Television is often considered to be the flag bearer of ‘Indian culture’. And while TV shows portray our customs and rituals on screen, they seem to be rehashing the same old formula under the guise of tradition. Ekta Kapoor spearheaded the saas-bahu
genre, but today it’s no longer a novelty. There are many such cookie cutter shows across channels; many not up to the mark. Why are producers sticking to this tired formula?
From Tulsi and Savita in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi to Sandhya and Bhabho from today’s top TRP grosser Diya Aur Baati Hum, we see saas-bahu
pairs trying to keep their sons or husbands in control or plotting to take over the household’s reins. It makes for good drama, but has now become the staple diet.
Except for a Qubool Hai, with its love triangle, there are hardly any shows that don’t have a saas-bahu
angle. Then there are shows like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Pyaar Ka Dard which might not be realistic but have some elements that you can identify with.
Yes, we have some youth-oriented shows (The Buddy Project, Dil Dosti Dance) but let’s be honest: their viewership can’t compete with family dramas. Earlier, there were slice-of-life shows like Baa Bahoo Aur Baby which didn’t have a saas-bahu
war. Even the relatability of characters in funny shows like Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai was refreshing. There were times when realistic shows like Buniyaad, Tamas and Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne were on air. So why aren’t they made any longer?
Well, audiences are to blame partly. Once a viewer told the producer of a top TV show, ‘My mother-in-law tortures me a lot, so when I see the same happening to a character on TV, I know that someone else is also in the same boat’. Producers claim that serials cater to people from smaller towns. They’re the target audience that loves family drama, traditions and values. Even in cities, people live in joint families and can relate to such high emotions.
Mst can make peace with the saas-bahu genre which is here to stay, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some variety with shows that depict the modern India with real problems, not just the dramatised ones.