Indian television

‘Sasural Simar Ka’ and a short history of humans turning into animals

Dogs, cats, flies and goats – humans have turned into them all.

On air since 2011, supernatural soap opera Sasural Simar Ka has been sending the internet into a tizzy over the last few days as one of the lead characters, as a result of a curse from a wandering sage, was turned into a fly. The show began life as a normal soap with a focus on women's improvement but over the course of its 1500+ episodes has jumped far over the shark.

The idea is not entirely original. In 2012, SS Rajamouli’s Telugu movie Eega told the story of two lovers, one of whom is murdered and reincarnated as a fly so he can take revenge on his killer and protect his girlfriend. Much earlier, in 1987, came The Fly, a remake of a 1958 film of the same name, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who has discovered teleportation. Since the film was before the CGI movement in modern cinema, it is also notable for its use of plastic, rubber and real materials in creating the transformation scene, creating an effect that is all too real.

These tales can be traced back to Franz Kafka’s acclaimed novella The Metamorphosis, which begins with the now classic opening line, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect,” although what that insect was is a matter of debate.

The trailer of ‘Eega’.

Indian sitcoms, however, are not really as outlandish as they seem to be. In a classic case of truth being stranger than fiction, here is a video from the Dr Phil show about a man who eats dog food and puts on an outfit to make him look like an oversized Shih Tzu. Dr Phil exclusively deals with some of the strangest people in the United States of America. Whether they are real or not is a debate for another day.

The man who tried to be a dog on ‘Dr Phil’.

Humans are not merely turned into insects. Manimal was a short-lived American television series that run for eight episodes in 1983. The show featured Dr Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale) as a crimefighting shape-shifter who could turn himself into any animal that he chose. A few of the animals he transformed into, over the show's run, was a hawk, a panther and a snake.

In the acclaimed anime series Full Metal Alchemist, one of the best episodes explores the relationship between science and human experiments. A failure to create talking animals leads a scientists to do a perverse fusion between his daughter and his dog to create a chimera.

‘Full Metal Alchemist’.

But these transformations always do not need a fantastic setting on television.

In the latest season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show often described as “Seinfeld on crack”, as one of the characters steadily turns into a cat (with the help of expensive cosmetic surgery), it is suggested to her, “You should go full cat and wear humans on your sweatshirt.” She will not be referred to as woman in court which the judge agrees to do while her ex-husband files an application to stop paying alimony because, let’s face it, why should a human being pay alimony to a cat?

Pop culture always takes influence from the real, in one way or another. Sometimes it could also happen the other way round. Whatever be the case, this brings us to subject of one Thomas Thwaites.

Thwaites, who has previously spoken about how he made a toaster from scratch, told The Daily Mail that he was interested in the idea of transhumanism, but also believed that not everyone in the future would want to become a cyborg. Some might use these advantages in technology to “devolve” because the stress of being a human being is sometimes too great.

Chronicling his experiences in GoatMan: How I Took a Break from Being Human, Thwaites spent a year constructing prosthetics that would help him live and walk like a goat, studying goat behaviour, and also built an artificial stomach so he could eat grass. He then convinced a farmer in the Swiss Alps to let him become part of his herd where he spent three days living like a goat in a herd and a further three days living alone.

The trailer of the book ‘GoatMan: How I Took a Break from Being Human’.

Earlier this year, a Norwegian woman called Nano claimed to have been a cat her whole life. In the video below, Nano, who wears cat ears and a tail, says, “I was born in the wrong species. I have been a cat all my life.” She indulges in cat-like behaviour including hissing at dogs, walking on all fours and sleeping on the sink or the windowsill.

Nano the human feline.

Whether or not the video is satire, it was uploaded in the comedy section of YouTube. It raised some important questions. “Why is she walking on two feet?” “How can she speak Norwegian and give interviews?” And, most importantly, “What does she think of the cat memes on the internet?”

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.