Ever wondered why your Hindi general entertainment channel is populated with everything except human beings like you know them? There's your unfriendly neighbourhood ichchadhari naagin, the generous man-next-door with several wives, the fashion nightmare of a tantrik whose predictions always come true, the dutiful wife who will go to pataal(underworld) to save her husband.
If your blood has ever boiled thinking how these channels, which reach millions of people, are actively helping perpetuate regressive ideas and gender roles, you are probably blaming the wrong people. Or so says Ekta Kapoor, boss of Balaji Telefilms, which played a considerable role in incubating and driving Hindi television's passion for farce.
Kapoor, who has traditionally defended the content of her soaps as what the audience wanted to watch, has now told Mid Day that Indian television audience is not ready for 'progressive' soaps.
"Yes, I can openly say that they are not ready for progressive shows. I have tried it with 'Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh' and I can't even tell you the research that went into it; I really wanted to cry. They just don't want to see a married woman move on even if her husband has made her life miserable," Kapoor tells Mid Day.
So Kapoor is completely comfortable with the idea of knowingly feeding her audiences regressive nonsense, because, well, life and business must go on.
Balaji Telefilms played a considerable role in incubating and driving Hindi television's passion for farce.
Asked if she thinks it's at all possible for Hindi television to resemble the century we are living in, Kapoor said that's going to happen when her viewers change and mature. Till then, however, she plans to carry on producing serials like her latest one, "Kasam Teri Pyaar Ki". For the uninitiated, the soap is about lovers being reborn. It also has an added plot twist that involves half of India's daily obsession - 'kundli dosh'.
She then proceeds to provide a very convincing and rational description of what to expect from her soap: "There is something very dark and dramatic about it. It's like the universe coming together to either separate or bring lovers together. I have done realistic love stories on TV like post marriage love, dealing with monotony and childlessness. They are a little over-the-top as far as the story goes. In all this, the universe conspiring against these karmically connected people, who are starving for love, makes it interesting."
If the soap bears any resemblance to the above lines, you may want to keep a painkiller at hand while watching it.
In course of the interview she says serials like 'Naagin' appeal to not only viewers from villages, but also city slickers who 'trip' on them.
A majority of Indian prime time soaps play along with dangerous ideas like black magic, often endorse misogynistic perceptions about women and sex and time and again pay obeisance to patriarchy. To say that the immaturity of the audience gives the makers of these soaps a broad leeway to be irresponsible, is problematic to say the least. Feeding superstition, unscientific thinking and misogyny can't be justified with TRPs.
Ekta Kapoor is a powerful woman. Someone should remind her what they say about responsibility.
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