There is nothing new about women playing central characters on the small screen. But what's new is that a host of shows in Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) are focusing on matriarchy. The script is written in such a way that these characters stand out.
"Gender roles in society have evolved over the years and television mirrors contemporary culture and the changing social scenarios. With education and financial independence, women have evolved to be the pillars of strength for their families, and some of them are the sole source of livelihood for the unit. All these also enable them to run the family well," says Pradeep Hejmadi, business head, Zee TV, referring to the growing trend and their ongoing shows, Jamai Raja and Satrangi Sasural.
He is of the opinion that the shows where women are the head of the family perfectly capture the independent spirit and strength of today's Indian woman.
Actor Krutika Desai, who plays the dominating Shanti Devi in Mere Angne Mein, feels that the growing focus on matriarchy is because TV's main focus has always been female-oriented roles. "It goes without saying that women can take better care of a family. Be it emotionally or financially, she is someone who is capable of holding all the strings together," she says. Desai adds that she prefers such shows because not only are the roles important but also if the man is the head of the family then there is very little space for the woman on the show. Much like films, she says.
According to Sujoy Wadhwa of Sphere Origin, which has conceptualised and produced shows such as Balika Vadhu, Piya Rangrezz and Mere Angne Mein, it's a known fact that a woman is better at holding a family together. "A woman is someone who understands everyone in the family. Also her management and balancing skills are praiseworthy. I think it's the biggest myth that the man is the head of the family. Nowadays, in many households, women not just earn a living but are also taking care of her home," he says.
Given the popularity of these shows and the TRP they are garnering, it goes without saying that they are leaving a mark with the audience. "The sheer popularity of shows based on matriarchy or a strong leading lady taking centre stage stands testimony to the fact that there is appreciation for the depiction of today's reality. The idea is to give our audience role models, women they can relate with and also draw inspiration from," says Hejmadi, adding that their shows will continue to showcase women as independent personalities at the helm of affairs, be it at home or work.
Here is a look at some popular TV shows where the women call the shots.
Tere Seher Mein
Gautami Kapoor as Sneha Mathur in Tere Seher Mein.
The show begins at a point when Rishi Mathur commits suicide leaving his family with only a house and no money to survive. His wife Sena Mathur takes control and tries every possible way to make sure that her three daughters have a decent life. Satrangi Sasural
Farida Jalal as Dadi Maa in Satrangi Sasural.
It's an all-women family with the only son being the apple of everyone's eye. Based in Delhi, Dadi Maa is the head of the Vastal household. She influences Vihaan, the hero of the show, in terms of having a mature point of view while tackling the problems of life.
Mere Angne Mein
Kruttika Desai playing Shanti Devi in Mere Angne Mein.
The control freak Shanti Devi Shrivastav makes sure that nobody does anything without her permission at the Shrivastav home. Insecure and vulnerable, she puts forth a strong exterior so that her dominance is never questioned. Things take a new turn when her daughter-in-law Riya Mathur arrives.
Narayani Shastri as Bhavri Devi in Piya Rangrezz.
Inspired from Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, Bhanvari Devi Singh is the head of the Singh family. She is a strong-minded woman who runs both her family business and home well. However, there are negative traits in her character.
Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar
Pallavi Kulkarni as Ragini Khanna in Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar.
After her husband leaves them in between, Ragini Khanna leaves no stone unturned to make sure that her children are brought up well. She works hard to make ends meet to provide the best education and a good lifestyle to her children.
Sasural Simar Ka
Jayati Bhatia as Mataji in Sasural Simar Ka
Nirmala Devi Bharadwaj better known as Maataji is at the helm of affairs at the Bhardwaj household. Though the story highlights Simar and Roli's journey, it's Maataji who takes the final call about everything at the end of the day.
Single mother and jewellery magnate Durga Devi or DD has been taking care of her daughter Roshni, her mother and in-laws and brother single-handedly. She is the perfect example of a working mother who not only earns a living but also takes good care of her house.