Uh oh,we’re in trouble

Women have a hard enough time as is; TV magnifies those woes

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:February 10, 2009 2:49 am

If you’re young,female and Indian,visit a pub if you like being manhandled; talk to man on a bus whose religion differs from yours if you like being abducted; and,declare your inability to handle your man if you’re Fiza. Can women do anything without getting themselves into trouble? 

Not much if you watch our serials. Here,each time a woman says,“Yes,I can”,someone will reply,“Oh no,you don’t” and shoved her aside. Shoved her into jail where Viraj from Jeevan Saathi (Colors) languishes for a crime she never committed,in the distinguished company of every former TV leading lady including Tulsi and Parvati (remember them?); cornered her inside a toilet like Gauri in Maayka (Zee),by a man with a knife who has every intention of sharpening it on her; forced her into a loveless marriage — how many times have we seen that — at the behest,  never request — of a domineering man as in the latest marriage we’ve been invited to of an elderly man to a young girl on NDTV Imagine’s Bandini. 

There’s something for everyone with a taste for injustice to women. On Sony’s Hum Ladkiyan,Pooja is suffering bed arrest,imprisoned by the bedclothes. Not sure what ails her but her outstretched arm looked as though it had been disfigured as she offered it to the young man who loves her. Can you marry this,she asks him extending her blight to him. Freeze frame till the next episode of sadness.  

Or will it be madness?  That too. In Aathavan Vachchan,Sony forces its main character Urmi to be an 18-year old girl with an eight-year old mind,beloved of a sister whom she accompanies into marriage only for sis to conveniently die so that the poor girl may suffer more. A variation on this is Zee’s Banoo Mein Teri Dulhan,in which if you recall,the dulhan was married off to a dulha who is an 18-year old with an 8-year old mind and now boasts of Sindoora who,a Zee press release reveals,“has lost her sanity and would be seen decaying in the prison”.  

The TV screen is crowded with daughters — at variance with the sex ratio in the country. Radha Ki Betiyaan,Bandini and Kitani Mohabbat Hai (NDTV Imagine),Kasamh Se and Ghar Ki Lakshmi Betiyaan (Zee) amongst others,have three and more daughters. Is this a sharp rebuke to the gender imbalance? No,because they suffer so: ever since Gracy Singh led a cast of seven sisters in Zee’s Amanat,daughters have been learning why Indians prefer male offspring: a son has all the fun.  

Colour blindness still afflicts our heroines: Saath Phere (Zee) and Bidaii (Star Plus) have leading female characters whose dark skin deprives them of the lightness of being. Saloni in Saath Phere tried to change her skin tone but as life and rebirth have brought her heartbreak she has visibly darkened before our eyes. Last seen,she was on a deserted landscape confronted by her nemesis Urvashi (the old vamp-tramp against good girl story). 

Last week on Baalika Vadhu (Colors) where child marriage looks increasingly attractive,the mother told her daughter — don’t stay out in the sun,you’ll grow darker and (presumably) deprive you of a fair and lovely (sorry,handsome) husband. By the way,Shah Rukh Khan still promotes the cream by that name to ensure that the men retain their (un)fair advantage over the women.         

So,today we have more serials about young female characters with less and less happiness. Does that mean we enjoy watching  women suffer?  

Let’s end with the smile that lit up Akshara’s face on Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai last week (Star Plus) when her father refused a marriage proposition from a rich parivar. Maybe life just got better for women. Shall we go pubbing? 

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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