Are we seeing a change? Let me put it another way — are we seeing the glimmer of a change? I’m referring to the dozens of women-dominated soaps and serials on the general entertainment channels (GECs). Are they changing?
Before proceeding any further, an aside. As we all know, TV channels are full of women-oriented serials, but alas, that’s no reason to rejoice. On the contrary, that’s reason to stare glumly at the TV screen every night because most of the women who populate these serials are only of two kinds. Either they weep all the time or they make others weep. The former are nauseatingly virtuous and traditional, and endure injustice and exploitation with such martyr-like helplessness, you want to gift them giant-size posters of Nirupa Roy. The latter are (naturally) evil and conniving.
The questions to which I want a few answers are: Why don’t the weepers stop weeping for a change and do something to improve their lot? Also, why are there so many evil and conniving people inhabiting these haveli-like houses?
But to get back to the original point: Is there the glimmer of a change in a couple of the newer serials? I’m referring particularly to Pratigya and Sasural Genda Phool (Star Plus).
I’ve seen both serials only intermittently but I was struck by the fact that in Pratigya, the heroine seems less inclined to accept injustice than most female protagonists in other serials. Whether she’s actually ever done anything concrete in this direction I don’t know — I haven’t watched enough of the serial. (But given the history of most of our serials, she could well transform into one of the weepers. Currently, Pratigya is one of Star Plus’s highest rated serials, but if tomorrow, the show’s TRPs start dipping, the writers might suddenly decide to give the heroine a personality transplant).
In Sasural Genda Phool, the lead role is that of a headstrong young girl called Suhana who has just entered a new family as a bride. And surprise! Her family is not full of women skulking about the house, clutching poisoned daggers in the folds of their shiny saris. On the contrary, the members of this family seem like fairly nice, normal people. What spoils these serials is the story-telling style (common to all serials across all channels). In the time of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the favoured style was the zoom-in-zoom-out. If Tulsi said something dramatic, the camera would zoom in and out of her face about 78 times (to the accompaniment of suitably shrill music) till you were dizzy and deaf.
That particular style might have gone out of vogue now, but what’s replaced it is not much better. Currently, this is how it goes:
Suppose Pratigya (that’s the name of the serial and that’s also the name of the serial’s heroine) says something — anything. Her dialogue will be followed by individual close-ups of every single character in the frame (and since that can often include her father, mother, grandmother, sister and husband, that’s a hell of a lot of close-ups). I presume we are supposed to see the ‘reaction expression’ on each character’s face. This whole thing takes a very, very long time.
Then one of the characters — say, the father — replies to Pratigya. The same process starts all over again. More close-ups of everyone, one by one, each one reacting to what Pratigya’s father has said. And so it goes on and on, tediously, boringly, interminably. Scenes are so stretched (clearly to eat up screen time) that soaps should be re-named chewing gum sagas.
As to my original question, I guess we’ll have to keep watching before we find an answer. Only if characters — including the protagonists — change for the better across all GECs, will it qualify as a real ‘change.’