Bahus on TV are usually seen protecting their family’s honour, fighting for justice for a loved one or celebrating multiple festivals. Last week, Akshara celebrated Teej with her extended family in Yeh Rishta, while Diya Aur Baati aired a Rakhi special episode. Dahi Handi was the festival of choice on Madhubala and in Sapne Suhane Ladakpan Ke, the family participates in a skit competition on Janmashtami. With the festive season upon us (and it will be in full form till Holi) makers of TV shows see ample opportunity to integrate celebrations into their scripts.
Festivals are great drivers for higher ratings and the lure of a new twist in the tale keeps audiences hooked too. Makers don’t air the special episodes on the actual festival days as they know that viewers are busy with their own celebrations. This way, when the track later airs, fans get one more chance to rejoice with their favourite stars.
However, every celebration, including regional ones like Chhath puja, is laced with drama, suspense and a big fat denouement. The added value is that many on-screen matriarchs explain the significance of festivals for the viewer’s knowledge. Some makers even go to great lengths to depict all the rituals precisely. Watching such non-stop celebrations, one might think that Indian television is all about puja, heavy saris, jewellery and festivities.
Special episodes don’t come cheap. Filming costs go up to Rs5 to Rs15 lakhs. Shooting hour-long episodes with song-and-dance routines also takes a toll on the actors, who have to work decked-up in heavy clothes and jewellery. Most of them don’t mind since they rarely find time to celebrate at home due to long shooting hours.
Celebrations give a different flavour to the soaps by showing diverse lifestyles and cultures. But it also leads to further commercialisation and coaxes fans to match their home celebrations to the serial’s grand scale. Non-Hindu festivals such as Christmas and Eid are rarely touched upon, and I wish there was more focus on them.While we love to see the pomp and show, television should also inculcate other ‘good’ values amongst audiences instead of just the religious kind.