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‘I Wrote To The National Commission Of Women About A Problematic Hindi Serial, Received No Reply’

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I don’t know why, but for some reason, people practicing polygamy in fiction is fairly common. Most people don’t even know that it’s a crime, because we all hide behind the one-size-fits-all garb that covers our social and moral crimes—woh log khush hai (they are happy).

I checked, the government outlawed polygamy in the ’60s. Although everyone may think and know that it is illegal, our entertainment moguls have used it in several genres, be it a comedy or a drama.

When a character practices polygamy and the TV audience—who lap up everything—has a macro view of it, it’s wrong and one must speak up about it.

Saas-bahu serials tend to reinforce problematic gender roles and norms. Representational image. Photo credit: Saad Akhtar, Flickr.

The serial Imlie is blaring on one’s TV screens, every evening. One can see the caustic taunts that Imlie gets from her mother-in-law who refuses to accept her, as well as the changing dynamic between the first wife and the second wife after they find out about each other.

Polygamy Is Only One Of The Many Problems

So, this is my article about a fictional character practicing polygamy in a serial and nobody seems to have a problem with this—at least not the channel that’s been running it since months, nor its target market i.e., the people who watch the series all wide-eyed, will sniffle and think: woh log khush hai!

The serial runs on Star. It has a warped storyline, a convenient one. A journalist covering a story in a remote village is trapped with a young woman who is “takriban 18 saal ki (about 18 years old)”, according to the doctor on the show.

The villagers forcefully marry them off. When he returns home, he doesn’t have the guts to tell his family about his wedding, and therefore, the woman ends up working as a maid in his house.

Of course, the man gets married once again, to someone of his “social stature”. So, we have two women, married to the same man, living in the same house, right at the beginning of the series.

As the show progresses, the secret marriage comes out in the open.

The series is a long-running one, and it streams on all weekdays. There’s some respite on the weekends, but I would guess five episodes per week leads to the normalisation of a social crime, that affects women the most.

The misogny aside, there’s everything that the “woke” generation, who probably hated this concept when they watched it in the movies of the ’70s, detests.

There’s classism, gender discrimination, colourism (Imlie is dark-skinned and the other wife is fair-skinned), and more.

Each and everything that is wrong with us a society, is shoved down our throats at the end of each day. And yet, the people watching the series will say: woh khush hai!

Only Women Are Portrayed As Villainous

Another interesting aspect is that all the villains are women. Not a single man is in the wrong, apart from the initial mob that forced Imlie and the journalist to marry each other.

The first villain is Imlie’s aunt from the village and the second one is Malini’s (the other wife) mother in Mumbai. The third villain, after a plot twist, turns out to be the man’s mother.

Hindi serials often show women as the scheming ones, such as Komolika from Kausatii Zindagi Kay, while men are the receiving end of their schemes. Representational image. Photo credit: Hindustan Times.

This is not a rant, this is actually a description of what I wrote, to register my complaint about this show.

I first contacted the National Commission of Women on Twitter, but didn’t get a reply from them. I then contacted them on Facebook, and I still didn’t get a reply. Finally, I decided to go old-school and sent them an e-mail. I am yet to receive a reply.

This, in the month that I have successfully connected with Microsoft and Lenovo, to get a full solution to my laptop not working. Goes to show that all the tropes about sarkari (governmental) departments are correct.

Polygamy is a problem. I understand that many urban people would think that core polygamy is impossible—one man marrying two women and cohabiting with them. But, that’s because the urban population think it’s financially unviable and socially awkward.

However, they would be surprised to find out how many families support polygamous relationships and give all kinds of resources to keep it going—from moral to financial—along with the one emotion that Indians have the most i.e., hope.

With this article, I hope I can reach out to a bigger audience and at least people will know that someone is watching and fuming about Imlie.

Created by The Guy In Mumbai

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Featured image, a screengrab from Disney+Hotstar, is for representational purposes only.
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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.

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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.

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