Starting this week on Kabul TV: First Afghan serial, made by Indians

Loud music, action replays of the same expression, thrice, reverberating dialogues, lots of tears and tense drama — the Indian living room is going to Afghanistan, in Dari and Pashto.

Starting November 25, TV sets in the strife-torn western neighbour will start beaming Palwasha, the country's first homemade commercial serial. Made by Indians, of course.

After dubbed versions of Indian mega soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Heena, Palwasha will tell the story of an Afghan woman of the same name. And her journey as a daughter, a sister, and more significantly, the first female judge in an Afghan provincial court.

Sure enough, the "serial on law and justice through a family drama" starts with a court sequence — the staple of so many Hindi serials and Bollywood movies — where the young Palwasha, trembling, hands down 10 years in jail for a murderer, her brother.

Says serial director Prasant Satpaty, a 11-year Doordarshan veteran: "The social propaganda of the 20-episode serial is the uplift of the Afghan woman and the triumph of justice. We are trying to instruct Afghans that they should trust the legal system based on the Shariat and the Quran, and not resort to serving justice by themselves."

Satpaty is now working for Aina, a Kabul-based NGO, which is producing Palwasha with 40 per cent funding from USAID. "We are setting a precedent in the entertainment industry here. No one has shot court scenes before in this country, and we had a Supreme Court judge with us to help during shooting," says Satpaty. Mumbai-based actor Sonal Udeshi plays Palwasha while Viveki Prakash, who has been involved with the news-based Indian programme Sansani, is the assistant| director. Shot in Kabul, the technical team, make-up men and sound engineers were also flown in from Mumbai. "People love these serials so much that they have started adopting customs depicted on them. We heard that an Afghan boy started praying to a Tulsi plant in Kabul which led to a violent reaction from his father. The Indian influence on culture here has even been debated in parliament and is being perceived as a threat to Afghan culture," says Satpaty.

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