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The evolution of serials away from being saas-bahu to reflecting the evils of society

There is no denying the fact that content in Hindi serials has grown by leaps and bounds. There was a time not too long ago that Saas-Bahu themes were ruling the roost in television. There were a few stereotypical characters and a few time-and-TRp-tested story lines that found favour with the channels and the production houses. Right from the characterisation of the main leads to the looks, the sets, the premises of conflict situations to the heroes…oops the heroines and the anti-heroines. The striking element of these soaps was that it was a woman character versus another woman character.

The leading woman v/s woman conflict that comes to mind is that of Tulsi (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) and Mandira. Even though it was Savita, her mother-in-law, who made her intial years of married life miserable; then it fell on Mandira to be her bete noire for the rest of her adult life. Remember Kkusum, the dignified, honest middle class girl who married into a rich family and an unwilling husband? For her as well most of the miseries in her personal and professional life were created by women. In fact for all most all serials it was a woman who made another woman’s life a living hell. Remember ‘Neka’ Kamalika and the grief she caused in Prerna’s life? This one-dimensional viewpoint of life camouflaged the various realities of life.

Thankfully, the past few years has been witness to a paradigm shift in terms of content, story lines, settings, characterisations and the man-woman conflict. All of a sudden there was a certain avalanche of serials with interesting and different stories. There was an attempt to talk about the ills that plagued societies, to bring into focus the unjust practices and value systems that still exist in India. From child marriages; female infanticide; rural impoverishment; bonded labour; casteism-almost every significant social theme is being focussed upon. Apart from themes, in terms of characterisations too, there is a tendency to bring out the male-female disparity and conflict. The uneven social structure is either talked about in clear terms or hinted at.

Every Ammaji has a DM Vohra or a Dharam Veer. Every Maa-sa has a Mahadeo Singh. Even though Ammaji and Maa-sa are clearly the ‘bad guys’ of the serials, it is made very clear that the prototypes and standards that they are following are essentially male in their form and ideology. There is also an attempt to bring out the tyranny of the male-centric social structure where in a woman is considered to be the property of a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a lover. Her destiny, her fate is not decided by choices she makes but by decisions thrust on her. This confrontation of the sexes that is being increasingly talked about in our serials brings into sharp focus the gender conflict and gender hegemony so prevalent in our society.

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