Sometime back in the previous year, I ended up watching a soap opera, that’s supposed to be a comedy show, Khichdi, with my brother. The episode was based on the family trying to get the eldest male member (Babuji) to get married. I haven’t watched all the episodes of that show, hence I shall only comment on the episode that I watched and complained about.
The authorities thought that my complaint was invalid, as they thought that sexism, misogyny and casual objectification of women is just a mindless conversation between the protagonists and nothing that belittles women or degrades them.
The episode begins with a group of women, in a kitty party, complaining about their mothers-in-law. Saddened by the non-participation of themselves in this conversation, they (Hansa and Jayashree) force Babuji to get re-married. Now, this is a great concept to start a conversation about, because a lot of stigmatisation is associated with old people getting remarried – but not for a show that’s going to create humor out of it.
They try to convince, rather force Babuji to get remarried because they want to bitch about their evil mother-in-law in their kitty parties, by using phrases like,”Aapki zindagi kharab karne wali koi to chahiye“(we need someone to spoil your life), “Nayi biwi saas kamini ho par biwi acchi nikle, jo suhaag raat k din daasi ki tarah aapke paer dabaye“ (New bride will be an evil mother-in-law but she may be a good wife, who would massage your feet like a servant).
Babuji starts dreaming about romancing a woman half his age and in the second part of his dream sequence, he is imagining himself getting married to the same young woman.
Our society has a popular narrative that whenever a man gets married, his life is spoiled because all his freedom is curtailed and there are jokes that are famously circulated on Whatsapp groups by men and women alike. Not to forget the problematic portrayal of an idealistic wife is her cooking, taking care of children, and serving her husband. The show only reinforces these ideas, under the garb of humor, of course.
Immediately after the prep talk, Babuji starts dreaming about romancing a woman half his age and in the second part of his dream sequence, he is imagining himself getting married to the same young woman. And in the dream sequence, oldie’s family is very casually asking for dowry. What confuses me the most is how is this supposed to be a comedy show? When offensive shows like these that cater to all age groups, trivialise issues like dowry or men dreaming about romancing women in their dreams, or worse humourise them, it creates an impression of these things being normal or merely funny.
The next we know, Babuji is validating people partying after the death of their mother-in-law, and asks his children to adapt this behavior, instead of asking him to remarry. Jayashree, in her dream sequence, takes Hansa to a marriage bureau and the scenes that follow are the most problematic scenes that disturbed me internally so much, that I ended up filing a complaint to Broadcasting Contents Complaint Council (BCCC). The very setup of the marriage bureau, is more like that of a shoe shop, whereby, the bio-profiles of women are stored in shoe boxes, and are being transmitted in the same fashion as you’d transmit shoes from entresol. If BCCC didn’t find anything offensive in this, the show had more content to offer that was problematic.
While asking for the profiles (shoe boxes) of the potential brides, the owner asks his helper to forward the first profile by shouting, “ 70+, double chin wali dhol de, 8 number” (age- 70+, has a double chin, looks like a drum, should be number 8). Confused about the number? Hansa enlightens us when she points out at the board titled Menu and it has different categories of women, who have all been accorded a number. Here’s a glimpse of the list: 1- Superb, 2- theek thak, 3- kaam chalau, 4- langdi, 5- takli, and so on.
The owner elaborates that the first potential bride is in ‘A1 conditon’, as she can play kabaddi. Babuji, puts up his choice,” Naazuk, grihani type ki hai?” (Is there a sensitive, docile type?). In response, the owner asks his helper for,”thakeli aunty khaasi khau, 18 number de“ (Dilapidated aunty, who coughs a lot, should be number 18). They then decide that they don’t like number 18 as she drinks and eats tobacco. When they provisionally like someone, the owner says, pointing at the shoe box, to pack it and asks for his bill book.
In desperation of finding a wife for his father, Prafful (his son) gets an 18 year old girl who knows how to perform balancing stunt and ‘in good humour’ calls her “Mummy”. In the next few scenes, they’re trying to teach the potential love interest of Babuji , on how to be an evil mother-in-law, where they are basically mocking so many women whose lives are condemned to cruelty by their own families.
I filed a complaint knowing fully well that the only cuts that can happen are only when political parties or fringe groups are involved
The concluding scene shows Hansa teaching some stranger on how to be an evil Soutan (paramour), as that is the theme for the next kitty party, whereby Hansa is asking this paramour to be sexy by revealing her sleeveless blouse.
I was enraged after every ad break and I wanted to scream and shout. Instead, I filed a complaint knowing fully well that the only cuts that can happen are only when political parties or fringe groups are involved and their interests get affected. What is often dismissed as humor is sheer misogyny and insensitive mindsets behind making these shows. Actually, not just the shows but the authorities regulating and invigilating the content of these shows. Will I say that I’m surprised by the insensitivity of the authorities, while tackling these complaints – no. Disheartened? For sure.
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