Anupama is a year-old Indian TV drama series on Star Plus and Disney+ Hotstar, focusing on a middle-aged woman married to a man who works in an MNC in a good position. Her husband is the prime breadwinner of the family.
They have three children in their prime — two boys and one girl at different stages of life — an MBA student, a dance student and a 12th standard student, respectively. The family in which they reside is a present-day joint family structure with their grandparents and grandmother’s brother.
The husband has a sister who too is married and has a daughter from her marriage. She doesn’t reside with the family but actively partakes in religious activities, festivals and other celebrations with the family. The sister resides with her in-laws and has a happy marriage. However, her daughter does spend time in the family, with Anupama being a babysitter after school.
Further, the story’s twist holds that Anupama’s husband has a love interest in his office. He has introduced her as a colleague with whom he maintains a healthy friendship outside the office to his family. This step is taken to keep his love interest as eye candy for the family, eventually keeping her close to him and the family.
Her involvement in major festivities is restricted, though, as he believes that such events are meant to be spent with family members.
Coming to Anupama’s character, played by Rupali Gangaguli, a housewife whose education had been stopped immediately after marriage despite her will. This makes her appear illiterate, especially when she fails to understand the prestigious English language. This is seen as a hurdle to respect her, connect with her or maintain a healthy relationship with her.
Despite the fact, she has been a dotting daughter-in-law to her in-laws and mother to her kids. The situation is shown such that credit for performing these responsibilities are given to teachings by her mother-in-law and her motherhood journey of imparting nurture.
Flourishing their nature was incomplete without the monetary support provided by her husband. The glorious sunshine put on her husband’s hard work throughout to incredibly manage the family without a flaw is much ensured.
But on the contrary, Anupama is portrayed to be a naïve housewife. She has undertaken the role for so long (25 years to be specific) and selflessly that she holds no grudges for the mistreatment and constant blaming she undergoes from other family members. Respect for her work is an understatement and misery is such that no one except her father-in-law and middle son does it.
The relationship she holds with anyone in the family is unconditional and comes under her moral standards. But in return, only her middle son loves her unconditionally. He is largely in support of her and against the visible or under the table behaviours of disrespect and mismanagement towards her.
Through the story development, we understand that the father-in-law’s care and changed patterns of behaviours and thoughts for Anupama are more because of guilt than genuine human concern. Though, through presentation, it becomes difficult to judge.
This is supported by an instance shown in the story where Anupama, in an intoxicated state, presents a complaint against him for not supporting the willingness of her educational desires and forcing her to be skilled in kitchen and housework. This is a cause of a big barrier of communication between her and her husband. Further, this leads to the falling off in their marriage, compelling her husband to find love outside marriage.
Regrettably, she feels that besides the unsaid love and complacent sexual activity to produce varis (children) for the family, she did not contribute much to their relationship development. She realises that entirely blaming the man for his actions is not good. Yes, that was not a good decision and the fault of not contributing enough to make the marriage work is very much relevant on the man’s part too.
But gaining insight and knowledge of everything related to her failed marriage, keeping some positive approach for her husband, and contributing to the family members, she decides to part ways and moves on.
Through the story development, a light on women supporting women in times of need is also thrown where characters like her friend, neighbour and principal of the school she applies to work for support her passions and its conversion into a career to earn and make her family sustainable on her own money.
This, according to her, was a necessary step to communicate to her separated husband that if treatment is right, a skill can become a pathway for being capable.
A questionable decision on plot displaying their divorce wasn’t very well digested. Here, the husband, whose ego and world is shattered into pieces, calls her wife mentally unstable based on a few incidents. These incidents were more of a reaction to certain situations than persistent behaviour.
In reality, such accusations to prove a ground for divorce and procurement of alimony do take place as per records of lawyers and researchers. But the screenplay was quite disturbing as a mental health professional viewing the misuse of mental health in such situations.
There are other plots and specific dialogues too which are worth viewing and showcase an ambitious urge to develop oneself above the image of a housewife and how the steps she takes are supported or opposed on mediocre grounds. Moreover, it offers realisation and introspection to the Indian population. This show works in great detail to positively influence people, unlike some redundant media and other shows on current TV culture.
The most breath-taking experience of the show because of which I decided to write the article is the current subject of interest taken by the show-makers.
The major plot involves how the husband, following the separation and nearing to final divorce claim date, is in a deep retrospect of the “good” Anupama had done and how she was familiar with every sense, need and action of all the alliances she had maintained over the years. Even though she was thought to be limited, her impact was far-reaching, forming the firm bark and roots of his family.
The sub-plot of this is usual cringe but with an educational perspective. According to this, Anupama has contracted ovarian cancer. Given the society we live in, where the use of the word “sex” is in itself moral wrongdoing, something like ovarian cancer is too modern to use, bound with stigmas and taboos already.
It is crucial information to be disseminated among the women community as it targets women’s health in particular. This can develop anytime and is in parallel with breast cancer, which is something that we are aware of through the efforts of many.
Something like this should be there in the awareness book of many gynaecologists and public health care medical issues of women. But it’s a rare chance to come across something of such prominent nature.
Why would I, a mental health professional, advocate about such a thing? Stooping to TV serials, forget education about women’s health? Is that what our country’s young people come to? Don’t we prefer online video and verified information for this? Or maybe some reliable source?
Why focus on an Indian TV drama which caters to subordinate issues and is far from modern society? The level they hold is much below the simple factuality guide on Doordarshan.
Well, I too was in a pond of similar thoughts when my parents switched to watching this over dinner. They otherwise watch educational drama series, rarely Indian, mostly Pakistani and Turkish features.
But the different approach it is taking to social security of a housewife, presumed and actual stature of a housewife, women empowerment through baby steps, need for women literacy, respect for individuals on humanitarian grounds, no career is below normal, need for mental health, etc. makes it interesting.
Even though you are educated or mentally modern and consider yourself a pseudo- high content preference holder, the truth remains that 80% of electronic device resource holders watch television. Thus, TRP is a huge matter of concern. The recent case of Arnab Goswami and Republic TV is a well-suited example.
While they consume television content, a reciprocal behaviour is further observed in many families. Today, many families hold dysfunctionality as a major cause of increased mental health crisis and domestic violence.
Another strong concern about this possibly positive approach marched through the serial I support is the recent case of my sister’s health. At the age of 21, she was found to be suffering from ovarian dermoid.
Ovarian dermoid is a tumour (cancerous or non-cancerous) in your ovary, usually genetically inherited and developed at birth. It is not a part of PCOD, which is also a common concern among young women.
It is harmful and affects women’s physical and mental functionality to the extent that if the ovary(ies) gets ruptured, the woman can lose the possibility to conceive. Once this happens, you know how the issue becomes a haystack in Indian society.
She was operated for the same on an immediate basis. We got to know that this dermoid was as big as a 7-month-old foetus is during pregnancy. Along with it, 2 litres of liquid was also taken out. The result was good and in favour of a healthy body. With this operation, the doctor, who seemed like a god on that day, saved her life.
Initially, given the spread of coronavirus, we too were worried, lost hope and had various thoughts running around. No one knew about its development or mere existence. It became almost a sight lost too far. Everyone was affected in their own capacity.
But did you get to think so far, who was responsible for the situation of my sister? Ponder over it. And the justification of writing this long article for you will be done.
By Jigyasa Tandon
About the author: Jigyasa is a teacher, youth-mentor, counselling psychologist and mental health educationist, NIMHANS, Bangalore. She has founded PSY-FI: For a Healthy Mind to actively disseminate about the importance of mental health and the role of psychology in one’s well-being.
She strongly believes that media and folklore have a certain possibility of bringing change in presumption and myths held by people in the healthcare sector. For this, she too is actively working on writing research papers to prove the effectiveness of online/digital literacy.