Move over saas-bahu, soaps take to defining new Indian woman
rom the era of typical saas-bahu soaps or love triangle sagas, the television audience is gradually getting to watch more mature content as far as Hindi women-centric shows are concerned. Women empowerment is an issue sweeping across all spaces, and Indian television has taken to it with interest, too.
In turn, viewers are embracing women-centric narratives where the entire story revolves around female characters. But the creators are trying to portray these characters in a more multifaceted way so that they are realistic as well as entertaining, and in the process define the new Indian woman.
For instance, shows like "Apna Time Bhi Aayega" on Zee TV depicts the story of a young girl Rani, played by Megha Ray. She dreams of becoming an engineer, and balances household chores with her studies. Similarly, "Teri Meri Ikk Jindri" brings out the story of a Punjabi girl Mahi (portrayed by Amandeep Sidhu), who endeavours to build a career out of her passion for driving. She thinks out of the box and tries to break the orthodox mindset by starting a taxi service for women.
While talking about the women-oriented shows gaining popularity, director Dharmendra Sharma of "Apna Time Bhi Aayega", says the audience today has begun accepting changes and is open to exploring fresh ideas in a television show storyline.
"The audience prefer viewing content that not only entertains but also inspires them in various walks of life. Hence, there has been a radical shift in women-centric content because a majority of our viewers are women who look to be empowered," explains Sharma.
As women today are succeeding in every phase of life, there has been a natural need to change the norms followed in the television world. Producers are focusing on content that is relatable and encouraging. Sharma adds: "I feel there has been a change in the way the characters and leads of a show are being designed for television. They are more relatable to the audience and can also empower them in so many ways."
Although women-centric shows are not new to us -- we have had shows like "Tara" or "Shanti" before - shows lately have been picking up bold topics that were usually shunned by society. Topics like transgender equality, women dealing with extra marital affairs of their husbands and even girl education are thoughts that shows have begun focusing upon.
"I believe that the audience today is much more aware than before. Their exposure is huge and women especially have recognised the power they hold. They refuse to be objectified. Similarly, television shows these days have women playing substantially strong characters that today's generation easily connects with. Normalising the idea of an independent woman is new in today's shows. We don't need a 'hero' like the old times for a show to be hit now," shares Prateek Sharma, director of "Teri Meri Ikk Jindri".
Right now, the pertinent thing shows are trying to portray is how women today are certain about taking their own life decisions for their own good. These television dramas are maintaining a balance where, though women are cautious about self-respect and integrity on one hand, they are not ready to move away from core Indian family values.
These shows are not trying to be preachy about women's issues but telling it in an interesting way, so that the larger audience can understand it.
For instance, "Anupamaa" on Star Plus depicts how a middle-aged woman, Anupamaa Vanraj Shah(Rupali Ganguly), realises her worth, and breaks the existing societal norms and moves out of her confined boundaries. She tries to be vocal about her rights and also fights for them. So, the relatability of creators to contemporary women-related issues has become more subjective.
Similarly, "Lakshmi Ghar Aayi" on Star Bharat deals with the issue of the dowry system, which is not new at all, but the manner in which it is presented makes it interesting. It is a story of an independent and confident girl Maithili, played by Simran Pareenja. To make the story relevant as these days parents support girls' education, her father (Ashish Kaul) has been shown as the one who always supports the daughter.
Neelima Bajpai, producer, "Lakshmi Ghar Aayi" opens up on women issues being tackled in the daily soaps today. She says: "While conceptualising the idea, we have to keep in mind that our audience belongs to different parts of the country. They may or may not be educated. But we have to reach them as well. This is possible if we tell the story in a lighter and engaging way. We cannot use the 'jhanda garo' way as it will not interest everyone. Serious feminist issues may not reach larger audience. So, I try to make it emotional and simple."
With time, awareness has increased and because of social media viewers have access to shows worldwide. So, now they are more sceptical about characters and thus directors are careful while dealing with women centric issues. They are trying to present a strong female protagonist as the audience doesn't want the lead actress to get dominated and keep crying.
Mitali Nag, who plays the character of a mentally-challenged girl in "Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Meiin" says: "The target audience of television shows is women, so we often get to see women-centric shows, but now people want to see more strong women characters who have access to many things and they can handle all of it perfectly. The young generation doesn't relate to weak women characters."
Thus, all these daily soaps are trying to show the female protagonist as one who refuses to be tied down by humble roots. She is striving to break various shackles of her background and carve her destiny. The stories are inspirational and relatable for all those women who in many ways have seen or faced similar issues.