I was not very attracted to the idea of making anything for television. So when I got a call for this serial on Doordarshan, which was fundamentally about social messages, it got me thinking. I took it up as a challenge. I saw some stunning work done in South America and South Africa, even in Japan, where they used the language of soap opera for sending out important messages. But when they do that they never forget that primarily the show is for entertainment. This show could be my last television serial because I don’t see myself directing serials day in and day out. It’s not just a serial, it’s much more than that. Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon is a very important show in terms of gender issues, women empowerment, sex determination, sex selection, early marriage, early and repeated pregnancies and domestic violence in Indian society. The story revolves around the inspiring journey of Sneha Mathur, a doctor working in Mumbai. She represents the young Indian woman of today who thrives on challenges. As the story progresses, Sneha returns to her village and find herself embroiled in a series of family dramas. Sneha’s sense of family responsibility, along with her ability to respond to challenges around her, makes her a role model for many young women who face similar realities. The serial will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you think.
For me it’s not just a serial, it is a part of an important vision and initiative taken up by Population Foundation of India, which is trying to bring about a change in the mindset of masses about women. We are primarily targeting small towns and that is the reason we chose to broadcast this show on Doordarshan. Television is different from theatre but I am bringing in my experience and values from theatres on this show. We are different from other serials dealing with the similar kind of issues as we are solely guided by values and principles and not by commerce. When I watch Indian TV shows, I get furious. They are agonisingly regressive and mediorce. Women are projected as dimwitted, scheming, helpless or plain silly. I asked myself how many recent films and serials have been made where the birth of a girl child is celebrated.
One needs to challenge regressive social ideas and once the gender issue is addressed, once there is a sense of equal partnership, then eventually, domestic violence will come down. There is a need to put more focus on maternal healthcare. So while we are engaged in health programmes, there are other social issues, which require attention. Television is the medium for that, I would not say the same for cinema. Interestingly, after the first television serial, Hum Log, which carried a social message, we forgot to develop the idea further.
The myth that social engagement cannot be entertaining and popular needs to be challenged. I think that will change if you make the shows well. The problem sometimes is that you have good intentions, but fall short of talent. You have to realise that when you are making something for a cause, it does not matter whether it is issue-based or pure entertainment. The quality has to be top class and very engaging.