Monday, August 28, 2006

Ugly Betty? Betty la Fea? Jassi?

"Yo Soy Betty, la Fea" ("I Am Betty, the Ugly") first traveled to India and became Sony TV's smash hit Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin. And now, with Salma Hayek's backing, the Colombian telenovela comes to the U.S. as Ugly Betty.

There's been enough written in anticipation of Ugly Betty on ABC's primetime lineup this coming fall, but fo
r the most part, people haven't mentioned the India connection (except here). I think it is worth bringing up the India connection if only to recognize that there are many circuits of global media flows that are not driven by media corporations in the U.S. or the U.K., "south-south" cultural and economic exchanges that took place well before globalization (as a primarily west-driven phenomenon) became a buzz word.

"Ugly Betty" is an interesting case also because India's encounter with telenovelas goes all the way back to the early days of Doordarshan!
We would not have spent hours watching Basesar Ram, Bhagwanti, Lallu, Chutki, and others if not for Miguel Sabido, the man credited with developing the first "soap operas for social change" in Mexico during the late 1970s. The story goes:

"[Sabido] travelled to India with David Poindexter, who was working at the Population Institute, a nonprofit organization that focusses on family planning. (The following year, Poindexter founded the program that would become P.C.I.) The two met with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Indian health minister. When Sabido asked the health minister what proportion of India's population had access to contraceptives, he answered, "A hundred per cent." As the meeting ended, Sabido told me, Mrs. Gandhi took him aside and said of her minister, "That man is a liar!" She then approved a Sabido-method telenovela for a state-run network. The show, "Hum Log" ("We People"), which went on the air in 1984, became one of the most popular dramas in Indian history."

More on Sabido here, and here's an interesting account of how Sony execs in India were convinced that "an ugly woman as the star of a series" would work.


  • apparently, the original is colombian, not mexican, I think the person who told you the original is mexican probably flunked geography and bunched the two countries up... how ppl stereotype.. tch tch tch

    By Anonymous sqrlnt, at 8/28/2006 6:49 PM  

  • sqrlnt - no clue who yampayo is! I was busy writing another post (yes, it is procrastination time for me!) about Chhaya Geet :)

    By Blogger Aswin, at 8/28/2006 9:33 PM  

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