Forget International Women's Day, women in Hindi serials haven't changed in decades
Akshara leads a stressful life. The protagonist of the popular Star Plus show Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai starts her day well-groomed wearing the shiniest of saris and a substantial layer of make-up. Her first task is to make a healthy breakfast and scrumptious lunch for the large joint family, largely for the men folk, before they scamper off to work. Of course, there is the morning puja, and laying out her husband's clothes and wallet.
The flurry of activities continues: strategising the dinner menu, ensuring that the husband and father-in-law have eaten well in office, pleasing the mother-in-law... Finally, the day ends similar to the way it began — she gets into bed in a flashy sari, complete with jewellery and make-up.
These are the images flooding television channels today even as the world celebrated the centennial International Women's Day early this month. In Hindi soaps, time appears to be frozen. Far from the goings on in the real world, female characters in Hindi serials are about the same as they used to be a decade ago.
Domestic issues rule her life and the kitchen is the centre of her world. A saas chastises her bahu for serving corn flakes — horror of horrors — for breakfast. And tells her off because her pallu slips off her head. The girls, however highly educated, end up doing nothing more than washing vessels after they are married.
There is little hope for those who begin somewhat ‘real' or ‘different'. In Pratigya, the lead is a strong girl who wants to teach a lesson to her eve-teaser. What does she do? She gets married to him and tries to reform his orthodox, regressive family. Similarly, in Maryada, which is being promoted as a women-centric story, Priya gets married to the son of a policeman who had tried to rape her. (She vows, however, that she will avenge him.)
Suhana of Sasural Genda Phool is a western-clothes wearing, rich, spoilt brat. But post-marriage, she ‘blends in' with the family by learning how to cook, wearing saris and transforming herself into a good ‘bahu'. Western-wear, much like going to work, is the hallmark of a vamp.
Makers of such programmes claim they give audiences what they want. This may not be entirely untrue. But for the viewers of channels claiming to be offering Rishta wahi, soch nayi (Star Plus), the bad news is that they are still offering old wine in a new bottle.
Keywords: Hindi serials