The 8pm Melodrama

Abid Hussain Rah

Soap Operas

What is it about family dramas that keep millions of women glued to the television screen? The saas-bahu melodramas dominate the primetime television. Soap operas dominate the televisual landscape in India. Every Indian soap opera revolves around same plot wherein a mother-in-law reigns the family, issues the orders and give advices. No matter what, a mother-in-law is always correct and males are always the puppets in the background.

In Indian soap opera, there is lot of crying. Characters when happy; they cry. When sad; they cry. When they miss someone; they cry. Seems like they have setup Glycerin production units by themselves. We all know, the lookalike tears are wonders of Glycerin itself. But the most annoying thing about soap operas is that do-gooder always ends up getting screwed and the evil/villain never gets caught. Every Indian soap opera has at least one “sanskari-bahu” who never forgets to touch the feet of the mother-in-law.

The classic Indian soap opera shot has two characters at odds. One says something shocking, or slaps the antagonist’s face, and the camera slowly pans a circle of men and women frozen in shock.  No Indian soap opera misses this scene wherein the first dessert the new wife of the house must make is always destroyed by the evil mother-in-law/aunt/sister of the husband sprinkles salt or chilly to the sweet dish. The hatred goes to deeper extents and mother-in-law can do anything to prove her daughter-in-law worthless, even if it means feeding the rest of the family with arsenic.

The most ironical part of the Indian soap operas is that no one dies. And if someone is shown to be dead, the regular customers of the soap operas know that the character is gone for a leave and will be back with a mysterious story wherein they apparently got hit by a car and a poor “belpuri wala” hospitalized him and took him home afterwards.  The protagonist always loses his memory and can’t memorize anything from the past until he sees the chain given to him by his girlfriend.

At beginning the female protagonist always wants to study and achieve her dreams but her parents force her for a marriage and her studies lay like a forgotten dog. After marriage her husband supports her and she cracks the giant IPS exam by studying hardly for an hour a day. Yes, by now you’ve gotten to the point that I am talking about Sandhaya from “the light and the lamp are we”. Sandhaya dreams of becoming an IPS officer but her mother-in-law is adamantly opposed. Despite having obstacles Sandhaya clears her IPS exam by studying in 25th hour of the day, because the remaining 24 hours she is busy chanting ”surajj ji”.

The story of every serial would make you believe that the perfect woman on Indian television is one who is a docile housewife, wears a saree, carries a tilak and sacrifices everything for the sake of family’s happiness. Indian soap opera despite having the size of world’s third largest market with almost 600 million viewers carry no or very little message for the common people. The hatred against girl child is a daily practice in the Indian soap opera and rather than carrying a message against the female feticide, the concept is being encouraged and everywhere the hatred against the girl child is evident. A mother-in-law curses her daughter-in-law for carrying a girl child and advises to do away with her. The female protagonist is shown to have an unlawful sex-determination test and if it happens to be a male child, the house is decorated to welcome him and if it is a girl, the female protagonist is asked to go for abortion or leave the house.

The television industry cannot shrug off their responsibility so easily in a country where killing of female fetuses is common and preference for sons runs so deep. The makers of soap operas need to introduce few changes to their scripts to conjure up a healthy dose of daily environment without sending wrong messages to the audiences.

(Srinagar based author, Abid Hussain Rah is an engineering student at SSM College of Engineering and Technology, Pattan. He can be contacted [email protected]

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