It is a painful subject. But what needs to be addressed, needs to be addressed. This is the more awkward version of the dreaded ‘birds & bees’ talk that parents, up until a generation ago, had to have with their off spring. I mean, what can be more embarrassing than having to sit down with your 10 yr old & try & explain to him or her where babies come from. Right? Um, wrong. I would have ‘the talk’ with my child any day than having to explain to him what the hell is happening in the serial his family watches.
But there was a time when Indian television was far more evolved & the industry did churn out some of the most thought – provoking, sensitive & even controversial serials of the time. So, without further ado, allow me to share a list I prepared of some of the most popular television shows, then & now and what they represent.
- Shanti (1994)
India’a first ever daily soap, with Mandira Bedi playing the lead, Shanti was the story of a young, confident, bold journalist who aspires to unravel the truth behind the friendship and enmity between two strong male characters in the serial & the challenges she faces in the process. Now compare that with…
Sasural Simar Ka – (2011 & Running)
This is the story of a young girl who starts out as the ‘bahu’ (daughter in law) of a family her father chooses for her to marry into that switches from one bizarre twist to another in a matter of seconds. One episode, she’s a regular ‘bahu’ doing the dishes & minding everyone else’s business, the next, she is a fly on the wall! Some days the family dwelling is full of irate women talking to themselves planning to murder people, the next day it’s literally a house of horrors! Subtle…
2. Rajni – 1985
This was the story of a middle class , married woman who was aware & very ahead of her times. She was fearless , strong & stood up against injustice when she saw it. The serial addressed many social issues like theft, child abuse, work place harassment etc with sensitivity & gave an important social message in each episode.
Sath Nibhana Sathiya – 2010 & Running
This is the story of two cousins who get married into a joint family. The orphaned cousin is meek, seldom speaks & is always self-sacrificing while the other is manipulative bitch. The mothers in law, are two in number & play good cop bad cop. Then, the manipulative cousin dies & another one fills her shoes as the ‘badi bahu’ of the ‘khandaan’ . Meanwhile the husband loves the meek wife some days & shuns her on others. In one such mood swing he marries another woman, who is very ‘modern’ & then there’s a time leap. During this period the issues the collective household tackles are grave, such as a rat in the house, a laptop that’s been washed accidentally & a few murders. That’s about it.
3. Hum Log – 1984
The first ever soap opera to be aired in the Indian sub-continent, Hum Log was the saga of an Indian middle-class family and their daily struggles and aspirations. It was created on the lines of a Mexican television series, Ven Conmigo (1975), using the education-entertainment methodology.
Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai – 2009 & Running
The ongoing story of a girl who becomes a ‘bahu’ then faces some challenges adjusting in the new joint family. A few stern looks here, a few subtle hints there & the episode is generally wound up except for a few accidents & financial losses. That, & the main leads die. And there’s a time leap. And there’s a daughter. And she’s getting married. And there are stern looks here, subtle hints there. And she misses her mommy who she feels could have helped her cope with the stern looks & the subtle hints. Sob. Sob.
4. Buniyad – 1986
This iconic television series was based on the story of a patriot & freedom fighter, Haveli Ram, & his family and their ordeal during the partition of India & Pakistan in 1947.
Diya Aur Bati Hum – 2011 & Running
Again, the story of a young ‘bahu’ in a joint family with a stern mother in law & a loving husband. The daughter in law is faced with the choice of having a baby because the MIL wants it or become a policewoman because she wants it. Of course she ends up doing both & tackling terrorists with a nuclear bomb who threaten to diffuse it in the presence of her MIL, who she saves , who then starts to love her & realize the importance of police service all at the same time. While all this is happening, the children are ready to be married & somehow the policewoman bahu mistakes a city in Pakistan to be a city in India & ends up selecting a ‘bahu’ for her son from the ‘enemy’ country! Oops! & Gasp! What follows is MS Power point effects of orgasmic proportions. And then they die. And there’s a time leap.
5. Surabhi – 1993
‘Surabhi’ was a popular Indian cultural show that showcased the activities and life of women and families in an enterprising society. It dealt with their success and achievements.
Splitsvilla – 2008 & Running
A popular ‘reality’ show, where you see men & women competing to retain fellow contestants as ‘dates’ & use profanity, manipulation & overt sexuality to do so. The show usually starts with an ‘audition’ round where contestants appear to make statements like ” I want to become something”, or ” I want to prove my critics wrong” & then end up proving quite the opposite. Especially disappointing are the women, who make claims like “I was abused & all my life I have wanted to teach my abuser to respect girls & I want to show him women are not just sexual objects” & then go on to objectify themselves.
The thing is, I can go on & on, but I think I have made my point. But I can’t rest my case till I make everyone realize that this garbage being fed to our families each day exists only because we let it.
There’s no supply without a demand for something. Cut the demand. Stop watching this nonsense. Low television rating points make production houses nervous. They would have to start respecting audiences & come up with better content only if we start respecting ourselves first.
‘Fuck Television. At least the kind you watch’