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How OTT Shows Are Debunking Heroism And The Perfect Protagonist

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Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!

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Were you told to hide or control your emotions while growing up?

Since childhood, we’ve upheld perfectionism as an emblem of being successful, a concept widely celebrated in our society. We have been infused with images of princesses having ideal bodies and mannerisms and our prince charmings being the greatest warriors and dutiful rulers. Thus, we’ve been constantly trying to fit ourselves in what the external world tells us we should be. 

OTT protagonists such as Srikant from Family Man come with flaws as well as positive traits.

But what is this myth of perfection? I believe nobody is perfect. Human nature comes along with all its flaws and frailties. And we can only strive to be the best versions of ourselves. This is the message being widely spread by the new tv-series and shows being aired on various OTT platforms.

Let us decode two such characters from famous Indian series- 

Srikant( From ‘Family Man’), a middle-aged man from a modest family, is a secret agent. He is neither an ‘ideal’ father nor an ‘ideal’ husband for his family. A chain smoker and a perpetual liar. Like any other Indian government employee, he owns a government quarter, has a small car, and is always frustrated. 

Now let’s see Tara Khanna (From ‘Made in heaven’), an ambitious woman with a humble background who wants to have her own business. She is trying hard to conceive to please her husband and society. Also, she is devastated to find out about the affair of her friend with her husband which rather than a shock comes back as  Karma from her own hidden past.

Characters like these are unique to watch on screen although they are not quite distant from reality.

Obsessions With Heroism

We tend to create an image of a perfect spy in our minds – he ( of course ‘he’ because patriarchy in cinema) would be macho. Definitely with abs, a good dancer, singer, playboy, and also a heartbreaking past. All in all a mix of Holmes and Bond. Our imagination is bound to the stories we see or read in our day-to-day lives. This is nothing but our ‘obsession with heroism’. 

I wonder how ironic we are- on the virtual side we want things to be dramatic, adventurous, and illogical and on the other side our own realities are simple, monotonous, and nothing sort of fairytale bliss. We tend to suppress these monotonous realities only to glorify a heroic version of ourselves.

These shows have been an eye-opener and did change my perception of life.

I understood how dysfunctional everything around me is. By seeing someone on the screen confused about marriage, sexuality or ambition did evoke my inner feelings which I had consciously hidden deep inside. I learned not to set an ideal rather find myself in the web of personalities I was caught up in.

These characters make us realize that we are normal and everybody around us is having the same thoughts, goals, and fears in life. There is nothing called an ‘ideal being’. But movies by large have been about fantasies, away from portraying realities on the big screen. However, now the usual characters and stories are slowly losing their charm and with the evolving audience, the definition of entertainment is also changing.

Open-Ended Endings 

Another aspect entrenched with stories is how well an artist presents ‘The End’. Childhood stories have always made us believe in ‘happily ever afters’ and though it’s good to be optimistic in life but living in a bubble of illusion will only cause us harm. Movies and web series have now started depicting sadness, grief, and happiness in a single frame.

It is often difficult to accept the abrupt, open endings with the audience having no idea of who defeated Tommy Shelby (Peaky Blinders) at his own game? Was Akash (Andhadhun) really blind? or what will be the fate of the professor (Money Heist) now? These questions have left us baffled and restless and we have been ‘scratching our heads to make meaning of these endings and have been trying hard to build up our own theories.

Similarly, our lives are also a big bowl of questions. It is both intriguing and surprising. We cannot always predict the future and must keep moving on.


Earlier depictions of heroes and heroines had a clear binary of good and evil.

A Human After All

Earlier the ‘hero and heroine’ were mostly born with a good character certificate, and on the other end, the villain was an evil person, who is always bad and nothing good exists in him or her. While reading mythical stories of Ram, Sita and Ravana we might have characterized even our real world into binary circles. Ram is ‘Purushottam’ (a supreme being), Sita, and her sister always loyal and virtuous, and Ravana a power-seeking demon. 

Similarly, we have drawn a fictitious identity of a man being powerful, a protector, and the breadwinner for the family, on the other hand, a woman is docile, religious, and has to be tied with the sanctity of marriage. So initially while binge-watching, I also used to navigate this and used to sympathize or obsess with one character. But that myth slowly deflated as, under the aegis of the new platform of art, the blind- opaque divisions got blurred. 

Indian cultural tradition talks about 9 emotions or Navras and so a person could be mischievous, jealous, rude, and at the same time be good, lovable, and caring. Culture, trends, and society do affect the content of the movies and in turn, movies also affect us. Today, they are not only questioning the established norms but are creating some of their own. 

The message I received was how easily we try to judge one person as good or bad when we essentially know that good and bad, Ram and Ravana, both exist within us. 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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