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Dark nights

Visuals of milk or kumkum being spilled,a black cat crossing someone’s path,a widow attending a festivity or heavy thunderstorm signaling bad omen are common on television.

Written by PriyankaPereira |
April 27, 2009 2:41:25 am

Most serials claim to uplift society; then why do superstition and blind faith still play a big role?

Visuals of milk or kumkum being spilled,a black cat crossing someone’s path,a widow attending a festivity or heavy thunderstorm signaling bad omen are common on television. Family dramas may have been shown the door for quick-fix entertainment like reality shows,talent hunts,savvy travel shows and celebrity interviews save for one glitch — shows peddling superstitions still abound,and they are popular too. For all the tech-suavity the industry utilises,television content is still rather,er,backward. “It is the thrill that makes these shows popular. One may not practice black magic,but watching how voodoo works does make for very compelling television,” says Prerna Pahua,a regular viewer of Black on 9X.

Other serials like Shubh Kadam,Mata Ki Chowki,Rahe Tera Aashirwaad,Mahima Shani Dev Ki,Balika Vadhu,Shree and Koi Aane Ko Hai perpetuate superstitions and use them as devices to add dramatic high points. Sunjoy Wadhwa,producer of Balika Vadhu on Colors,says that superstition is often used as a drama element. It is a prelude to what’s coming next to keep the viewer gripped.

With most serials set in villages these days,showcasing superstitious practices becomes a must,he feels. “These beliefs are an inherent part of the story. And the semi-urban population is prone to superstitious practices,” he justifies.

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According to 29-year-old mediaperson Dhriti Nath Dayal,“Superstition is ingrained in the Indian mindset. Most of us grew up believing that black cats are ominous. To date,most of us hang lemon-and-chillies outside our home’s front door. When such issues are addressed,it forms an immediate connect with the viewer,especially the older lot.”

Producer JD Majethia of Shree on Zee TV admits that the show has elements of blind faith but says: “No matter how educated a person is,beliefs like vastu shastra and astrology are built into our mental makeup.” Majethia is only playing on the Indian psyche. “Most serials end on a freeze point; I wanted every scene to end on a freeze point. Superstitious elements always intrigue people,” says the producer. Smita Bansal of Balika Vadhu seconds his view. “Most of us want to know if the “beliefs” we have grown up with are real and justified. If someone says he or she can prove that God exists,I’m sure everyone will flock around to know what that person has to say.”

Most people believe that superstition came into prominence on television when czarina Ekta Kapoor brought elements of superstitious beliefs like unlit lamp signifying bad luck and a dried up tulsi plant signaling the end of something. With her new show Koi Aane Ko Hai,Kapoor is again being accused of peddling superstition. Kapoor clarifies,“These things (superstition) happen in real life and if you want to ignore them and sweep them under the carpet,that’s your call.”

Balika Vadhu may be publicised as a socially relevant show,but even this one rides high on superstition. Every time the young widow on the show attends a ceremony or is seen at a celebration,she is criticised. Doesn’t this impact the mind of the viewer in the long run? “There are several regressive beliefs and customs in our society which a writer uses to tell his story. But the basic purpose is to isolate the wrong and highlight the right. We have to first present the problem to provide a solution,” says Wadhwa.

Er,okay.

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