Finally, someone has realised the true potential of the Great Indian Joint Family on television.
JJJJF is everything Kyunki Saas Bhi promised to be, until it embraced the evil-vamp-with-designer-bindi vs sweet-sweet-bahu-with-sizable-sindoor formmula. I've seen 3-4 episodes of Jassuben so far and it's as Indian as a drama can get, yet fresh and different.
Haven't figured out exactly how who is related to whom but there's a lady called Jassuben (a younger and less dukhi version of Baa) and her half a dozen sons, their wives and kids.
The characters are unique and have certain recurring dialogues and mannerisms, but they aren't caricatures. For example Chandu, the eldest son, keeps sneaking off to smoke on the terrace and thinks that's his little secret. The real secret is that everyone knows but pretends not to. Meanwhile young Chirag's problem in life is,"Mujh se to koi poochta hi nahin" - no one asks my opinion on anything!
It's soapy yet humorous at the same time, which is an amazing feat. And only Aatish Kapadia and Jamnadas Mathejia of Hats Off productions could have pulled it off. In case you can't place them, they're the guys behind the best comedy show on TV in recent times 'Sarabhai vs Sarabhai' . And the loud but watchable 'Instant Khichdi'.
This production team's khaasiyat is that the characters always come across as slightly exaggerated but real. You know for sure there is someone like that in this world - possibly even in your family.
All their shows feature some 'bhola bhaala duffer' type - Roshesh in Sarabhai, Supriya Pathak in the Khichdi series. And there is always a strong woman at the helm of things.
JJJJF is set in Junagadh and the series kicked off with grandson Pinakin eloping with the neighbourhood farsanwala's daughter Nandini. The fun part is they are really so young and innocent. At one point they stand on a bridge and shout with glee, "Hum bhaag gaye.. hum sachmuch bhaag gaye".
Of course they are tracked down to a hotel and taken home before anything 'anarth' could happen. But there's no moral science dialogue. Logic, reason and gentle persuasion are the weapons of choice. And the result is tragi-comic.
When Jassuben asks Pinakin how he was planning to support Nandini he says,"Main apna jacket bech deta".
"Magar usse to ek hafte ka hi kaam hota - phir?" she presses.
"Mere paas teen teen jackets hain," he replies confidently. Even his plaintive main uske bina jee nahin sakta does not sound filmi.
There is conflict between family members but it is not the drumrolls. camera pans back and forth three times variety.
So as Pinakin finger-combs his hair in front of the mirror his dad Chandu growls:"Yeh baal banaa rahe ho ya bigaad rahe ho?". In defiance he messes it up even more.
Pinakin's mother Pushpa is a long suffering soul who is well meaning but can never be perfect enough for her overbearing husband. She actually wears mismatched polka dot blouses with dowdy, downmarket saris, quite unlike the perfectly togged out women in Balaji soaps.
I think the show will definitely catch on and knock out a saas-bahu serial or two out of the market. That's strike two for NDTV Imagine. The other show on their channel which I think really stands out is Saroj Khan's Nachle Ve.
Promos for 'Ek Packet Ummeed' and 'Radha ki betiyaan kuch kar dikhaengee' also seem promising. They have that 'solid stories about real people' appeal, and visibly superior acting talent.
It remains to be seen whether all this will persuade people to pay extra for NDTV Imagine as and when they decide to encrypt the channel... But I do appreciate they are trying to be different and succeeding to some extent.
The other unknown: are viewers truly ready to move on from the Ekta Kapoor era? Only time and TRPs will tell...!