In all honesty, Star Jalsha perhaps did not think that the publicity they were seeking would come in the form of a tsunami of comments — varying in different shades of sarcasm — on their Facebook page. What can I say, virality works in mysterious ways.
The promo for their new soap, titled 'Mem Bou' (Foreigner Wife), is a hilariously pitiful melee of messages that it sends out to an audience it assumes will be watching the show in their kindergarten classroom when the reception under their rock acts up.
No really, picture a garishly made up Bengali woman, caked in chalk, wearing blue contact lens and a cheap blonde wig (I only allude to the colour, I cannot vouch for the cost of the wig), talking in a laughable accent to pass off as a foreigner.
You do not have to be Einstein to guess the plot. Foreign woman meets Bengali man. Bengali man has an old-styled mansion and a completely lunatic (if I may also add, racist and regressive) family that is immediately antagonistic to a stranger without even getting to know her. Since all Bengalis ever known to man celebrate Durga Puja lavishly at the Durga Dalan in their family mansion, what better time than the festive season to besmirch the hallowed halls with the shadow of a foreigner?
I cannot decide which I find more laughable — that a serial that uses an antiquated word for a foreigner cannot actually find the budget to cast one, or the obnoxiously regressive notion that she must only be white to appeal to Indians, or the atrocious accent that actress (Vinita Chatterjee) speaks in. In case you do not follow the language, she is speaking entirely in chaste Bengali, by the way, just using what the director must think is a Caucasian accent.
I mean, just LOOK at her.
Incidentally, Chatterjee, a journalism graduate from Kolkata had tried her luck in Hindi serials and had a role in Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai. That a colleague would subject herself to this gives me great pain.
And as fate would have it, the Internet has found Mem Bou. The Internet loves Mem Bou so much that it's willing to even make her Meme Bou.
A Facebook page 'Mem Bou Carol', that I hope fervently is a troll page, said this in a post -- "You must all be wondering if the 'mem bou' is really a Bengali. Why don't we keep that a secret" -- triggering more merriment among its followers. You can't not love the innocence.
Here's the now-famous promo. It shows her stating the all important question that has left India's trade route open with other countries: "Hey, all foreigners are not bad". No Carol, they are not. We only hate the ones that team harem pants with shirts even during winter. Just kidding. We don't hate anyone, we appreciate the business.
There's already a (very bad) spoof up of the promo.
There are community pages that are making memes faster than Carol can enunciate. Her accent has caught on, and for anyone who can read Bengali, there are gems among the comments from users who are having a lot of fun mimicking hers.
Hey, if anyone knows anything about budget cuts, it's us journalists. So I can understand the need to cut down on fancy locations and limit the bulk of the shooting to Kolkata. But much as I try to grasp the concept, I fail to understand why a foreigner has to be played by a Bengali and underscore the worst stereotypes about them. I wait with great hope to see if this serial changes my mind.
It airs on 19 September, Monday-Sunday at 5:00 pm on Star Jalsha.
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