Recently, there was a viewer complaint filed against the TV show, Qubool Hai, to Broadcasting Content Complaints Council about an episode that showed an elderly woman being tortured. In an another episode, the soap’s lead, Zoya, was shown being pushed off a cliff, burned and even walled in alive by the conniving vamp, Tanveer. These aren’t the only cases of depictions of violence against women on the small screen. Some other shows have taken things to another level.
Not so long ago, Na Aana Iss Des Laado, a serial set in rural Harayana, showed an unwanted baby girl being drowned in a tub of milk. In Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, the young protagonist was sold to a rich man. Balika Vadhu’s popular bahu Ganga was subjected to abuse by her husband and in-laws for years. Newlywed Kumud, in Saraswatichandra, too suffers silently in a bad marriage, being a victim of her alcoholic husband’s torture.
Although it is important for any family drama to hook viewers with identifiable, realistic situations, most depictions of violence on TV border on glorification and celebration of the perpetrator. Instead of using these portrayals to inspire women to fight against domestic violence, the makers of these soaps, all too often, show victims as sacrificial lambs. The harassment scenes are shown exaggeratedly with gory details. Yes, these soaps mirror reality when they show violence, which is, sadly, a daily occurrence in many women’s lives — but most such portrayals tend to normalise these situations by providing these victims no agency to retaliate.
Most soaps also portray extramarital affairs and bigamous relationships as normal, acceptable set-ups. How often are harassed bahus and betis shown approaching the police or taking legal action?
Television today has a reach that’s matchless. Its influence on both urban and rural population is unrivalled. Shouldn’t the makers of soaps then use this impactful medium as a tool for social change rather than endorsing parochial sentiments? The need of the hour is for them to use this power more responsibility, lest we lose the plot.