It’s 2020, which means we no longer have saas-bahu serials infiltrating our homes every single day. We live in the age of online television, where web series rule small screen entertainment, and the new Queens of Content are Netflix, Prime, Zee5, Hotstar, and so many other OTT platforms.
Yet, there was something to these saas-bahu serials, right? I mean, the melodrama, the ridiculous costumes and makeup (which I’ve never seen in any Indian household) and the crazy mother-in-laws out to get their cunning daughter-in -laws…these were actual things and plot points which made our daily television experience. It’s ridiculous: the women had to either be sweet and naive, or evil, plotting vamps. There was no in-between. The character trope of a ‘Vamp’ came from the word ‘vampire’. In early 20th century American films, femme fatale characters were called Vamps. They were condemned for using their sexuality and their brains (the horror) and for having their own selfish, sly agenda.
Which is what carried on in Indian television soap dramas as well, during the late 90s and 2000s. While we’re grateful that this type of TV is no longer being made, we still respect those amazing women who were the vamps of the ’90s and 2000s. They made us laugh with their crazy antics, and even scared us a little bit. Say what you want about them, but I have vivid memories of twirling my own hair and saying “Komolika”, simply because that character was so rich that I wanted to be as stylish as she was.
Here are some of our fave TV vamps of all time:
Maya Mehrotra in Beyhadh, portrayed by Jennifer Winget
Definitely an insomniatic sociopath, Maya Mehrotra was always borderline terrifying. For the first time in an Indian soap, the lead bahu was not a nice, meek one, but in fact a cunning young woman who kept attempting to kill her mother-in-law. Oh, and she attempts to kill her mother, too. The plots never end with this one!
Naagin Shesh in Naagin, portrayed by Adaa Khan
Naagin was a mythological drama that dropped like a bomb and had multiple ripple effects. The audience was immediately drawn, and that’s what continued the show for a couple of more seasons. One of the exciting narratives that the show had was the evil Naagin, Naagin Shesh (played by Adaa Khan), constantly plotting against the good Naagin, Shivaniya. It got a bit crazy, and a bit unrealistic at times, but fans still fell in love with Adaa Khan’s poised portrayal of Naagin Shesh in the serial.
Tanveer in Qubool Hai, portrayed by Amrapali Gupta
Tanveer Beg, aka Begum Sahiba Tanveer, was just your run-in-the-mill cold-blooded murderer. That’s right. You heard me. She was a frickin’ murderer, man. She attempted to kill Zoya Farooqui several times–by throwing her off a cliff and burying her in cement–only to end up murdering Asad and Zoya (after escaping jail). Yeah, plain psycho. Of course, she meets her own end through a freak accident.
Ramola Sikand in Kahin Kissi Roz, portrayed by Sudha Chandran
More power to Sudha Chandran. Not only did she carry on with Bharatnatyam dancing even after her accident, she never allowed the world to categorise her as just an amputee. She used her talent and skill to take her forward, and I think it was this strength of hers that gave life to the vamps she played, especially Ramola Sikand. Ramola was an evil mother-in-law who tried to kill her own bahu, and kept twisting the plot further as the series progressed. And damn, her bindis were a definite indicator that she was evil AF; why are the villains always so fashionable? However strange the show’s concept was (and outdated), Chandran’s talent is undeniable.
Tapasya in Uttaran, portrayed by Rashmi Desai
Man, did we love to hate this spoilt brat. Tapasya, aka Tappu, was extremely gorgeous and extremely adorable, and yet extremely evil. It almost became Tapasya’s life goal to ruin the life of Iccha–her maid’s daughter who had been inducted into their family. While the show was supposed to comment on the class division of Indian families, it kinda became a circus of “What Will Tapasya Do Next to Ruin Some Character’s Life?” Eh, we enjoyed it anyway.
Pallavi Agarwal in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, portrayed by Shweta Kawatra
As beautiful as she was cunning, Pallavi Agarwal was the diametrical opposite to Sakshi Tanwar’s Parvati–the good bahu. Portrayed by Shweta Kawatra, who even bagged the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Negative Role, Shweta Kawatra is the one who added spice and masala to this family drama. She represented a stereotype of the jealous, plotting woman in a Marwadi joint family, but did so with great earnest. We loved watching her, and that’s why she’s on this list.
Komolika in Kasauti Zindagi Kay, portrayed by Urvashi Dholakia
Known more for her stylish, modern saree+blouses and super long bindis, Komolika was our all-time favourite negative female character. Unlike the innocent bahus and frail old saas, Komolika was always following her own agenda. Sure, she was only after the man’s money and property, but that’s what made her interesting. We were all terrified of her and enchanted by her apparent ‘wickedness’ at the same time. And who can forget that background entry Komolikaaa as she’d twirl her hair? I, for sure, never can.
Well, one thing’s for sure: the longer your bindis are, the more of a vamp you become.