Indian Soap Operas After Balaji Telefilms: Changing Perspective?

Posted on August 15, 2011 in Media and Culture

By Parnil Yodha

Since the time Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi went off-air marking an end of eight-year long monopoly of TV queen Ekta Kapoor, the daily soaps have evolved drastically taking a new shape with completely different concepts, characters, plots and casts. The last nail in the coffin for Balaji Teleflims, which was already running short of viewers due to low TRP of its shows,  was hammered by the coming up of the channel COLORS, especially through its serial Balika Vadhu. This soap opera acted as a saviour for the small screen by re-collecting the audience which was departing due to the contrived and obsolete stories of the soaps running at that time.

Viewers were longing for something fresh and refreshing and had lost interest in the same old stuff that they were being catered. This led to the trend of stories based on rich but traditional rural households replacing the ones based on the urban yet staunch traditional extended families. It is totally another story that there were still many similarities in the two, like the poor female lead getting married into a sumptuously rich family; businessmen males, sacrificing and tolerant female protagonists, humongous joint families,  Hindu culture and traditions, middle class values and the list goes on.

In the wake of  the grand success of Balika Vadhu , the small screen was flooded by many operas with rural based concepts, especially Rajasthani culture which were more like ‘me-toos’. The tide of time that decimated the Balaji bastion also swept away with itself the trend of repetitive cast and monopoly of huge production houses which was a prevalent trend in Ekta Kapoor’s undisputed reign due to the same production house of the many serials running on various channels. Many small production players had come into being and their heart-felt efforts were beginning to be acknowledged. This compelled even the queen herself to embark on and leave her famous ‘K’.

Now it’s been three years since then and today, TV offers loads of variety in terms of concepts, locations, plots and cast. From a love story of a powerful tapori (goon) and a timid basti (slum) girl; a story of an eleven-year old girl married to a dacoit based in Chambal; a love story of a vampire and a human; a story of a lower middle class couple living in a chawl (tenement) in Mumbai fighting the day-to-day problems; a story of  two young lovers belonging to conservative families and seeking answers to their innocent yet contentious questions; a story of a feminist and dignified girl married into a family of goons in Allahabad to the story of a girl married into a conservative Marwadi family but aspires to be a doctor, all give insights into the journeys of different women as daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, daughters-in-law, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and girl friends which are complicated yet thrilling, challenging but exhilarating, tough yet poignant and struggling yet perseverant journeys. Though the basic concept of women being projected as house-wives and daughter-in-laws may not have undergone much change but the focus of these soaps have definitely shifted. The erstwhile docile, submissive women are now seen fighting for their rights and taking important decisions.

No matter how much we, women, demean our daily soaps, we all end-up not only becoming an avid watcher but also a die-hard follower of them. We cry with the female protagonists, sympathise with them, laugh with them, love with them and even hate with them. The reason of this being, sometimes we identify ourselves or the essential women in our life with the female leads. Sometimes, we connect with an actress because we find her stranded in the same predicament as we are or had been at some point in our lives. For instance, there are many women of middle class who would connect with Saakshi Tanwar’s character in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain who could not marry or even have a boy friend at an appropriate age because they were busy supporting their families financially and had a difficulty in finding apt grooms later on because of their age and simplicity.

An amazing trend that’s catching up in serials is the stories based on literature or real life stories or incidents such as Bade Acche Lagte Hain is based on a play called ‘Patrani’  by Gujrati playwright Imtiaz Patil, Pyar Ki Yeh Ek Kahani is based on the “Twilight” series and “The Vampire Diaries”, Luteri Dulhan  is based on some real life incidents traced in Haryana and Phulwa is loosely based on dacoit-turned-politician based in Chambal called Phulan Devi. This fantastic change surely indicates improvement in the scripts and the content of our daily soaps.

Do you think a change in the trend of scripts and storylines in soap operas are indicative of the change in perspective about the role of women in society? Post your views in the comment box below.

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