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Critics Corner

Television and the Portrayal of Women

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Indian Television is one of the most intriguing puzzles of modern India.  The  incessant plague  of  serials in the name of uplifting society and its values is so blatantly regressive  that it hurts. If television is the reflection of our society I am appalled. There is an abysmal gap between the twenty-first century we are raving about and its televised version.

The success rate of kitchen serials indicates an underlying fact which is quite sinister: Unlike our economy and infrastructure, our mindset has failed to progress. Why has this natural process  gotten stuck somewhere along? Is it the eternal confusion between tradition and backwardness, between culture and ancient practices that has kept us shackled to outdated concepts which don’t hold good anymore?

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At the risk of sounding uncouth and un patriotic (?), I would like to state that the so-called revival of Indian culture by our television is an encouragement to dangerous regression. The expensive saree clad  soft spoken  tolerant women who sacrifice all their rights and suffer continuously to showcase their “indian” strength of character, are projecting the wrong idea out there. While this self-righteousness works very well  for a moralist society, it ignores some very obvious facts. An average educated woman  who has not seen any difference between herself and her brothers or guy friends while growing up, faces absolute social crucification if she fails to match up to this ideal televised model. This genre of Indian television is providing a false security blanket to all the future mother in-laws!!

Another bi-product of this regressive movement  is the false adulation for the concept of joint families. There’s no doubt that at one time, it was the only natural way to live, but now it does not hold too much practicality.  The propagation of the idea that family members can only remain close and in love if they live together under a roof,  burdens a married woman’s life with additional complexities. In a combined family, a woman is supposed to play multiple roles for every single day of her life. If our televisions are to believed a woman is Indian enough only when she can work, come back to home, cook for the whole family, make everyone happy,serve everyone’s need at every moment and smile coyly at all the compliments. An Indian woman  patiently waits for her husband to come back into their bedroom for having any kind of conversation and blush like a tomato at any indication of physical intimacy.

I do not agree. I feel that these kinds of productions are harmful. They are funny and they can make you laugh  for a while. But in the long run they can damage the dynamism necessary for any society to develop. Culture  adapts and moves ahead. If it  doesn’t, it is bound to face conflict all around and end up as nothing but a cornered, labeled and mocked society caught up in itself.

Note- The no 1 serial in terms of TRPs is Diya aur Bati Hum- Story of a woman who is faced with continuous stress and sacrifices while trying to achieve what should be a basic right- a childhood dream.  A difficult mother in law and the continuous emotional blackmail of the protagonist seems to be a major draw. Food for thought?

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About TulikaD

A full fledged dreamer. I prefer to see life pass by from a train window rather than trying to catch up with it. P.S I write if I feel like it!:)

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Television and the Portrayal of Women

  1. Agree wholeheartedly! Where are the shows that we could relate to, like Sai Paranjpe’s Ados Pados, or ones that actually told a tale without too much stretching (Buniyad, Humlog). Yes, DD didn’t have to worry about TRPs- but WHY do the most regressive of shows/tracks garner the best TRPs? And yes, while obviously the audience has to change their mindset somewhere, I also hold the makers responsible.
    I blame Ekta-ma for the worst excesses of the saas-bahu dramas, but no one is immune are they?
    Take a current show, Junoon – Aisi Nafrat. It started very promisingly with a single mother, two people in love where the boy treated his to be MIL like his own mother, the relationship was egalitarian and very sweet. Only too soon the story moved to yet another regressive track, and the heroine is relegated to being the wife of a villager. It is beside the point that the heroine shares great chemistry with the villager hero – what bites is that she couldn’t be shown as an urban woman with a life of her own.
    Sadly this is the main reason I watch only a couple of shows and that, intermittently.

    Posted by Maith | August 15, 2013, 7:55 pm
  2. exactly.. I whole heartedly agree with Maith mam and your views.. Although Ekta Kapoors serials were a bit refreshing initially but who knew that its going to become an evil spawn and pproject the wrong image of the present Indian woman.. Wherever you see in whichever serial.. Whenever they show a strong independent woman she later on either perishes or become docile as per the so called morals and ethics that they try to show.. For e.g take Diya aur Baati Hum.. Just to show that the husband is so considerate they have made the MIL intolerable. I feel like slapping her at times for crushing her DIL’s dreams in the name of her ‘pati-vrataness’… Another show would be Pavitra Rishta in its early days.When the main protagonists sister was a bit rebellious and wanted to live life on her own terms was shown to suffer such downfall later.. And as for Junoon.. I had so much hope from this show. But the whole idea of a well educated, well settled, well loved woman falling for a uncivil, un-educated and uncouth man was intolerable for me. Specially when he throws her in front of the goons just to scare her, qualified him for a good beating. And the herione falls for him even after all of this was highly regressive.. Reminds me of the Stockholm syndrome and feels yuck.

    Posted by Shambhavi | August 16, 2013, 5:29 pm
  3. Living abroad, didn’t get to know much about these serials until I actually went to live in Delhi for temporary stay of two years about 10 years ago. There I got to know about them. I was amazed how every household in the colony had the same channel on in the evening, watching Kyon ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, or Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, etc.! If I was walking outside in the evening and as I passed every house, I could actually hear the music and dialogue of the shows! Could not understand the fascination of these shows. Eventually gave them a chance and started to watch them. But would always question, is this for real, is this actually what happens in Indian households? These shows are giving wrong impressions and examples to everyone, not only our youth. And since my sojourn in India, more and more of these shows have been airing. Even if the concept of a new show seems unique, eventually it turns into same old crap. I guess here in the west, we do have some very good programming and you get spoiled, not to say everything is good, but there is a choice for everything. Seems that Indian TV can only do comedy well, horror, police shows turn into bad comedy

    Posted by Anju (@akg_ebnj) | August 16, 2013, 7:35 pm
  4. Exactly! ! In fact we get to c many girls who r quite modern n have a different approach towards life but as soon as they enter their in laws place, they begin changing themselves just to get acceptance from them!! I mean adjusting is ok but changing urself is not! Those saas’ shd also learn something! Now in one of the most popular shows Diya aur baati hum, v get to c that the protagonist is so intelligent n wants to become an IPS officer! But her adamant mother in law doesn’t want to let that happen! Come off it guys! We need to show the stronger side of women! When madhubala started off, she replied back to every torture, every insult n made sure that she gives it back with interest! So these kinda shows should be made! !

    Posted by Simran | August 17, 2013, 3:01 am

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