Soaps may be reaching their golden years here in the United States, but, overseas, the genre is experiencing a veritable silver jubilee! India, which many Nonresident Indians remember as having only networks like DD1 and DD2, has dozens of soap operas — or “serials” — currently on the air, on various cable and satellite channels throughout the world. And, for those of us without a satellite dish, there’s streaming video available on many of the network web sites! My new personal favorite serial is StarPlus’ Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon (What Do We Name This Love?), which hooked me last Friday while I was visiting relatives.
IPKKND debuted in June and has already run for 100 episodes. The Hindi sudser centers around the lives of rich, arrogant, Mr. Darcy-esque Arnav Singh Raizada (Barun Sobti), adorkable working class Khushi (Sanaya Irani) and their loved ones. Much like U.S. soaps, there are common themes of family, business, romance, forbidden love and even bigamy! Indicative of the modern direction of Indian soaps (and the society they reflect) the premise of IPKKND is that Arnav’s former employee, Khushi, has been brought in to “train” his live-in girlfriend Lavanya to be more traditional. Of course, in the process of Khushi guiding and championing Lavanya, she and Arnav have developed quite the attraction. While they try to stifle the sparks, they constantly clash over his cynical view of the world and her passion for standing up for what you believe in.
What I love about IPKKND (besides, well, everything) is how it’s the perfect, traditional soap opera. It’s a visual delight: with gorgeous outfits, a clean set design and colors that just pop. It’s not just full of high drama and romantic tension, there’s a big comedic streak! Arnav has a really dry wit, and wacky things like Khushi falling into the trunk of his car, or becoming tangled in ropes of twinkle lights, constantly balance out all the heavy will they?/won’t they? moments. Khushi even has classic fantasy sequences!
Another thing that’s really stand-out for me is how the women are not in competition with each other. Khushi and Lavanya (right) have grown very close. Arnav’s sister, Anjali (center), and Khushi’s sister, Payal, round off a lovely galpal quartet. Of course, drama looms on the horizon! Khushi’s family wants to her marry Shyam, a (decidedly squirrelly!) young man they’ve taken in. Little do they know that Shyam is already married — to Anjali! The manipulative fortune hunter wed Anjali for her money and is now looking to sweet little Khushi to satisfy his lusts! Gasp. After Khushi’s adoptive father, Shashi, discovered the truth, he had a traumatic health episode. Shyam withheld his medication in vintage GH’s Tracy Quartermaine style. Poor Shashi is now bedridden and unable to speak (of course!).
IPKKND itself does a lot of storytelling with things unspoken. Because outright declarations of love are impossible for Khushi and Arnav, and passion-fueled make-out sessions are still not the norm on Indian TV, they do a lot of communicating with long, meaningful stares. Irani and Sobti, like so many of their soap and cinema colleagues, have mastered the art of turning the locking of eyes into a love scene. And anytime their characters do touch, it’s as electric as if they were getting busy to a wailing saxophone.
I don’t know what we should name this love, but I definitely call Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon good soap!