We asked TV personalities to comment on the portrayal of women on screen. Shekhar Suman says it’s regressive, while Mandira Bedi says films, more than TV, give out the wrong message.
“More than TV, films have item numbers that are meant to titillate. On screen, we see a boy eve-teasing a girl who refuses his overtures. He sings songs and finally, she says yes. What people conclude is that ‘no’ means ‘yes’. Films promote this stereotype. More than that, the mindset of treating women as second-class citizens starts at home. When a son grows up seeing his father abusing his mother, he believes it’s fine for him to do the same to other women. Usually, the main lead in a TV show is a woman suffering mental or physical trauma in silence. Very few are shown to fight back. In eight out of 10 shows, they don’t show abusive husbands, but the lead character is regressive. In the remaining one or two, we have an aggressive woman who fights back. Shanti was a character like that, as was Priya Tendulkar’s Rajini, which was idealistic.”
“Women are always portrayed as weaklings, completely dependent, subjugated, suffering, sickeningly idealistic doormats who never fight for their rights or against the atrocities perpetrated upon them. It’s high time all of that changed.”
I have grown up with shows where women are not victims – like Udaan, Rajani, Fauji, Circus and Astitva. Today, surprisingly, channel and creative heads don’t buy such ideas, perhaps because they believe they will not garner TRPs from small towns. That’s where they get maximum viewership. In those areas, even today, men like to see women confined to the kitchen or producing kids, and see them as a gender from whom they must collect dowry.
Actress Ragini Khanna
If people feel that TV depicts women as the suffering type, then there are shows where they have been portrayed as strong women too. My character, Archana, from Pavitra Rishta, has never taken anything lying down. She fights for herself. As for crime, it would happen even before TV, so serials can’t be blamed. It depends on what people take away from the shows they watch.Ragini Khanna
Yes, TV is regressive, but fiction only depicts what is derived from reality. There are so many heart-wrenching stories that don’t make it on air. If something is really regressive and depressing on air right now, it’s the news channels.Meghna Malik
Shows are executed in a highly dramatised manner. Society is complex, while daily soaps are shallow. We need to talk about topics in a sensitive and creative way without too much drama. Eventually serials are a form of entertainment, so we can’t expect them to be made with social reform as their objective. Even in my show Laado, there were characters in favour of as well as against female infanticide. Ila Bedi
TV is going through a transition with its female protagonists. They are no longer the suffering housewives and bahus. Women now have a voice in shows, which they often exercise. Surekha Sikri
The kind of people who did this don’t sit around watching serials. How they have been brought up plays a bigger role than anything else. Do you think if these men had a better upbringing, went to school and had good role models, they would have been like this? The society is rotten and these people are a reflection of it. There is a certain callousness that has crept into our system. Kids aren’t taught to be kind, considerate and respectful, but to be competitive and make money.Mukesh Khanna
Today, TV shows portray women who don’t exist. Every saas or bahu is busy plotting against the other and breaking homes. But more than TV, films are a bigger influence. In item songs, women are shown as someone to ogle at. Fifty foreigners are seen in every other song wearing practically nothing. However, the main problem is that no one is scared of the law in our country.
Actor Anoop Soni
What is shown in serials is 99 per cent a reflection of society. We show traditions that are being followed since years. We need to change our mindset and teach our kids not to treat women like second-rate citizens. In our show Balika Vadhu, we have not shown
widows as outcasts. Next week in Crime Patrol, we will feature the Delhi gang-rape victim’s case. We need to create an atmosphere where people are scared of committing a crime, and on other hand, teach kids how to respect women around them. Rajan Shahi
I think the kind of respect and love Indian TV shows have towards women is incredible. Yes, there might be a debate between regressive and progressive, but it’s never derogatory. And with the surge in crime shows, there’s more awareness and education about reality. I do miss shows like Udaan on TV, but to make them, you need backing from channels and support from audience. TV is a reflection of society, and they want to watch what they see around them. Mona Singh
It’s all about how you perceive it. The rape incident is shameful, but instead of telling girls not to go out at night, we must tell boys how to behave. In every TV serial, there is some message of what to do and what not to do. How you look at it depends on your upbringing. How a father thinks is how his son will think eventually. Aamir (Khan) did a fabulous job of bringing to the forefront the problems in our society through Satyamev Jayate.Aamir Ali
You can’t blame TV for everything. People who commit crimes will commit them any which way. In fact, TV stories are inspired from real-life crimes. Viewers should watch them to learn what not to do, because the outcome is always a disaster.
Mandira Bedi looks elegant in a white salwar-kameez.