Indian TV Then And Now: Why Can’t We Have Stronger Female Characters Anymore?
As kids, we had to sit through many evenings (and sometimes afternoons) of intense television drama that we didn’t understand much back then. But one does carry fond memories of Manidra Bedi’s Shanti and Navneet Nishan’s Tara even till today.
And why not! There is such dearth of quality on Indian television at the moment. Women are restricted to peripheral characters the heights of which were when we got to know about a 10-year-old bugger’s marriage to an adult woman in Pehredaar Piya Ki or when the lead of Sasural Simar Ki turned into a bloody fly!
Have Indian TV writers actually turned so lame?
Why are working women such a big deal?
Present day TV soaps like Diya Aur Baati Hum portray the career of a woman being the central idea of the story which doesn’t go a long way in normalising the idea of a female going to work. We ask why, when we’ve historically had the contemporary likes of Tara who falls in love with a married man (played by Alok Nath) and the father of a teenager Devyani (played by Grusha Kapoor)?
Apart from Tara, her three other friends Kanchan (Ratna Pathak Shah), Sheena (Amita Nangia) and Arzoo (Neha Sharad) make some bold decisions in their lives and do not regret them.
Making out a sin?
The very same show wasn’t even shy to portray a kissing scene on screen almost a quarter of a century ago from today, as compared to the hideous pecks that 21st century actors share on the small screen these days.
What’s with the cultural stereotypes?
If a story is set in a Gujarati family like in Saath Nibhana Saathiya or Qubool Hai, which focuses on a Muslim family, is it necessary to have only characters from that community? We live in a multi-ethnic society with diverse religions, cultures and languages, and hence it makes sense to show this rich social fabric. Again, yesteryear shows like Nukkad portrayed this beautifully.
Dark skin stigmas
Body shaming and complexion-based racism have long been a part of Indian media. And an entire show about the tribulations of a dark-skinned girl in Saat Phere – Saloni Ka Safar doesn’t really serve the purpose. On the other hand, you had someone like a dusky Shanti, who’s skin colour was never the topic of discussion.
Instead, the 1994-daily soap revolves her attempts to get her mother (rape victim) justice and find out about the identity of her father.
Other characters that Indian TV could definitely draw inspiration from right now:
Svetlana from Swabhiman: Played by Kitu Gidwani, a sexy and unconventional Svetlana is a mistress of businessman Keshav Malhotra. The character, written by Vinita Nanda, directed by Mahesh Bhatt and scripted by Shobha De, evolves like a real life person during the course of the show.
Simran from Astitva Ek Prem Kahani: A gynecologist in her mid-thirties, Simran elopes with a man ten years younger to her after facing opposition from her family. All about woman empowerment and freedom of choice!