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The Fact That Hindi Shows Objectify Women And Show Only North-Indian Hindu Families, Says A Lot

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By Rajkanya Mahapatra:

One of my favourite characters on television happens to be from an American crime drama called Bones. Temperance Brennan is an anthropologist who investigates murders along with her husband who works at the FBI. They solve crimes with absolute precision, the show is full of facts, accurate facts at that. I know quite a lot about the different bones in the human body now. What is more important is that the show has love, family drama et al. It has an element of suspense and thrill. The show has its light moments and the only evil plot is hatched by the killer. Plain simple logic.

This little introductory jibber jabber about my favourite character has a lot to do with my attention being redirected permanently from hyper ventilating mothers in expensive sarees or sly in-laws planning and plotting the execution of the newly wed bahu from the house or some secret, waiting to be flashed about a character so as to stretch a five year old serial even further. Yes, I described all the Hindi TV serials in under 50 words. And no, I am not being overly critical.


When India stepped into the 21st century, tragic events happened, like the earthquake in Gujarat, the Tsunami that hit Nagapattinam and ravaged South India, the Mumbai terrorist attacks and Ekta Kapoor. She brought with her an incomprehensible string of soap operas that thrived on the religious and cultural stereotypes that existed in the society and did a great job in blowing them out of proportions too.

Right from the ill treatment of widows to the ever luminous diya losing its light from a wind that auto generates itself in a closed room sans windows and blows that diya off because somebody died in a car accident. (Maybe it was the Death Eaters from Azkaban, you never know.) The evil saas finding a way to drive the bahu away from her son like in Pavitra Rishta or Dadisa pressurising Anandi to copulate and hoping that the foetus will have the XY chromosomes instead of the double X. Or when Rishabh Kundra a.k.a RK thinks he owns Madhubala because she is his wife steers everything to an entirely different derogatory level. The hoopla around inter-caste marriages in Diya aur Baati Hum or the portrayal of women in these serials wherein the perfect lady, the epitome of femininity and grace is a submissive saree clad woman whose only mission in life is to take care of the family, take all the blame, adjust with the husband’s extra marital flame and what not. Whereas the women in A -line skirts, crisp shirts and trousers working in an office are the ones either trying to get revenge or trying to impress a married man or simply wanting to break homes, both literally and metaphorically. Reminds me of Kya Hua Tera Vadaa, the serial that discontinued to my absolute pleasure.

Also, the prototype of a perfect family is almost always a North Indian Hindu family. How come there are no families from the North- East or from Down South? Or a family that belongs to another religion? No, I won’t count Qubool Hai, since even that serial follows all possible stereotypes, both religious and cultural. It is frustrating to sit in front of the television and watch the same thing, the same plot line, same characters just different faces, screaming, wailing, accusing, plotting, bribing, tampering with documents, bringing characters back to life, putting them in jail and preposterously releasing them too and a dozen weddings all of the same person!!

Serials like Sarabhai VS Sarabhai, Khichdi and most recently 24, have been like a breath of fresh air. I like Smriti Irani so much more as an active politician than a wailing and suffering Tulsi. Talented actors in the industry need better scripts to be able to do something new, something extra ordinary. Something they deserve being actors of immense calibre.

Maximum shows on air today are marred with superstitions, clichés, religious and cultural stereotypes and violence. Hardly anything in them to help the society with something positive. It might be aimed at only entertaining the masses with little messages in the end (hardly makes a difference), after all it is a capitalist venture, we must not forget. For all I know, women are affected the most, the home makers mostly, who find their escape through these serials. I have tried my best to sit with a straight face and not annoy my grandmother when she is watching these serials. But I cannot help not notice the discrepancies, the oddities and the bizarre happenings.

Hindi TV serials need to come of age now. Need to find a better formula to engage all age groups and treat them visually with nothing much, but a little bit of sense to start with.

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  1. Harsha Samtani

    This was an awesome article and absolutely true. Indian TV is in dire need of change.

  2. Suniti Agarwal

    I absolutely agree. A very close friend of mine is doing MBBS, and she watches Grey’s Anatomy on regular basis, she actually learned something out of it whereas Dil mil Gaye an absolutely ridiculous show which taught that doctors only romance and nothing else.

  3. Vidhya

    Its really sad that our Indian serials are just concentrated on showing emotional dramas.Its just not the Hindi serials but even the south indian serials following the same trend. They are just meant to show lavish life style or and wickedness in human relations and the saddest part is people still continue to watch them.

  4. Jahnavi Mukundan

    Very well written. 🙂

  5. Akshat Seth

    It’s amazing how low can these corporate media houses get in their desire for eye balls and TRP’s. Never have these they cared a bit about common man, his worries, his fears, rising prices, inflation, gender issues (These shows are the very embodiment of archaic patriarchal cultural values) the children working in the tea shops, the apathy among the youth (they encourage it) anything that would bring that would even have a semblance of something humane. Why would they? why need they- these upholders of archaic stereotypes and naked capitalism whose sole aim is profit, profit and profit!

    I really think that despite all its archaic and un-innovative methods, despite its monotonous state sponsored propaganda of the government and despite its C-grade soap operas, Doordarshan has retained the idealism and the connect with the common man and his aspirations and fears. Even when it talks of “Bharat Nirmaan” , the idea of the soul of this country that is still rural. Watch ‘Yeh Hai India Meri jaan” on Sundays at nine in the evening and the adaptations of the Korean serials (If they still continue).
    About the American serials, well they are good but confined to an elite unlike these horrendous patriarchal propaganda of the profit hungry corporates (they piss me off, seriously!)

  6. LemonTeaLover

    This is perfectly written, its very true. Its not so surprising how 24 became so popular and addictive. Even shows like jassi jaisi koi nahi, saara akaash etc, which too ku pcompletely different and new themes. It is sad that these shows ended with few seasons, whereas the completely frustrating family sagas are allowed to continue with the most non-sensical twists and turns.

    You have rightly said that we need a change in the content of our tv shows. All the superstitions, clichés, religious and cultural stereotypes and violence that you have mentioned above needs to be censored. If smoking is considered injurious to health, then the abovementioned taboos need to be completely dismissed as harmful to society. As far as south indian and north-east indian representation is concerned, perhaps it is because, south indian local channels have their own local television serials with even more negative representations of social taboos, and some famous star/ sony shows dubbed in the respective languages.

    1. sonal

      its good that they ended otherwise their ends would also had been like balika vadhu.
      In starting it was nice but after that it became rediculous.How can a collector can marry a divorcee whom he had know recently and rejecting an NRI frnd

  7. ramesh kumar

    Besides sas bahu quarrels ,unending plots by vamps to nail down hero /heroine ,most of serials are too slow and leads to boredom or swapping channels.

  8. Shruti

    absolutely agree…In a very popular show on colors the protagonist marries dis NRI guy who abandons her.Then this guys brother attempts to rape her twice.Its revealed that the NRI guy married her just to get hold of some ancestral property and after getting it he never returns.Then the male head of the family throws her out of his house.She goes to Delhi to look for her husband and finds him trying to marry another girl.He sees her and hits her bad and everything.Still she goes on following him everywhere trying to win his heart,making green tea for him and doing all kind of stereotypical bahu stuffs for him and calls it her foremost duty to take care of her husband.And dat too after all he has done to her.What more, they are trying to portray her a s a strong willed dutiful lady!What kind of message are they sending out to the public at large.This “Aurat ek Sehensheelta ki Moorti” stuff has to stop.We desperately need strong and independent female characters in our serials!!!!!

    1. Akshat Seth

      You watched all that? I am glad you survived!

    2. Shruti

      survived..haha…hardly…star world my haven!!!

  9. ila

    Completely agree with you about everything. especially the sitting with the straight face part with my grandma.
    There are some more horrible serials like sathiya in which the lead actress was replaced firstly because she was caught at a hookaah bar. Absolutely absurd! and the fact that she doesn’t speak anything throughout the serial and just listens to her MIL and gets treated obnoxiously by her husband! She is supposedly the ideal bahu which the producers are trying to project to the Indian society. And another horrible serial which has now been discontinued was about a man being married to two women. How? And the way they ended it was that both the wives accept each other! I cannot understand how can they make such ignorant serials? Bigamy is illegal in Hinduism in India. They disgust me. Every time I sit with my grandmother and watch all these serials I start getting enraged at the way these serials are trying to distort the mindset of the society. Instead of taking the society forward, they are repeatedly reinforcing those obnoxious stereotypes and cliches and conservative mindsets which the supposedly educated Indian society has moved away from.

  10. Akshata

    Seriously, these serials are fanatasies of old generation saas (MILs), who’s wanting to have one lady ( her bahu) take her tantrums, infact tantrums of all the family members.
    I thought these were just in hindi till my last India visit and discovered that these are dubbed in all possible indian languages..!
    Why cant they make something away from fantasies..!

  11. bhagwanbhavnani

    Good article ☺♥

  12. sonal

    I recently watched an old dd national serial yeh jo hai zindagi .So i also searched for others also.I realized that they were so much better than what rubbish plays on the idiot box now.For some i was quite surprised that no of episodes were already fixed to 13 weeks or 50 ep or more.with no vamps,saas bahu ,extended story line,leaps,unnecessary dragging they were the best.
    I really liked dd as it also showed foreign dramas like the korean show ghar ka chirag .

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