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A Letter To Zindagi Channel, From A Disgruntled Fan

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By Abhismita Sen:

Dear Zee Entertainment Enterprises,

When the Zindagi channel was launched, I was not very enthusiastic. I had enough of indigenous entertainment which offered nothing beyond saas-bahu clashes, sibling rivalry, multiple marriages, scripted ‘reality’ shows and crass comedy. I was a loyal audience of English shows and sitcoms on television, because I found much less predictable melodrama there.

However, on hearing my friends appreciate Zindagi Gulzar Hai, I tuned in to it one fine day and was impressed, if not spellbound. Although the story was a regular ‘rich chauvinist boy meets middle class headstrong girl and they live happily ever after’ tale, it was much unlike what Indian entertainment offers. It was blatant, prompt and just, without any unnecessary ensembles which take the pleasure out of a daily soap; such as meaningless sidetracks, high voltage background music and distasteful stereotypes. What attracted me the most was that the series was wrapped up in less than 30 episodes, while in Indian entertainment, it takes 30 episodes for the hero and heroine to come face to face for the first time, 50 to realize they are in love, 200 to get married, 400 to consummate and another 400 to finally start a family, wherein the problems arising out of their marriage and relationships take another 200 episodes to get solved, finally dragging a soap to its 1000th episode, which is triumphantly celebrated much to the torture of the audience. Still, these Indian shows run for 5-6 years each, because the audience barely has an access to any substitute for entertainment.

zindagi channel

Zindagi not only brought the urban, free thinking, educated, upper middle classes of the Indian metropolitan cities back to the national television and local entertainment by catering to their intellectual and spiritual stimulation, but also paved the way for a renaissance in Indian entertainment as well. Shows here began to ponder about themes with finite content and alternate plots.

Zindagi Gulzar Hai met its logical end while many other shows such as Mere Qatil Mere Dildar, Aunn Zara and Noorpur ki Rani kept its relic of substance and no unnecessary futility going.

However, these shows kept ending one after another and a new stream of shows followed, which included Maat, Madiha Maliha and Aaina Dulhan Ka. There was something starkly uncanny about these series. In all these, the women portrayed as righteous are the docile ones who do not have dreams or for that matter, any identity of their own, neither are they interested in building one, while the ones who are ambitious, demand economic, sexual or social liberation and personal space, are invariably portrayed as evil. The men in the lives of these women are mere puppets who act as per the wishes of their wives.

It was there that Zindagi failed, making it a shadow of the trademark Indian formulae of stereotyping the women not wearing a ‘chastity belt’ and not having the ‘nineteenth century sense of morality’ as the vamps, while glorifying the ‘doormat’ like behaviour towards women.

Maybe towards the end in all these serials, women take to working or become self sufficient, but that is only an ambivalent empowerment as the ‘virtuous’ women, who considered putting up with all the tortures they were subjected to as their duty, and never protested, chose to build an identity for themselves because they barely had any option for survival and would not have ever chosen to do so, if situations were according to their convenience.

Besides, I am also miffed with the typecasting and watching the same actors in similar roles in every series.

It should be noted that situations and mindsets of Indian urban and educated viewers has also undergone considerable changes in the recent years. Family, relationships, marriage, parenthood, all these definitely form an important part of entertainment but offbeat shows or the hint of themes like career, social issues, crime such as the story of Sandhya’s journey from a housewife to an IPS officer; Anjali’s struggle to gain paternal acceptance by conquering the Everest; Samyukta’s hardships in becoming a mechanical engineer; too have been loved by Indian audiences and have emerged as decent TRP mongers.

Before the ‘Ekta Kapoor’ syndrome, Indian television had a considerable number of shows which had non-filial content and professional themes, such as Sanjivani, Mahayagya, Office Office etc., which is being revived through shows like Airlines, Everest, Private Investigator, 24 etc., accordingly if Zindagi aspires to woo the changing demands of the Indian audiences, it has to move beyond kitchen politics, class distinctions and dramas which revolve around the four walls of the household with similar and predictable stories.

Kapoor also ushered in the era of dominance of women on screen, with the script pivoting around the heroine. The worst outcome of a patriarchal mode of entertainment that has been made a feature of the content on television is the misrepresentation or underrepresentation of men as the eternal oppressor and as the provider. However, Indian television is gradually overcoming this forced misandry. Shows which are pivoted around men, with considerable emphasis on women such as Devon ke Dev-Mahadev, Maharana Pratap, Jamai Raja and Saraswatichandra have found acceptance from the audience. Zindagi is currently giving Indian viewers the opinion as if every man in Pakistan is gullible and easy to be manipulated against the women in their lives or is instrumental of fortifying patriarchal norms of the society himself, which can never be true. Of course every society has men who are believers in patriarchy but all men are not alike and generalizing vices is as sinful as committing it.

Television is the strongest means of representing a community and also of communication. It gives the reflection of a nation-state’s cultural values and psyche. It can also be a powerful means of social change.

I would like to ask a question to the content managers of television on both sides of the border- is TRP so important for you all that it has eclipsed over the sense of responsibility of reforming the society, so much so that instead of changing the outlook of the audiences, you are far more desperate to percolate the already persistent social evils?

Yours Sincerely,
A Disgruntled Fan

You must be to comment.
  1. Omar

    “the Sense of Responsibility of reforming the society!”
    Wah! Serious need to reconsider were we drive our inspiration from.
    Yes, nobody denies the impact of tele-serials. But entertainment is pure money, especially the whole concept of daily soap shows.
    Complaining about how Zindagi has failed your expectations and how it has become a shadow of its Indian counterpart, is a protest against what exactly? I mean with all due respect, i just don’t get this article?

    1. Abhismita Sen

      A nation’s psyche and mindset is revealed by its popular culture. The argument lies if this is our taste, aren’t we yet mature enough as a community to embrace the ‘liberal’ mindsets of the west that we so pretend to enjoy?

    2. Omar Siddiqui

      Oh okay…

  2. Sa

    Having a problem with pakistani serials is fine, but because you sincerely supported ekta kapoor shows make you a biased writer..

    1. Abhismita Sen

      Hello, please read the article carefully , I DID NOT appreciate Ekta Kapoor, in fact I have addressed the loopholes in her shows as a ‘syndrome’…hopefully you would follow the essence of the article on the next reading …

  3. JP

    I appreciate that you took some time out, thought about it and wrote an article on soap operas. But this article is not very focused. The problem just might be you have tried to write about too many things in a very limited space. A humble suggestion would be to take one at a time. And don’t hurry to jump to conclusion.

    All the best!

  4. Abhismita Sen

    I would Like to thank all those who took their time out and read the article so much so that it had attracted about 250 shares and close to 150likes on Facebook, within a span of less than 12 hours.
    Going by the comments in both the social media share and in here, I have noticed a few common trends of reactions, which I would like to address. All these should have been exemplified by the article itself, nevertheless I would write about them again for the readers.
    Firstly, this article does not intend to glorify Indian entertainment or malign quality Pakistani entertainment. A careful reading of the article must show that all the positive attributes of Pakistani entertainment have been appreciated more than once. The focus of this article is to illustrate and discuss both the positives and the negatives of both the industries simultaneously.
    Secondly, This article is a critique of the mindless patriarchal and stereotyped misrepresentation of both men And women on BOTH the sides of the border, which is surprising since, Zindagi started on a very positive and progressive note and turned a new leaf in Indian entertainment (it must be here noted that since Zindagi is an Indian channel with Pakistani content, my chief focus is on the programming of Zindagi and not the entire genre of Pakistani entertainment at large)
    Thirdly, while a lot may think Indian entertainment is stagnating or regressing, there cannot be any denial of the fact that it has made tremendous strides no matter how tediously in changing its outlook and worldview (which I again did not deny and have rather been explicit about the slow yet steady progress of Indian soap opera). Working women in the contemporary Indian shows are no longer portrayed as evil. Yes it is true that we are not yet devoid of several unnecessary defilements in our dailies but the current lot of shows in Zindagi too have an adequate share of each of them and this is not what the viewer deserve from the same channel which gave them the likes of Zindagi Gulzar Hain! Beside, I urge readers to please go through the section on ‘ambivalent empowerment’.
    That’s all…I hope, I have made myself clear.

  5. Susmita Abani

    I agree that in general Pakistani and Indian dramas always show strong and independent women with one-dimensional traits – which are mostly negative. To Indians and Pakistanis, a girl’s decency is mostly defined by how tactfully and patiently she handles her husband’s family. If you bail, then you fail.

    However, specifically on Zindagi Gulzaar Hai (probably my favourite Pakistani drama), I think this piece of criticism is undeserved. Kashaf’s strength doesn’t falter at any point throughout the show – she doesn’t give up her job, or give up her family to live with her in laws, and she doesn’t depend on her father for anything. She never shows desperation to have a man in her life, or define her value by it. When Zarun betrays her by meeting Asmara in secret, she fights for her right and leaves when he refuses to apologise, she doesn’t just submit and take it. When Zarun insists that a man is the head of a family, she calls him a chauvinist. Yes, she is somewhat conservative and modest in her mannerisms – but these don’t clash with the level of freedom she needed. So basically, Kashaf was all of those things: she had dreams, her own identity, ambitions, personal space, a strong voice – AND she wore the “chastity belt” without being docile. This is what set this drama apart for me.

    The show makes Asmara and Sara, and Zarun’s mother, look bad. But I would argue that the kind of “freedom” these women were advocating were absurd. They thought feminism meant women could do anything at any time without facing criticism, which is an impractical expectation to have for any person, male or female. Off course, the show isn’t perfect, nothing is perfect, but I think it did a good job at showing the difference between being emancipated, and being insensitive.

    1. Abhismita Sen

      Hello, you have unfortunately misunderstood the article. I never criticized Zindagi Gulzar hain and have rather spent the first three paragraphs appreciating its novelty in blending the traditional and modern in the most dignified way. My critique lies for the current content on Zindagi.

    2. Abhismita Sen

      In fact, the very argument in my article is how can the same channel which telecasted a show of Zindagi Gulzar Hain’s caliber, stoop to shows which are equally regressive as their Indian counterparts!

  6. manisha

    I like aina dulhan ka where both sisters play their roles very well either was ryt at their places n this has told us what was ryt n how to deal in a certain situations n how the importance of money told righteously

  7. Monica

    At last lets come to a conclusion zindagi serials drama are far far better then these horrible indian shit dramas by ekta k and others. these are never ending serials. Pakistani dramas are quite rich and sensible

  8. Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary

    This is what I dislike about our view points when it comes to female empowerment. The entire article has sort of criticised the virtuous women that were portrayed in a few shows on Zindagi, as stereotyping them. The point is, there are women like that and we need to stop shaming them. It is okay to not have ambitions, that is their choice, who are we to cast a perfect image of a 21st century woman stating that she has to be headstrong and willing to work.
    Television is meant to express one's work, thought and ideology ultimately guaranteeing entertainment, the good part is that the shows shown on Zindagi end after about 20, maximum 30 episodes (which the author has well appreciated), and their effect doesn't stay to an extent which might be detrimental to the society.
    Women can be who they want and all they want, they can be be as pious as they want and as conniving as they want, they can be god fearing or an atheist, they can expose or cover themselves from head to their toe, nothing that they do should categorise them into compartments, of being modern or too primitive.

  9. GS

    I agree with your observations. It has turned into a channel that only talks about the sorry state of women. There is atleast one woman who is in a sorry state in every series. Even if she is not in a sorry state, the plot puts her in one and the story is built around it. Nothing different from what EK did and spun off saas-bahu and infidelity sagas.

    There is enough crap in this world to deal with. I hope content programmers understand they can represent women empowerment in a much positive t one and not cash-in by emotionally tormenting women, under the pretense of melancholy and drama…

    PS: I am a man so I may be treated out place for this comment but I can see the effects of the thoughts they advocate at my home. Yes it is affecting people. I have two televisions and they run the same serials on zindagi during prime time. Unfortunately, the women at my home dont even want to watch zindagi together…lol

  10. zaffer

    pls ..replace the timing of serial feriha

  11. KP

    Pls… Change the timing of seriyal feriha

  12. Atiya Fatima

    I really wanna watch it on zindagi channel that is pyaar kii yeh ek kahaani of(2010-2011) series plzzz post it on zindagi channel .

  13. Zeba Zaki

    please zindagi it’s a humble request fonts change the repeat timing of fatmagul please keep it at 10:30 or 11 and telecast feriha at 11:30 or any other timing .. please you can see on fb what your fans want from you so please keep the Turkish serial at 10 or after please please rply please consider our request please

  14. Zeba Zaki

    please don’t change the timing of fatmagul night repeat telecast plss keep it at after 10. plsssss

  15. Zeba Zaki

    I beg u pls keep the fatmagul timing at 10:30 plss plsssssss

  16. Atiya Fatima

    Plzzz I beg u ….plzzz …I want “pyaar kii yeh ek kahani” on zindagi channel plzzz

  17. shikha thapa

    Hello,,
    I am great fan of the turkish serials Feriha and Fatmagul..
    Feriha season 2 is starting from 16 nov 2016,, pllzzzzzzzzzz change its time from 6 p.m..
    I will not be able to watch,,, plzzzzzzz change it after 8 p.m any time. May be 8 to 9 pm or 10 to 11pm…
    Plllllzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  18. Mohd Faizan

    PLS CHANGE THE TIMING OF …….. 🙂 INSTEAD OF OF ALL THE SERIALS LIKE KUZY GUNY YA KHAWABO KI ZAMIN PR TYPES

  19. priyanka agarwal

    I love Turkish serials…can u please play Ask Laftan Anlamaz on Zindagi Channel please …?? Most of the Indians admire that show …kindly accept my request …✌

  20. Sachin M Deoghare

    Dear Zindagi Channel Staff, Kuzey Guney is a very good series but it is incomplete without season 2. So I request you to pleast start its second season as early as possible but as per your.

  21. Meraki charming_innovation

    dear zindagi channel .. i dont knw why you stopped telecasting the serial feriha season 2 and 3.. we all are waiting for the serial .. please its a request to start the show again ..i will highly obliged if u plz start the show again … please

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