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Indian daily soaps have had a history of selling themselves on the objectification of women. We had started with serials like Hum Log of progressive ideals and development of society, but more recently, major chunk of Indian TV industry has seen a downfall and majorly revolves around “Saas-Bahu” plot-points and is regressive with respect to women. Adding to the crew, a new serial “Naati Pinki Ki Love Story” revolves around how a short height girl is searching for her groom and her family is worried no one will marry her. Even in 2020 we are discussing a love story that is apparently the most “important” goal of her life. And even if there are progressive plots, ultimately every story revolves around love, marriage and SaasBahu drama.

How Different Characters Are Objectified?

There are thriving religious and cultural stereotypes with certain standards specific characters. For example, an independent woman will always be on a crusade to fight everyone and her sole purpose is to take care of her family while the whole world is against her. A “satisavtri” will be a voiceless character who will take on her all evil plots by her enemies. A Muslim character will always be an Urdu poet speaking poetry in every conversation with “weird” costumes and ‘adaab’ in every style. A “Saas” or ‘mother-in-law’ will always be an angry jealous woman on plots against her daughter-in-law.

A “satisavtri” will be a voiceless character who will take on her all evil plots by her enemies. A Muslim character will always be an Urdu poet speaking poetry in every conversation with “weird” costumes and ‘adaab’ in every style. A “Saas” or ‘mother-in-law’ will always be an angry jealous woman on plots against her daughter-in-law.

The “bad” woman or the “vamp” is a woman with short skirts, tip toed, and portrayed as trying to steal the hero or take revenge on someone. Most of these stories are based on some north Indian Hindu family. This absence of representation and reinforcing various regressive practices is what problematic in contemporary Indian soaps. Even those, who do want to break the norm and talk about issues, ultimately goes onto the same story line revolving around romance. A lot of this has to do with the nature of TV serials is their duration. Not presented as a series but as a daily soap and that too for average time of 5-6 years. So little to no attention is given to story line, script, characters, and more on the glamour, costumes. Thus, making it a sustained source of living.

Image Source- Lifebeyondnumbers

What Impact Do These TV Soaps Have ?

Although major population finds entertainment in these channels and that is why makers thrive on profits by these audience. The use of words like “naati” in the title of a soap opera has reinforced usage of derogatory remarks on individuals. This usage of language might be known to a lot of people but, one cannot just reproduce stigma. Who will smash the norms set in society?

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If we look at soaps in early years of TV like Hum Log, and compare it to today’s scenario we will find stark difference. For instance, Hum Log focused on upliftment and development of society. There is emphasis to entertain and to convey subtly a theme to promote development in terms of social change in the society, intended to bring about greater equality, freedom, and other valued qualities to the majority of the people through their characters.

We need to link both the makers and the audience, and think how industries capitalize societal problems to make money. Knowledge and values to the audience is important so that these individuals could understand the reality of their social problems, and seek possible realistic solutions.

Even those, who do want to break the norm and talk about issues, ultimately goes onto the same story line revolving around romance. A lot of this has to do with the nature of TV serials is their duration. Not presented as a series but as a daily soap opera and that too for average time of 5-6 years. So little to no attention is given to story line, script, characters, and more on the glamour, costumes. Thus, making it a sustained source of living.

Image Source – Voot

How TV Serials Can Do Better In The Coming Years?

As TV serial industry expanded, the content of television programming became a crucial factor in determining whether television broadcasting will advance national development or not. The problem is that the makers do not want to put an option to the table. That is why we see TV daily soaps making money off these regressive characters and despicable story lines. Probably that is why we have not seen any major change in the content and mood of TV Industry in past 10-15 years.

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And even after digital expansion, where audience has never ending options of entertainment from global broadcasters as well, Indian TV soaps have not changed much. They still do not find the pressure of updating themselves with progressive media. Until and unless makers decide to put an option to the table, possibility of any change is a far dream.


Feature Image Source : Caleidoscope

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