March 11, 2021 8:15:12 am
The Married Woman
The Married Woman cast: Ridhi Dogra, Monica Dogra, Suhaas Ahuja, Imaad Shah
The Married Woman director: Sahir Raza
If you are an Indian woman, there are chances you’ve been lectured or ‘guided’ to sacrifice for the family, to keep your husband happy while putting your own dreams on the backburner and, no matter what, to prioritise your children before you.
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The protagonist of AltBalaji and ZEE5’s latest web series The Married Woman, Astha (Ridhi Dogra), probably received similar ‘gyaan’ while growing up and is now a conventional dutiful wife, daughter-in-law and mother at the cost of her own happiness. She is content in her domesticity, despite being married to an inconsiderate husband Hemant (Suhaas Ahuja), who has customary sex with her every second Saturday. Things change when she meets artist Peeplika Khan (Monica Dogra). In Astha’s words, Peeplika touches her in a way no man ever did and made her discover herself. But her self-discovery would come at the cost of her relationships.
The trailer of The Married Woman intrigued me to learn how the lives of two love-starved women, starkly different from each other, will intertwine. How will they break out from the traditional gender-defined roles assigned to them by society and find solace in each other? Will their clandestine love ever find acceptance in a society where ‘sabhyata’ and ‘maryada’ mean everything?
Writers Jaya Misra and Surabhi Saral, fail in turning the beautiful theme of ‘love-beyond-gender’ into an engaging tale of two women finding solace in each other.
The focus of the narrative is on Astha’s life and how she is taken for granted in her marriage of 11 years. First, she moves away from her husband to a theatre director Aijaaz Khan (Imaad Shah). Her fondness for him stems from the fact that he teaches her to live free from her inhibitions and acknowledge her desires, which are ignored by her family. But eventually, it is Aijaaz’s wife Peeplika who ‘clicks’ with Astha. Now, what attracts Astha to Peeplika, why she grows fond of her, where does that intense passion come from, we never get to know.
What makes it worse are the overstretched episodes. The Married Woman forces you to sit through episode after episode of non-development. The subplot of an inter-caste marriage annoys you further since it adds nothing to the central narrative. The second half of the show, which brings Astha and Peeplika together and tests the strength of their bond, are much better than the early episodes simply because both characters deal with their emotional turmoil. While Peeplika wants Astha to choose between her and her family, Astha is torn between her happiness and her children’s future.
The show is set in 1992, when the country witnessed communal riots. That, however, remains just a backdrop and never blends with the narrative.
Also, it is difficult to fathom why a free-spirited and independent woman has to be shown as an alcoholic and promiscuous. Peeplika is shown to be an independent, confident woman who mourns by sipping wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has casual affairs till she finds love with Astha. When will such cliched depiction of an ‘independent’ woman change?
Still, if you prefer to watch The Married Woman, do it for its cast. Ridhi Dogra, Monica Dogra, Suhaas Ahuja and Imaad Shah, have all given well-contained performances. Special mention for Ayesha Raza for being a much-relatable interfering relative who has an issue with everything that her sister-in-law does.
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