Regressive, hackneyed, stereotypical, unoriginal... You guessed it right? These are just some of accusations hurled at Indian TV serials and the women characters who run the show. Without going into the whys and wherefores of this disconnect between the 'reel' and the 'real', here's a look at 8 serials that are an affront to the intelligence of any right-thinking woman in India.
1. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
In the beginning, about eight years ago, Ekta Kapoor happened to Indian TV serials, and the rest, as they say, is history. For all its plot twists and leaps that kept us glued to it for eight long years, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi never changed one thing.
The idea of the ideal Indian woman according to Ekta Kapoor: She made us believe that a woman in India must always 'behave'; that she should be selfless, sacrificing, patient and caring; that she should know Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bible, Quran and the Vedas; that she should never party; that she should never be part of any social gathering other than the 'jagrans' and 'pujas'; her sole aim of being a woman should be that she should be domesticated; and that her concern should be how to take care of people of her sasural. Did you just say deplorable? 2. Kasauti Zindagi Ki
This serial set the benchmark for what an 'ideal' vamp should be like. Komolika nailed it with those killer bindis, and the background music added to the fear she was able to generate. She also established that there are only two kinds of women in India: She is either a 'sanskari bahu' or a 'gold digger' who's always conspiring against every other woman in the family. 3. Saath Nibhana Saathiya
This serial should have been called ‘Saath Nibhana Saasumaa’. It's all about the relationship between Kokila and her Gopi bahu. This serial started airing in 2010, ten years after Kyunki... happened to India, but its plot was eerily similar. Here too we had women with ‘ghunghats’ who never dared to go against the men in the family or the strict mothers-in-law.
Whoever did, was branded "unfit for the society". Gopi’s strict mother-in-law, Kokila, ensured that Gopi bahu did everything just as perfectly as any "perfect daughter-in-law". Regressive, right? 4. Sasuraal Simar Ka
This serial is never-ending, and has taken leaps. More than once, the plot has changed but then it comes back to the same old plot -- ‘the adventures of Simar and Roli’.
Simar and her sister Roli get married into the same family and the sole aim of their life is to take care of the sasural, be the perfect bahus, and get rid of vamps in the extended family. Trouble is, not once are they shown thinking of their own personal growth or future or likes-dislikes or just about anything beyond that. 5. Madhubala.. Ek Ishq Ek Junoon
This serial was a story of a young girl named Madhubala who was born on a film set and later married to superstar ‘RK’ (Rishabh Kundra). It was yet another forced marriage (even abusive), where RK harasses her but she still stays in that marriage. Madhubala goes on to become an actress which makes RK jealous, who then starts harassing her and eventually she leaves her career and gives birth to their child. Phew! So basically this daily soap wants us to believe that a woman should be a good wife, perfect bahu, even the best mother... but if she were to even think of a career for herself, she is crossing the line. 6. Kumkum Bhagya
This is possibly one of the most illogical serials in recent times. Another middle class girl gets married to ‘Rockstar Abhi’ who is in love with someone else. She is (of course) a perfect bahu and Abhi’s grandma (obviously) wants them to have a kid soon like that’s her only mission.
On the other hand, Abhi’s girlfriend Tanu gets sidelined after his marriage to Pragya. So she fights for her rights and tries to get Abhi’s attention and love, which is depicted in a bad light. What we don’t understand is why she is a villain for wanting her partner's undivided love, especially when Abhi seems to be in a loveless marriage. Just because Pragya is a middle class woman struggling through life and the perfect bahu, Tanu is portrayed in a negative light. 7. Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon- Season 1
Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon is a love saga between a middle class girl and a rich businessman (because that is so innovative) who happens to have a girlfriend. But the guy’s (Arnav) grandmother thinks that a girl who wears short clothes and likes to party cannot be a good bahu and so the perfect bahu material girl Khushi trains Arnav’s girlfriend but he ends up falling in love with Khushi and they get married.
Well, towards the end, she realises that she should also do something worthwhile with her life and she too wants to prove that she is smart and intelligent, so she takes part in ‘Mrs India’ beauty pageant because that’s the only way a woman can show her worth (sigh!). 8. Mann Kee Awaaz... Pratigya
The promos for this serial made us believe that Pratigya was going to be a very different girl who fights for her rights. At that time, it looked like the best thing to happen to Indian serials. Just that it flattered to deceive. Because Pratigya, the protagonist, gets married to her stalker and is constantly taunted by his family because she is educated. Seriously! Were the makers trying to give the 'girl-power' a push in the right direction or a pull down.