Thursday, April 26, 2012

Being a pseudo-feminist

For those who don't know, I have been working as an intern in the Media and Communication division at an organization called Centre for Social Research, for the past (almost) 3 months. Needless to say, its been an incredible journey so far, and I know for a fact, that the next 3 months at CSR will add to this (oh by the way, the reason for not updating this blog for ages, is that I write for the CSR blog now. Just saying.)

But this post isn't about CSR (although I am definitely going to do that some time...maybe when I leave in August?). No this post is rather about how working among gender activists, and being surrounded by issues facing/plaguing women, has slighttttly altered the way I look at things.

Take for example what happened today. I was having lunch with my aunt, and while switching channels, we stopped at Sony TV and started watching Kya Hua Tera Vadaa. Till date I hadn't seen a single episode, but knew vaguely that it was about extra marital relationships. Anyway, as is habit, I asked my aunt the story (I LOVE listening to stories), got a brief synopsis, and started watching the episode. So the story is essentially about a much married couple with three kids, and how the husband starts an affair with his ex girlfriend turned boss. Now the wife finds out, and along with the mother in law, concocts a plan, wherein she leaves the house. The 'catch' is that she leaves alone, leaving the husband to fend for himself and the kids, along with the other woman, who has moved in to the house, to make merry since the wife is gone. So apparently this is a plan, so as to show how effortlessly the wife managed the house and the kids, and how the husband doesn't know a single thing about the house, and how the 'other woman' is a spoilt rich woman, who can't lift a finger around the house. It is supposed to show the husband (and us apparently) how nice the wife was, and how stupid he was to leave such a 'sarvgunn sampann' wife for a 'witchy' other woman.

The story is uncannily similar to David Dhawan's Biwi No.1, although Ekta Kapoor would like to believe that hers is a sensitive tale of adult relationships, far removed from the slapstick which David Dhawan's brand of cinema is. For the record, when I saw it, I absolutely louved Biwi No.1. In my defence, I was barely 12, and definitely not a pseudo feminist.

My problem with Kya Hua Tera Vadaa (or for that matter even Biwi No.1), is that it treats the complex issue of extra marital relationships with naivete and insensitivity. Why should the resolution of the problem which has arisen between a married couple, involve teaching a lesson, let alone such a stupid one? And what is with making a villain, sorry vamp, of the other woman? I mean yes being involved with a married man was probably not the best thing to do, but where was the married man's brain? Why do movies/tv serials and even common people portray the man as a stupid being, who has no mind or will of his own, whose need for sex outside marriage rises above all rationality? I mean sure men can be stupid some times, but give them some credit! And why is a woman's worth as a wife, defined by her ability to successfully run a house and taking care of the kids? Since when is marriage only about these things? Why do we, as a society, portray extra marital relationships only in light of one woman stealing another woman's man? Whereas if a married woman is involved with a man (a concept utterly alien to all it seems) we never say that one man stole another's woman...even then the blame is placed on the woman, and she is called immoral and whatnot. Gender bias anyone?

Yes I know expecting sensitivity and subtlety in Indian television is my fault. And I also know that most people, save a few hard core feminists, and some pseudo feminists like yours truly, wouldn't even bat an eyelid at such serials/movies. Perhaps they would even cheer for the wife, and curse the other woman, but always, always, forgive the man. But for once, it would be nice to see something which is inspiring, instead of perpetuating illogical ideas and stereotypes.


Nimisha said...

Hi Ranjani! Good to read the angst in your blog, it angers me to see such serials too, but yes you are right, one isn't really surprised to see such stuff anymore!

But here is a suggestion that might cheer you up a bit, I like to watch a show that I think still shows there is some hope for Indian television...a serial called 'Na bole tum, na maine kuch kaha' on Colours, that tells the story of a budding romance between a widow who has two kids and a cynical journalist in the relatively orthodox Indian city of Indore.

It is not completely bereft of melodrama, but it does feature delightful, believable characters, situations a woman can relate to and problems that adults definitely have.

Shows like 'Kya hua tere vaada' are a dime a dozen, unfortunately. But I take heart from the fact that there is at least one show on Indian television, that I can watch without cringing, everyday! :-)

Antara said...

I just loved reading this blog of yours. In most of these serials/movies depicting extra-marital affairs, the two women involved become enemies of each other. The husband is slowly relegated to the background, and the onus of the blame lies with the 'other woman'. A real-life case in point is Jennifer Aniston forgiving Brad Pitt though she still has bitter feelings for Angelina Jolie. Was Brad Pitt totally innocent?

Runjoo said...

thank you nimisha and antara for the wonderful comments :) do keep reading the blog, and keep posting comments!

saba said...
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ShUjA said...

Today's tv serials are an indication of dearth of ideas and efforts...

Once television was the driving unit. It was instrumental in shaping society.

But today it has become a tool to satiate the 'urges' and 'sentiments' of the public.
It is being driven my mindless ....

Television has been taken over by a bunch of people who love to flaunt their oh-cool-i-work-in-television tag.

I would love to go back to our Doordarshan and DD-Metro days when television was about emotion and not sentiments...when quiz shows were as eagerly awaited as television serials of today

when quality was as common as breaking news of today's news channel.

Alas!! I am living in a dream land :(