The Indian mass media has always focused on “masala” in cinemas, short films and sop operas, which basically consists of romance, action, item numbers, the trope of “saas bahu ka jhagra” (fights between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) and many delusional ideas in its plot.
In between this normality, three Bengali serials of Zee Bangla stood out in its concept and acting, but eventually the Indian Bengali audience rejected it. The three serials I am talking about here are “Phirki”, “Netaji” and “Kadambini” which is no longer on air on the above mentioned channel.
“Phirki” aired from 3 February, 2020- 2 January, 2021. It was the first soap opera in my life where members of the community of LGBTQ+ community participated in the project as actors. Apart from the lead character in the serial, all other characters of trans persons were trans people themselves .
The plot of the serial clearly showed the abuse and harassment trans persons have to go through since the day they were born, and how the same society uses trans people for their own benefits. The girl named Phirki was brought up by a trans person, who in their childhood was abandoned by their father because they were not ‘normal’ like others.
The trans person named Laxmi brought up Phirki as their own daughter in the community in Kolkata. Unfortunately, due to its low TRP or maybe some internal politics, the serial suddenly ended without any smooth or definite ending.
The second one is “Netaji”, which was about our beloved freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It aired from 14th January, 2019 to 1st August, 2020. The cast consisted of many well-known Bengali actors and actresses of the TV world, and everyone stood out in their acting.
The serial showed how Netaji, who was one of the youngest child of Janakinath Bose, became one of the most celebrated freedom fighters of all time. It showed his school days, his college days, his association with different revolutionary parties, arrival in the Congress, and his popularity among the common folk in the 1900s.
But, just like “Phirki”, “Netaji” too ended on an incomplete note. The last episode showed how Netaji left India when he was on house arrest in the early 1940s with the help of his family. It didn’t show how Subhash Chandra Bose became our “Netaji” and his journey in Germany and Japan, and the mystery about his death too. The serial was really popular among the audience, and in my house too everyone loved it but no one knows why it ended on a sudden note.
The last, but not the least is “Kadambini”. It aired from 6th July, 2020 to 3rd October, 2020. Just like Netaji, it had also a very well known cast. The serial was about the one of the first Indian female doctors who practiced in Western medicine, Dr. Kadambini Ganguly. She was born in Bhagalpur, and her father was a member of Brahmo Samaj.
The serial started from her teenage years, which further continued to show her urge to become a doctor to save pregnant women from dying during childbirth, and her struggle to make it happen. She came to Kolkata, attended an all girls school, studied in Bethune college, and became one of the first female graduates of the country after passing examination from the Calcutta University.
Further, she was the first female medical student of the Calcutta Medical College. She married Dwarkanath Ganguly, had 8 children, but still went to Edinburgh for further training, and became the one of the first Indian women to be a doctor.
Unfortunately, this informative serial about women empowerment in the 19th and 20th centuries lasted only for 3 months. It collided with another serial about Dr. Kadambini Ganguly on Star Jalsa named “Prothoma Kadambini”.
Sources also said that the serial had very low TRP, and thus it ended on the note that Kadambini successfully saved a woman from dying after her delivery.
Thus we can see that serials with excellent concepts of accepting transgenders, celebrating our freedom fighter, and the early efforts of women empowerment were neglected, either by the audience, or due to some internal politics.
Many people will blame the internal politics for this, but the audience should also be blamed. Until and unless we give views to these type of serials and always demand the same “masala” in the plots, our mass media industry will never diversify in its concepts and approaches. So it’s time for us to stand for these serials so that further no more “Phirki”, “Netaji” and “Kadambini” are removed because of the excuse of low TRPs.