Anil Thakraney: Prison Break Diary

12 Aug,2013

By Anil Thakraney

 

Okay, so I have finished four seasons of the American TV serial, Prison Break. It cost me a huge number of man hours, but I was intensely mesmerized and could not stop. Stuff like filing of tax returns and a routine heart check-up had to take a backseat. In a previous post, I have discussed in detail why Hindi GECs find it very difficult to match the standards of a Prison Break and yet, there are key learnings, and these can be useful for desi soap makers. So here goes:

 

More than anything else, what got me hooked is a sense of bonding with the characters. Not only do you identify with their predicament, you want them to win and be happy. (This despite the fact that some of these guys are hardened criminals.) And, even more significantly, these are blokes you want to hang out with, to be pals with. Now this doesn’t cost a lot of money to achieve, what you need is a superlative casting director. Producers of Indian serials often don’t pay attention to this issue which is critical for television (more than movies) because serials run for a long period.

 

The super fast pace is another thing, and again, it’s not costly to do, it has to do with the fertile imagination of the writers. Prison Break’s various plots and sub-plots move at a frenetic pace, things change suddenly and shockingly, so much so that you can’t afford to take your eyes off the screen even for a few seconds. This is what makes Prison Break addictive, the unpredictability factor. Haven’t seen much of this in desi soaps, you can not only predict what will happen in the next episode, you can correctly guess the story twenty episodes down the line. That really sucks.

 

Attention to detail in terms of clothes, props and sets. Again, because US serial makers have access to more funds, life becomes easier. But not all of it needs big bucks, it’s simply a matter of someone keeping an eye. For example, I have seen bahus in our weepy serials wearing lipstick, and in the very next shot, it’s gone! This means there is a great deal of carelessness in production, and as a viewer, these sorts of bloopers put you off.

 

Lastly, the background score. Captivating and brilliantly produced to embellish the situations and the pace. Prison Break’s music has its own fan following, key in ‘Prison Break Background Music’ on Google and you’ll land a staggering 1,670,000 results. Again, this isn’t about mega funds, Indian serial makers don’t necessarily need to sign up AR Rahman. It’s a question of briefing the music composers correctly, and then inspiring them to come up with their best.

 

By the way, there is one deadly lesson they have learnt from us: Dead characters suddenly come alive! Ektaji should be proud. 🙂

 

Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney

 

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