Telescope: On Women’s Day only

It was the usual tokenism. Meanwhile, to see real women, watch Zindagi

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: March 17, 2016 6:03 am
Women’s day, international Women’s day, Women’s day special, pune Women’s day special, pune sex ration, pune news Illustration:C R Sasikumar

Once upon a lovely time ago, we spent languorous evenings with Imran Khan. And those like him who let their bat or the ball speak for them — until the day they began talking instead of playing cricket. Those were the days, my friend: News prime-time debates on cricket — by turns fun and factual and even informative. Today’s 9pm discussions are usually none of the above. Instead of the T20 World Cup, we have Mallya-maal, Mallya-maal and more Mallya-maal.

What could be more enjoyable (ahem) than former cricketer Vinod Kambli asking the lady (Kamya Punjabi), who claims to know everything there is to know about cricket, the whereabouts of “long leg” and Kamya flashing out her long leg? (Cricket, camera… action, ABP)?

Maybe Kamya and Kambli can explain how India spun out of control against New Zealand since the bewildered Star Sports commentary team was as out of its depth as the Indian batsmen.

Of course, news channels will play cricket during the next fortnight, but only earlier in the evening, when you are either struggling to return home to watch a match live (6.30pm) or watching the live match (7.30pm)!

Why don’t all the news anchors take a well-deserved break from their “suit-boot” (do you suppose they wear formal shoes during live broadcasts?) inquisitions, climb into something comfortable and talk — seriously naturally — about Mitchell’s bowling?

Mitchell Santner, not Mitchell Starc. Left arm spin, 4-11 against India.

Last Tuesday, every woman MP in Parliament spoke up. It was Women’s Day (Lok Sabha TV, Rajya Sabha TV). And what about all the other days? Shouldn’t women be speaking on them, too? Such tokenism is almost insulting as though women have something worthwhile to say — about women — only on Women’s Day, so let’s be done with it. All news channels telecast special shows for women and on behalf of women, we thank them kindly. However, We The People (NDTV 24×7) said 2,000 girls are still killed in the womb daily. Why don’t the leaders on news TV hammer away at this profoundly tragic crime each night instead of nailing Mallya?

Last week, Ekta Kapoor, the woman who produced Smriti Irani (now, now) in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, said that Indian audiences needed to “change” if TV entertainment content was to “change”: “Yes, I can openly say that they are not ready for progressive shows” (Mid-day).

Kapoor should not drop the gauntlet into the viewer’s lap so easily: She can afford to take a loss or two, literally, in the greater cause of female emancipation, no matter how pompous that sounds. After all, it’s her “saas-bahu” shows that booted out “progressive shows” and led to the copycat culture in soaps that has killed all the alternatives that came their way. Time for her to use her undisputed skills — and knowledge of the audience — to forge the “change”.

Perhaps she could watch Zindagi and two shows in particular: Aadhe Adhure and Bhaage Re Mann. In the former, the women are in a parivar situation but not in costume jewellery — they’re the ordinary salwar kameez, sari types. In the kitchen, they actually cut vegetables — or load the washing machine with clothes (so what if all colours are dumped together for a rainbow washout?). Meanwhile, lead character Jassi’s feelings for her brother-in-law Virender remain passionate but the undercurrent between them is played out in the backdrop of day-to-day life. This is a “progressive” show with strong women, within the family.

In Bhaage Re Mann, overweight Padmini and the other female characters might be someone you know — they’re contemporary, real. Currently, Anvita is demanding a divorce from Rohit because he is not the man she thought he would become — no histrionics, just to steal Donald Trump’s phrase, “telling it like it is”.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com
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