By Sreejeeta Ghosh
The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility states that the more we consume a product, the less it satisfies us over time.
And Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon (IPKKND) is a great contradiction to that law.
It started as a simple romance show but with time turned into a (nearly) cult romance classic. Romance is universal, but no one brought the magic of Mills and Boons to the table like IPKKND. The brand of romance on TV suddenly turned to broody, jaded heroes and sunny heroines who hide their tears behind smiles.
Despite all this, none quite lives to the original.
So here I am, nine years later, trying to decode the fame, buzz and cult status IPKKND achieved beyond its impeccably talented cast and chemistry of the two leads.
The Anti Hero
Arnav Singh Raizada.
Rich, arrogant, jaded. So unattainable that he becomes everyone’s fascination – our Heroine’s included. In the era of kitchen politics, embellished sarees, family drama and sacrificial queens swooped in an anti-hero who would receive everyone’s disapproval. He was everything not on the family TV.
And that’s precisely why he left a mark.
From rejecting social norms and customs to being a declared atheist – he was more human as a character with his nightmares, trauma and its continued effect on his perception of the world.
He starts as trouble but ends up becoming everyone’s dream man. While a great share of that credit lies on Barun Sobti – the incredibly talented actor who brought him to life – a significant part of this is his characterisation. There is an effort behind the creation of Arnav Singh Raizada.
In an age of anti-heroes where unfortunately there is no difference between angst and outright abuse, Arnav stands out as the perfect blend of an anti-hero – mysterious with a touch of good heart.
In 2011 the Indian television landscape was dominated by mothers-in-law berating the new bahus, vamps with internal monologues and the traditional sanskaar, IPKKND as a jaded love story comes like a breath of fresh air.
There’s nothing new about opposites attracting and rich men falling for middle classed women. Pride and Prejudice lives on for more than a hundred years for its witty banter, intelligent heroines, thriving on what we call clichès today.
But IPKKND is perhaps one of the finest Hindi television shows to have blended all aspects of a classic romance along with its own freshness.
The first promos sold the difference between two people – Arnav being as far from your typical hero – and Khushi being the connection between what was seen and what is new. And for the longest time, the show actually stuck with what the promo showed – a rarity compared to today.
It won’t be a stretch to claim that the new genre of romances seen today stems largely from the success IPKKND received.
The spine of a good story is in its script. There is no doubt that the brilliant casting and characterization gave us characters that have lived for years, but this layering also comes from the excellent writing.
It takes good writing to retell a known story – two people, who hate each other, have opposite economic status and are as different as chalk and cheese, with similar trauma (their parents’ deaths), attraction and intellect. So their relationship becomes an intriguing, engaging slow burn as the layers peel away and we can see Arnav and Khushi bond over time – what starts from disastrous first meetings and undeniable physical attraction ends up as a love saga.
And it takes even better writing to create a villain who grows with the plot. One of the main backbones of the whole story is Shyam Manohar Jha and his connection to every character in the show.
If anyone is a fan of romance and knows Geet Hui Sabse Parayi – another hit romance tv show – then they’d remember the entry of Maan Singh Khurana. He beats off all the goons, protecting the innocent Geet. And we all fell in love with him, the hero, in an instant.
That is the exact entry the villain of IPKKND receives. Played by the outstanding Abhaas Mehta, Shyam Manohar Jha successfully hoodwinks us and the protagonists by appearing as a hero, then a harmless man with perhaps dubious intentions to grow into a monster who successfully ruins everyone’s lives with his manipulations.
And characters like these aren’t written overnight.
IPKKND, despite its flaws and obvious loopholes, stands out so well because its plot was compelling and convincing. And it had stakes that made us root for the characters. Especially in the first half of the show, we were seeing a full-fledged story – not just tracks to pull the show forward.
Therefore it is also not surprising that even when the show lost its original foothold in terms of plot, it spurred perhaps one of the largest fandom authors of any television show in history.
The number of fanfictions written on IPKKND and the number of story writers – writers good enough to have their own novels – is inspiring and surprising.
In a time of loud makeup, bright lights and heavy soundtracks – we have characters with natural makeup, darkness and the most beautiful background scores. With expensive cameras and brilliant cinematography, IPKKND was perhaps the most beautiful thing to watch on television at that time.
Set design, closeups and intelligent framing instead of plain aesthetics make this show as beautiful as its leads. Diwali, the Teri Meri dance performance and their elopement at the temple particularly stand out for their outstanding direction and cinematography. Those were scenes with little dialogues that spoke volumes through their shots.
This might be a strange reason to list why IPKKND worked, but in a way, it might be the one that makes the most sense to me. Arnav is just at the edge of what can be accepted in an anti-hero. He is cruel, in multiple ways, but there are boundaries that he never crosses. Which unfortunately became the starting line for characters after him.
Khushi, despite her sheltered upbringing and high moral values, is drawn to the dark attraction she finds in Arnav.
For a show whose USP is in romance, it is surprising and refreshing to see that its legendary romantic score – Rabba Ve – does not actually play until the moment the characters truly feel something beyond the attraction at first sight.
There are no forced indicators of the leads being fated for each other. From a slight coincidence to fair pacing in the show (it takes roughly 200 episodes for them to reach a moment where they accept they’re besotted with each other), this ultimate balance between plot and time given to the plot works its magic.
It’s also the balance of rib-tickling comedy and heartbreaking tragedy (especially in the first half) that makes us, the audience, bond with IPKKND. We have genuinely laughed and cried at their well-written sequences.
To be honest, I have probably only touched the surface of what makes this show a phenomenon even after ten years, and I haven’t even mentioned the brilliant actors (Barun’s and Sanaya’s acting chops and eyes deserve another article), the timely end of the show nor the subtle ways it broke clichés.
But the one reason why I think this show is brilliant is that it was not made to be like another, it was only made to tell the simplest story really well.
Photo Credit- Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon (2011)