serial’s costume design allows for it).
5) Biriyani days are the best days
TV sets are famous for their on-set food! It is mostly vegetarian cuisine, but twice a week they have a feast which is biryani or non-veg gravy. Everyone unanimously agreed that those are the happiest days of the week on set.
Our visit to the ‘Pattedari Prathiba’ set did burst misconceptions we’d harboured about an Indian TV serial’s set, and we came away impressed with the professional behind-the-scenes efforts of everyone involved. Plus, two of the team ended up as extras for a scene filmed on the day we visited!
There’s really no business like the show business.
Written by Tejashree Anchan
Image Credit: Tejashree Anchan & Pradeep Gopal