As I chanced upon this data, I was stunned since there was an uncanny similarity among all these shows aired on our premier TV channels — all of them have one thing in common: none of the heroines are self-sufficient, independent, working women, all of them are dependent on their husbands/fathers or brothers, all of them are housewives; women for whom — pati, sasural, parivar and maang ki sindoor are the only things that matter.
Do these shows reflect the times that we live in? Are they a reflection of the households that most women in India have to deal with?
Balika Vadhu, the show that tops the charts this week is about child marriage. No, for the uninitiated, it’s not like the story of the 15-year-old girl in Rajasthan, who recently made the headlines by refusing to get married and instead complained to the authorities (Schoolgirl defies tradition to reject child marriage). Balika Vadhu on Colours, is about a girl, Anandi (Avika Gor/Pratyusha Banerjee), who is married off at a tender age and then how slowly and steadily becomes an adarsh bahu, even when she is damned and her husband goes astray.
In fact, the same line of thought that runs through all the shows that get top ratings from viewers. Surely, there is some string that pulls them to these shows.
Next on the list is a serial that promotes itself as an issue-based show — Pavitra Rishta on Zee TV. It is about a middle class girl, Archana (Ankita Lokhande), who is not so educated and after years of struggle to find herself an accomplished groom, marries a garage mechanic, Manav (Sushant Singh Rajput). As is the case with most such TV soaps, Manav has now found both fame and wealth, but the middle class Archana is struggling to fit into her husband’s high-class society. Many women in middle class India perhaps face this dilemma. As is shown, Archana struggles with the Queen’s language — something that most of India would identify with. Also, her middle class travails perhaps pulls at our heartstrings, getting the TRPs for the channel. But it is her continuous problems and tears that is the underlying theme in the storyline.
Next in line is a show whose social conditions are diametrically opposite to that of Pavitra Rishta, but again dwells on the theme that is supposedly central to any girl’s life — getting married and adjusting to a very different household. Akshara (Hina Khan) marries Naitik in an arranged marriage and struggles to understand her husband even as she tries to fit into the new household. After many hits and misses, the couple finally find love, but there are always a brand new problems that knock on Akhshara’s doors as she takes on the responsibilities of being the eldest bahu in the family. Again, the makers struck the right chord by emotionally holding the viewers when Akhshara loses her baby.
However, babies are something that Priya (Sakshi Tanwar) and Ram (Ram Kapoor) aren’t thinking about at the moment. In their early and late forties, the couple is finally tying the knot in Bade Ache Lagte Hai on Sony. Last time, we dwelled on their several broken engagements (Sony’s Bade Achhe Lagte Hain… the Mother of All Clichés), so the shaadi preparations come as a relief. Like any other wedding on TV these days, their’s too is a grand affair. The preparations for the wedding is sure to keep the viewers glued to their TV sets as fancy jewellery, lehengas and suits are in display almost across the half hour that the show runs. Who can keep her eyes away from such splendour?
However, there is just one small itch about these shows that I can’t get rid of: is be-all and end-all for all Indian women marriage and kids?