The working class was part of a scriptwriter’s arsenal back in the day. With Ekta Kapoor changing the way we looked at characters, somehow, the working class disappeared. When the audience got bored with seeing a 400 crore worth family’s member using a CDMA phone, the working class returned to the scriptwriter’s world. But any number of series that I am seeing now tell me this, scriptwriters need to spend more time with the working class of today.
During the lockdown, the wife and I discovered the streaming apps and so many series that plays on the terrestrial channels.
The first series that I was watched was Ladies Special, a series about three gritty women with different problems in their lives and how they solve them. While there were several infuriating sequences there, one aspect that stood out for me was the way the scriptwriter handled the working class. For the modern scriptwriter, the working class is a snivelling, crying, resourceless, character who wouldn’t think twice before falling on the feet of an employer who have sacked them. I thought this was a one-off, but a while later, we stumbled upon Shaadi Mubarak.
This is a unique series, that began as a cheap version of Made in India, and now exists in a world where DNA tests don’t exist, bigamy is yet to become a law and a legitimately married couple needs to meet in the bathroom to ensure that the ex-wife doesn’t find out what they are plotting.
But what happens somewhere in the middle is that the daughter of the weak, spineless protagonist remains at the mercy of an employer from hell because she ‘won’t get a job anywhere’. And it’s not like Suits where she doesn’t have the required qualifications, or she’s fibbed that she’s attended Harvard. No, the writers aren’t bothering with any of that. They just maintain that the character is unemployable.
And it all goes lower down with the Marathi series Yevu Kashi Tashi Mi Nandayla. A young woman who lives in Ambernath finds employment in a health and fitness company owned by her mother’s best friend. It’s about three episodes until now, and the girl’s been fat-shamed, lifestyle-shamed, and everything in between. Her father has actually fallen at the feet of his ex-employer. At one time, he had no option but to work as a waiter at a caterer’s. Another character is now selling snacks – no, not tea – at the railway station, so on and so forth.
That the industry has lost its connect with the real world when it comes to money is something out there now. Govinda famously said in an interview that when one of his movies went a hit, he talked to his brother Keerti about buying fifty rickshaws and living life king-size. The industry has come a long way to Ayan Mukerji chiding his celebrity friend on phone during Kaun Banega Crorepati for calling him for a question worth 25,000. I still remember Ayan Mukerji’s surprised voice, “He’s calling me for 25k!” Well, it was 10,000 less than my monthly salary at that time. That was the epitome of the entitled looking down on the poor.
The working class is no longer looking at the doors of unscrupulous moneylenders for saving their daughter’s life in the hospital. A person who has worked for more than three months gets a loan for 3 to 5 lakhs in a jiffy, EMI under 3000 for a number of years. Yes, it’s expensive but better than falling at the feet of an ex-employer.
The working class has at least three credit cards that couple up to 1 lakh in their back pockets and they are not splurging because they don’t want to splurge, not because they can’t. Even the ones that they consider ‘unskilled’ live in a society that knows people who can give them soft loans, jobs. Hell, I am meeting with a bank this week that’s giving 50,000 loans right off the bat to women, provided they are working and have a valid Aadhar. EMI? 600 rupees per month.
Do you know what a smart entrepreneur can do in 50,000 immediate today? They can buy a good camera and become influencers. They can actually buy babywear in wholesale and sell it, door to door, and still live a respectable life. There are websites that deliver all over India if you order over 10k. They can start a cooking business, they can do anything, but they won’t live in a world where they have to fall at the feet of their employer.
What message are these series giving to the person who’s studying for their SSC? For their graduation? What about the person who’s looking to make a career by pursuing higher studies, or even a non-mainstream profession like, say, a tailor? Not a fashion designer, a tailor. That they will have to be part of their boss’s evil plans even if they don’t want to? That they will have to stand outside their ex-employer’s homes and fall at their feet to re-hire them?
Is this the reason most youngsters no longer want to study and have a mainstream career as their parents did? If these young people think that the mainstream career is so risky, they should also wonder how they were never evicted in their 25 years of existence because of non-payment of rent. That was because their parents knew what the television series is no longer comfortable telling because it doesn’t get TRPs:
If you have the skill, you don’t need to pander. Unless you are a television script-writer who doesn’t have an answer to the producer’s ‘real life batana hai’ scene.