PRIME TIME LATHER
Another bastion falls. The first gay couple on Indian television has viewers hooked.
Agar apni patni ki bajaye aap ko kisi aadmi se hi pyar karna tha toh mujhse shaadi kar ke apne ghar me bithane ki kya zaroorat thi? (If you had to love a man instead of your wife, what was the need to marry me?)” asks a newlywed woman on finding her husband exchanging passionate I love yous with his boyfriend. Not something we are used to seeing on Indian television. It gets better. The first gay couple on Indian television, who don’t flutter their eyelashes or pout like girls, also hug and kiss. The unlikely setting: a patriarchal family in a Haryana town.
Maryada...lekin Kab Tak? was launched on Star Plus in October 2010 as yet another household drama with bejewelled women wandering aimlessly about a palatial house, till producers Tony and Deeya Singh, the makers of Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi, decided to jazz it up with a large dose of shock value. In the first four weeks of going on air, the show had a TVR of 1 according to TAM Media Research. It picked up in May and June to 1.2 when the gay angle was introduced. The rating now stands at 1.6. The serial has run into 270 episodes.
Actors Dakssh Ajit Singh, 30, and Karan Singh, 29, were roped in to play two gay characters so much in love that they are inseparable even when one of them is forcibly married. Karan had two words when the role was offered to him, “No, thanks.” He wasn’t the only one. So many actors turned down the role that the producers almost wanted to hide the homosexual angle during auditions. Dakssh was more concerned about his macho image of a bodybuilder from Ludhiana taking a beating. “A few friends scowled, ‘What are you showing on TV? Our children will ask questions’,” he says. The challenge as an actor was what convinced them both. “If two Hollywood studs (Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger) could act in
Brokeback Mountain, I could definitely take up the challenge,” says Karan.
The two quietly assert their own orientation. Dakssh talks about how his girlfriend had no problem. Karan is on a short break to get married.
Damini Shetty, who wrote the show, maintains there has only been positive feedback so far; a boy even wrote to Dakssh saying his parents had stopped pressuring him to marry after watching the show. But the flipside is ‘indecent proposals’ posted on the actors’ social networking pages. As they say, it swings both ways.
ACTORS DAKSSH AJIT SINGH (LEFT) AND KARAN SINGH IN