The sad state of Indian soap operas
Prime-time television in India is not really known for sensible content. Especially the soap operas. I have never been a fan but one tedious evening, I switched on the telly and sat through one “saas-bahu” serial after another.
What was it about family dramas that kept millions of Indian women glued to their TV sets each evening? I intended to find out.
In one such episode, a mother-in-law laments the loss of an unborn grandchild.
I wondered how the mother-in-law could be so sure the unborn child was male. Did she get a sex-determination test done? Or was it some divine revelation.
As the story of one serial after the other unfolded on screen, I realized that to be the “perfect” woman on Indian television, one needed to be a docile housewife and sacrifice everything for the family’s happiness.
Even if that meant putting up with philandering husbands.
Women who wear western clothes or work for a living invariably have loose morals, or so these soap operas would have you believe.
I am all for escapist TV and can forgive the sight of glamorous women going to bed in flashy saris and make-up.
But I find it hard to accept that millions of eyeballs are being exposed to such regressive programmes day after day.
Can the television industry shrug off its responsibility so easily in a country where killing of female foetuses is common and preference for sons runs deep?
In a report last year, the United Nations estimated that 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.
Experts warn that fewer women will spark a demographic crisis in India which could lead to more crimes against women — as there would be fewer left to marry.
I am not asking television producers, many of whom are women and lead very different lives than that of their characters on the telly, to broadcast sermons on female foeticide.
But it will take them just a few changes in their scripts to conjure up a healthy dose of daily entertainment — without sending their audiences the wrong message.