How TV Serials are hindering the progress of Indian Women
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
For most of the typical Indian housewives there is no better timepass than watching the family dramas unfold on the small screen. TV Serials like ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ (KSBKBT) and ‘Kumkum’ ran almost for a decade and had captivated the entire women population of India. So was their popularity that once a group of ladies protested on the streets of Mumbai because a character named Mihir in KSBKBT had been killed. The producers were forced to miraculously bring him back so as not to lose their TRP.
With an increase in audience, the number of such TV Serials has drastically increased in the past few years. Indian men especially the working husbands also form a part of the large community of viewers. Most of the women are so much bitten by the bug of soap operas that it has become their only topic of discussions during chaitime gupshups, addas and kitty parties. A lot of times I used to see my mom discussing events from the last night’s episode with the housemaid. The questions that interest her are how a character (mostly bahu) is tortured by the saas; how a choti bahu is playing game to defame the badi bahu, etc etc.
Now here are some common features of characters in 90% of the TV serials:
1) The woman in sari with thick vermillion of her forehead, having a ghung-ghat is an ideal bahu with likeable appearance.
2) The female protagonist always has an innocent face, is polite and most of the time submissive to elders.
3) The woman with smart, confident look is the one who is conspiring. She is ruining the family’s happiness and is hated by the viewers.
4) If a woman is in western clothes, in many cases she is depicted as someone with low moral character. She is the devil who has affairs with married men and creates complications.
5) A woman is always shown to be financially dependent on her man. Men are the dominating and rule-making members of the family. A woman is supposed to consult her husband before taking any major decision.
These saas-bahu dramas are not only watched for entertainment but are also loved by the people. The characters seem to become a part of the daily lives of millions of families all over the country. Such is the extreme obsession with TV serials that it seems to influence the mentality of all the strata of the society. The in-laws want a bahu like Parvati or Kumkum who would be docile and sacrifice everything for family’s happiness. They begin to think that the ideal place for a woman is at her husband’s feet; that her only duty is to take care of her in-laws and raise children. It is indecent for a woman to venture into the professional world and they should let men take care of all the financial matters.
In today’s world we are debating on woman’s position in the society; protesting against rapes, infanticides, dowry system; fighting for women’s right. But we seem to ignore the influence of the idiot’s box on more than 60 crore Indians of all age group. It is true that these serials will not portray women so as to elevate their position in the modern world. Why can’t the producers show a courageous woman IPS Officer or a successful businesswoman? Because in doing so they may lose a large population of viewers who find it extremely difficult to accept the professionalism in women’s attitude.
So do these entertainment channels have no responsibility towards a society where female infanticide is so common, where the birth of a girl child is a curse and where educating a girl is a waste of money? Do note that there are around 15 crore TV sets in India. That means more than half of India’s population is exposed to all the ill-effects of TV serials. People seem to enjoy the stereotypical portrayal of Indian families no matter how much melodramatic or boring they are. If these soaps are their obsession they will never accept men-women equality in the society.
Thus, if we want to fight against prejudice for the upliftment of women, there is an urgent need to modify the scripts in these soap operas. Women should be depicted as brave, independent and professionally successful. The producers shouldn’t try this as an experiment to test viewership but take this initiative as a mission. In the beginning they may have a hard time and people may not appreciate the change from conventional plot. It may take more than a decade to change the mindset of Indian people but things should begin now.