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Of regressive plots and not-so-cool shows

If you don't know who Anandi is, there's not much point reading a TV column. But if you really don't — maybe you never switch on your set unless it is to see FTV (in which case you should keep your TV viewing habits a deep and dark secret) – let me update you. Poonam Saxena writes.

tv Updated: May 06, 2011 23:34 IST
Poonam Saxena

If you don't know who Anandi is, there's not much point reading a TV column. But if you really don't — maybe you never switch on your set unless it is to see FTV (in which case you should keep your TV viewing habits a deep and dark secret) – let me update you. Anandi (played by a girl called Avika Gor) was the child bride in the serial, Balika Vadhu. The serial still continues on Colors, but the child bride has now grown up into a woman, so Avika is no longer acting in the serial. But just when you thought you'd only see Avika years later, maybe in some Hindi movie, or maybe as a Miss India participant, she's popped up again in another show on Colors called Sasural Simran Ka.

She's traded her ghagra-choli for more everyday attire, but she still belongs to a family where the head of the parivar (in this case a patriarch; in Balika Vadhu it was a matriarch, Dadisa) is so strict, he seems almost unhinged. His household consists of his sister, his wife, two daughters and a son and he rules this household with a Taliban-type set of rules and regulations: no TV, no movies, no film magazines for his family. Once when the poor things sneak away to watch a film in a hall, he catches them and then berates them so severely, it's as if all of them had got collectively drunk on local hooch, taken off their clothes and rolled in every gutter in the city. (It doesn't help that the actor who plays this nutcase father looks more like a villain's henchman from a Seventies potboiler, than a family man who goes to work on a scooter every morning).

What is truly bizarre is the tone of the serial, which seems to suggest that the father might be a bit strict, but really, he's a good, decent man who only has his family's welfare at heart. That's why his obedient older daughter, Simar, yearns to win back her father's approval after the movie debacle. She also confides to some friends that she's reconciled to the fact that the minute she graduates, her father will fix up her rishta and get her married off. Maybe there are some homes out there where fathers think that TV and cinema are Evil Influences (well, with serials like this, they may not be far off the mark) and that daughters should be married off pronto, but if that isn't regressive and repressive, I don't know what is. So here's my question: why are serials like Sasural Simar Ka celebrating this medieval model of a good, decent 'Indian' small town family? One more dekho at the submissive Simran and her father (he of the villain's sidekick visage) and I'll be ready to switch to Channel V.

Which I actually did. Did you know that Channel V's tagline is now 'Bloody Cool'? How 'cool' the channel is can be gauged by its shows, I suppose. So here's one that I saw. It's called Love Net, where the channel gets people who have been chatting to each other on the Net to finally meet face to face. In the episode I saw, we were introduced to a boy called Harshit who had been chatting with five girls ("I had full non-veg chatting with some of them," he declared proudly). When he eventually comes face to face with all of them, two of the girls are outraged that he's been five-timing them and so 'punish' him by throwing eggs at him.

Er, how cool is that?