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Why do soaps have regressive storylines?

Smriti Irani
The daily dose of family soaps on TV is hogging popularity day-in and day-out, cutting across almost all sections of the audiences. It's been so for more than six years now since the one, which started it all; Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi hit the marquee. And it still shows no signs of wearing off. But the question is, why regressive storylines, which depicts women as weak and helpless creatures who put up with all kinds of injustice, have got such wide scale acceptance.

While the world moved forward with the onset of the 21st century in year 2000, Indian television went back in time and made regressive thinking and treatment our staple diet. Or are we Indians, being part of the third world can't outgrow the thought that women are lesser mortals when compared to men. There is no doubt about the fact that new age fiction programming in India has a female protagonist who is depicted like either Durga, Lakhsmi and Kali.

They even share the names of the goddesses but it's seen that the more women are tortured, the higher are the ratings. Tulsi and Parvati have gone through the worst and have thus been part of hit shows. Now new bahus like Bani and Saloni are going through hell and making people love their shows.

"When Indian women are moving shoulder-to-shoulder with men in their real life, then why are they moving backwards when it comes to reel life? Why are people encouraging the channels to produce such shows by viewing them and providing them with TRPs," questions veteran producer-director Ravi Rai. He even blames the financially growing television industry for the crime. "The executive producers and the creative heads in channels are nowadays earning in lakhs. This big money involved has created insecurity and hence they do not want to experiment with new shows," he adds.

Ravi Rai has a point. But would this phenomenon ever change? "It definately would. Even I'm trying my level best to change it. But I don't know when. We can just hope and pray that it happens soon so that the intelligent audiences would again be able to view soaps like Sailaab, Astitva, Sparsh, Saans etc wherein the characters look real and move forward with time," comments Rai.

Another veteran Ajai Sinha (makers of serials like Hasratein and Astitva) compares today's soaps with poison, which the audiences are happily consuming. "If I open two shops, selling gutka in one and apples in another, the people would opt for gutka whereas the apples would get spoiled." He too blames the audiences for the regression shown. "The movie industry has moved forward, while the television industry has gone backward. My audiences were few and those intelligent ones have now opted for movies rather than television soaps," Ajai Sinha comments strongly.

On the other hand, Tarun Mehra, Sr. Vice President, Marketing - Zee TV thinks differently. "People love to watch women fighting against all sorts of evil. The real thing that works is narrating a story in an interesting way. Like the story of a dark woman in Saat Phere. That's the trend right now," he says.

Well, the channel will always defend and market its product.

No matter, how bad it is, seems the trend is here to stay for quite sometime. Unless of course the audience starts thinking differently and start to appreciate work that is more meaningful, real and moves forward with changing time and make us feel that our TV serials too are actually part of the 21st century.

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