Saturday, July 24, 2010

[ZESTCaste] TV serials respond honourably

TV serials respond honourably

Honour killings seem to have brought out the best among serial makers
who are now responding by highlighting these in their shows. Hopefully
the sagas of saas-bahu kitchen politics will be put on the back
burner, says D MAMTA

Posted Monday, Jul 19 23:24:59, 2010

The spate of honour killings in the recent past and the wide reportage
by the media have had many fallouts. While the government is gearing
up to consider stricter legislation to deal with these crimes,
television soaps have begun responding to the issue by introducing
dimensions that touch upon the larger issue of women's rights within a
family. After a long reign of saas-bahu serials, entertainment
channels are now taking up social evils and finding audience as well
as critical acclaim.

A few months back Geet Sabse hui parayi made its debut on Star One. In
the show the protagonist, Geet, has to marry an NRI boy at the behest
of her family. The boy is interested in the girl's money and land
which would be transferred to him after the marriage. After the
ceremony he promptly takes away her wealth and abandons Geet. Her
family takes her back and wants to keep her marriage a secret but when
they discover that she is pregnant they decide to get her married off
again. When things do not proceed according to plan the family tries
to pressurise her to abort the child and when she refuses to do so her
brother tries to kill her. Geet manages to survive this attempt and
decides to disown her family and the community and chart her own path.
Before leaving the village, however, she trashes her community and
their values in a long lecture.

Another television soap, Jyoti, on Imagine, has taken up a similar
theme. In this case the boy is from a rich and orthodox family and the
girl is a divorcee. The family obviously does not want the boy to
marry a divorcee and threatens the boy with dire consequences making
references to other `deviants' who have cast a shadow on the family's
honour and have been killed for similar infringements. In the latest
episode of the show the boy has been poisoned by his father.

Both serials show feudalistic, orthodox and patriarchal families who
act to save the family's honour, holding the woman to be the main
culprit. In both cases the victims respect their parents and family
elders but also believe that they have rights as individuals. Both the
shows raise several pertinent questions. Why is it always a woman who
has to carry the burden if a family's honour is at stake? Does the
killing or harassment of the family's younger sons and daughters
salvage a family's hounour? How does a family retain its respect after
the crimes parade them before the whole nation? Which is the bigger
crime: to marry outside your caste, class and community or to kill

Another serial on Colors, Yeh Pyaar Na Hoga Kam, highlights the role
that caste and class conflicts play in marriages. The story is set in
Lucknow where the son of a Brahmin, Abeer, falls in love with the
daughter of a Kayasth, Leher. Though the parents don't kill their
children in this show they try to make their lives unhappy. This show
presents the persistent dominance of caste in Indian society despite
the progress that has been made in other areas.

These serials bring out the perils of challenging the boundaries
defined by age old societal divisions. The divisions, among other
things, being defined by the amount of money the family has, the caste
it belongs to, its traditions and above all the `name' of the family
and the shame that will follow if this is sullied.

The serials as well as the recent honour killing incidents highlight
the dichotomous social structure we live in where on the one hand
live-in relationships are accepted easily and on the other parents
take pride in killing their errant children.

Thankfully, following the hue and cry over honour killings, television
soaps that harped upon the kitchen politics of the saas bahu variety
seem to have become passé. Serials like Jyoti, Agale Janam Mohe
Bitiya Hi Kijo, Balika Badhu and Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma have
begun responding to contemporary social issues.

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