Jamaica’s ‘Strange Love’ for Indian Drama

This was my latest column in the Jamaica Gleaner. Since a lot of people are complaining they cannot access it easily, i’m reposting it here.

I don’t know when I first started noticing it. Perhaps it was the time I went to clear some goods I’d shipped from India a couple of years ago at one of Kingston’s ports. After navigating the much improved process of recovering your possessions from the wharf you finally end up in a large waiting room with about fifty chairs and a TV mounted on the wall in its own personal grill.

It was lunchtime by then. Sitting in front of me occupying the front rows were 15 or so large, tough-looking men, the kind of individuals who lift up crates and literally manhandle them, along with a few wimpier looking folks there to claim their goods. All were glued to the TV screen on which a brilliantly coloured Indian soap-opera was playing. The men were watching the melodrama with the helpless concentration of snakes following a mongoose’s wily darts to and fro.

Some weeks later the Smith sisters came to visit me. When I mentioned serving some Indian sweets up jumped Sister No. 1 accompanying me to the kitchen saying she wanted to see if they were the kind of sweets Khushi makes. Khushi? A who dat I asked upon which Sister Smith informed me that Khushi was the star of Strange Love, one of two Indian soap operas CVM TV had started showing in their lunchtime slot, Monday to Friday from 1 to 1:30 and 1:30 to 2:00.

“Whenever Khushi’s upset she retreats to the kitchen and starts making sweets,” declared Sister Smith as if she was talking about a bosom buddy.

Really? Indian soaps are melodramas of the sickly sweet variety, how on earth had they taken Jamaica by storm I wondered. Sister Smith assured me that they were such fun that not only she but her parents—the goodly Reverend Smith and her Mom—as well as her brother, a financial analyst in New Kingston, were all hooked to Strange Love. In fact at her brother’s workplace, office workers threw ‘Khushi parties’ after work and spent Saturdays binge-watching the serial while at home the goodly Reverend could be seen shouting at the Indian couple to just DO IT. Just kiss the girl no man, her father would yell in exasperation as Khushi’s admirer spent days and weeks gazing into her eyes, while the background music intensified in volume and sentimentality.

Strange Love or Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon as it’s called in Hindi, premiered in India in 2011. Comprising 398 half hour episodes the drama is the love story of an arrogant business tycoon,  Arnav Singh Raizada and his middle-class secretary Khushi Kumari Gupta. Played by actors Barun Sobti and Sanaya Irani the series has propelled both to fame and stardom not only in India but around the world where the show is dubbed into the native language of the region it is shown in. After a few years when Barun left to pursue a career in Bollywood, the show’s fans went berserk demanding his return.

Ok fine. But what is the attraction such shows hold for Jamaicans? I mean a recording artiste named Tiana has even come out with a single named ‘Khushi’ that has reportedly been blowing up local radio.

“What fascinates us is the slowness of the story, the way the lovers look at each other.  The music that comes up when they think of each other. Strange Love focuses on…feelings, how people view each other, how they love each other from their hearts, not their gonads,” vouchsafed a blogger named Lady Fingers.

Meanwhile according to Jodian Downs “These dramas are different, as the characters still maintain their pure innocence and for the viewers, this is extremely addicting. Imagine yourself watching the full 20 episodes of one show just to see the main characters at least get a small peck on the cheek from their love interest.”

Also, continues Downs “the level of loyalty portrayed by each female actress for their male superior is rather humorous and astonishing for the modern female.” Aha! perhaps this explains why Jamaican men are so fascinated by Strange Love. The docile Indian female is no doubt irresistibly attractive to them considering the independence of most Jamaican women?

Interestingly unlike Jamaica where Indian soap operas are appreciated as a step back to a time when love was innocent, in places like Afghanistan where they are also popular they are considered too liberal and therefore threatening to Afghan culture. According to a recent article “Afghan video editors must blur all objectionable content in the scenes, such as too much bare skin, Hindu ways of worship, alcohol and anything that could offend religious sentiments.”

In Jamaica on the other hand Indian dramas have generated much goodwill and love of Indian culture. Long may it last!

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

20 thoughts on “Jamaica’s ‘Strange Love’ for Indian Drama”

  1. It’s an unbelievable phenomenon. Don’t know of any other daytime tv show with so many sponsors. I dare not call any of my female friends or relatives when those Indian soaps are on. Not even live one-day international cricket matches can get in its way.

      1. I love watching it I can’t wait for it to come back on cvm TV it is the best daytime show I’ve ever watched in my entire life time I’m just hoping that it will soon be back on cvm TV khushi and arnav I love yu guys

    1. I can’t believe that I’m watching Hindi soaps on YouTube without knowing what they are saying. And, I’m just one of the thousands of Jamaicans who do it. It’s really crazy but I’m hooked to these shows although most of them carry no plot (What I mean by this is that the stories carry no logical ending and sometimes go of course from the initial idea.) but rather a sequence of related events that finish when the trp of the shows gets really low. Anyway, Hindi series make me want to venture into my dream- web series. They also make me watch tv series again.

  2. I think the Indian shows are doing well in Jamaica because they provide us Jamaica with something we crave for: family relationship and love.

    1. there are exceptions but we’re talking about what seems to be the standard in these TV dramas…and in general India continues to be heavily patriarchal and women are expected to be docile and agreeable to all kinds of nonsense.

  3. The shows I watch carry no subtitles. I wish HotStar carry English subtitles because the shows on the website are pretty much exciting. Anyway, I read the written updates of the stories to understand what is said. The updates are written in English, thank God.

    Are you aware of the Facebook page that has almost 30,000 members who share comments on the current Hindi soaps on CVM? See the link here https://web.facebook.com/groups/946401775416435/. In this group, we research the actors and producers of the shows, share their lifestyles and keep up to date with their new ventures. This is how we get to know a lot about Bollywood and Salman Khan! Surprisingly, Hollywood is only 4 hours from Jamaica and we aren’t excited about Hollywood actors as how many of us Jamaicans are excited about Bollywood TV actors.

    1. wow, this is amazing, thanks so much browncurtain, can’t wait to check out the facebook page. this warrants another article or blogpost. will follow up. so glad to know that Bollywood has displaced Hollywood for some of you.

  4. Kushi is phenomenal!Even the Bobo Ras that work wid I love it. A one a de biggest talk bout yah.
    Mi nuh watch much T-blind, but mi watch it areddy and it poetical and melodic.
    Most of all it is strikingly lacking in de horrible violence of actions and thought dat de American T-blind display so many times per episode.
    The iritical relief is almost palpable.

  5. Strange love (ISS PYAAR KO KYA NAAM DOON) Is a magical love story this director Gul Khan is known for her incredible work you guys can check her other work also such as, qubool hai(ASYA VERSION), Humsafars, ishqbaaz..it not as sweet and cute as strange love but worth a watch 😉

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