What is the Indian television’s greatest achievement? That it works day and night to maintain the tag of “idiot box”, it once received. Indian television has today a wider reach than possibly any other medium. Even in those distant villages where Government’s policies do not reach, you find a colour television and a dish antenna. Even though my disquiet extends to News channels and reality shows too, in this article I am going to focus on daily soaps popularly known as Saas Bahu serials.

Let’s first focus on the target viewership of these shows. They are mostly ( but not only), women. The audience of these shows, however, breaks all the class, caste and regional barriers. Therefore, the storylines of these shows keep in mind the audience. However,are we as fool and ignorant as to accept anything served to us? It is commendable that the stories of these soaps came out of metropolitan urban spaces and now are spread across the backdrop of many small towns and villages. But over the years even that has come to be another TRP raising trick. My questions and objections are many. Since women are the audience it is most important to observe the overall standing of women within the shows. The most interesting thing about these shows is that their  plotlines revolve usually around women characters. Many of their titles refer to women. Yet they are thoroughly patriarchal. It’s disturbing how almost every show drags on with the same content- kitchen politics and wedding sequences. There’s nothing new to these shows. In fact, it seems we are going back in time.

Let’s pick out some of the cases more particularly. How many TV programmes show working and independent women? Very few. The counter point could be that the social setup shown in the programmes does not allow women to go out. In that case, exactly how many such programmes do we want? Aren’t TV and Cinema supposed to be bolder than real situations. They are supposed to be leading the change.What is the politics of keeping the women audience fixed in their present positions?

What hurts even more is an another lot of shows which start with an ostensibly new and fresh idea showing a girl in the lead role, usually indicating a social change. The girl is depicted as an ambitious career driven women. The show in the beginning is vocal of women and other social issues until within six months the plotline changes and she ends up marrying. The popular show Balika Vadhu came out amidst great popularity and was hailed as the show that is here for a change. However, the pretentiousness of the same knows no bounds. Here I give you a food for thought. Amidst my other objections, recent one is why the ideal women Anandi set aside her role as a village head, a teacher or a woman with an agenda. Why she, too, locked her within the four walls of her new home, the family which was supposed to be a lot more modern than her previous in-laws.

Apart from these, why do the family shown in these series are all elite and  upper class? Why people from different religions and communities do not get represented?

With great power comes a greater responsibility. It is understandable that these shows are produced in a competitive and commercial environment but whoever said that creativity, productivity and commerce cannot go hand in hand. Several directors and producers these days are coming out with movies with fresh and new ideas and treatment. Yet, they are commercial, popular and are proving to be successful. Take for instance the low budget grosser of 2012-2013 Vicky donor, Kahani, Kai Po Che. It means that audience today is matured and ready to accept fresh and creative concepts. Like Cinema, tv shows in a newer mould will be more than welcome. The common people of the country are not to be fooled anymore. It is not for  no reason that a show like Bade Acche Lagte Hain got the national award and was a TRP gainer too.( At least in the beginning.) Even if over night changes cannot take place, things should change. For now, there is no imminent ray of hope or a silver lightning.

What is the Indian television’s greatest achievement? That it works day and night to maintain the tag of “idiot box”, it once received. Indian television has today a wider reach than possibly any other medium. Even in those distant villages where Government’s policies do not reach, you find a colour television and a dish antenna. Even though my disquiet extends to News channels and reality shows too, in this article I am going to focus on daily soaps popularly known as Saas Bahu serials.

Let’s first focus on the target viewership of these shows. There are mostly ( but not only), women. The audience of these shows, however, breaks all the class, caste and regional barriers. Therefore, the storylines of these shows keep in mind the audience. However are we as fool and ignorant as to accept anything served to us? It is commendable that the stories of these soaps came out of metropolitan urban spaces and now are spread across the backdrop of many small towns and villages. But over the years even that has come to be another TRP raising trick. My questions and objections are many. Since women are the audience it is most important to observe the overall standing of women within the shows. The most interesting thing about these shows is that their  plotlines revolve usually around women characters. Many of their titles refer to women. Yet they are thoroughly patriarchal. It’s disturbing how almost every show drags on with the same content, kitchen politics and wedding sequences. There’s nothing new to these shows. In fact, it seems we are going back in time.

Let’s pick out some of the cases more particularly. How many TV programmes show working and independent women? Very few. The counter point could be that the social setup shown in the programmes does not allow women to go out. In that case, I want to know exactly how many such programmes do we want? Aren’t TV and Cinema supposed to be bolder than real situations. They are supposed to be leading the change. Exactly what is the politics of keeping the women audience in their present positions?

What hurts even more is an another lot of shows which start with an ostensibly new and fresh idea showing a girl in the lead role, usually indicating a social change. The girl is depicted as an ambitious career driven women. The show in the beginning is vocal of women and other social issues until within six months the plotline changes and she lands up marrying. The popular show Balika Vadhu came out amidst great popularity and was hailed as the show that is here for a change. However, the pretentiousness of the same knows no bounds. Here I give you a food for thought. Amidst my other objections, recent one is why the ideal women Anandi set aside her role as a village head, a teacher or a woman with an agenda. Why she, too, locked her within the four walls of her new home, the family which was supposed to be a lot more modern than her previous in-laws.

Apart from these, why do the family shown in these series are all elite and  upper class. Why people from different religions and communities do not get represented.

With great power comes a greater responsibility. It is understandable that these shows are produced in a competitive and commercial environment but whoever said that creativity, productivity and commerce cannot go hand in hand. Several directors and producers these days are coming out with movies with fresh and new ideas and treatment. Yet, they are commercial, popular and are proving to be successful. Take for instance the low budget grosser of 2012 Vicky donor, Kahani an English Vinglish. It means that audience today is matured and ready to accept fresh and creative concepts. Like Cinema, tv shows in a newer mould will be more than welcome. The common people of the country are not to be fooled anymore. It is not for  no reason that a show like Bade Acche Lagte hain got the national award and was a TRP gainer too.( At least in the beginning.) Even if over night changes cannot take place. There is no imminent ray of hope or a silver lightning.

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Deepika Mehra

Deepika Mehra

Looking for the meaning of my life, I have reached writing.