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Mohini in Bandish Bandits is the meek and silent housewife – a mother, wife, sister-in-law, and daughter-in-law, and also the perfect victim of misogyny in a patriarchal family.
I got interested in watching the web series Bandish Bandits (BB) after listening to the soulful Virah song on YouTube, and it was a treat.
In many ways, I feel that BB is pioneering – the first web series to focus on Indian classical music in particular, the portrayal of today’s youth and their realisation of Indian classical music, and the juxtaposition of modern and classical music.
The 10-episode series narrates the story of Radhe, the torchbearer of the Rathod Gharana, whose patriarch is his Panditji and grandfather, Pandit Radhemohan Rathod (brilliantly portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah).
Now, Panditji is a strict disciplinarian who demands complete compliance from his family members, even if it means strangling their freedom and identity forever.
Mohini, his daughter-in-law (played by the extremely talented Sheeba Chaddha) is the most affected by his ‘toxic masculinity’.
Mohini’s character lends a very crucial layer to Bandish Bandits. She is the perfect, meek and silent housewife who religiously carries out all her duties – that of a mother, wife, sister-in-law, and daughter-in-law. However, as the series progresses, and her role slowly unfolds, we realise that she is the one who defeated Panditji 26 years ago in a singing competition. For this ‘crime’, she has to pay.
The patriarch manipulates her into marrying Rajender (his elder son from his second marriage), thus separating her from her lover, Digvijay (his only son from his previous marriage). As if this is not enough, he also makes Mohini renounce her music forever and demands as her father in law that she be a good housewife and mother. All this just because he could not accept the fact that he was defeated by the young and promising Mohini!
As for Mohini, she remained the docile daughter-in-law of the Rathod family. She never asked any questions to anyone. She knew ‘her place’ very well and went on to perform all her duties with a smile. She never joined the male members of the house at the dinner table nor did any one of them asked her to join them. Sometimes, she gave her valuable advice to her son, Radhe and silently goes on to support him always.
On the other hand, when 22-year-old Radhe came to know about Mohini and Digvijay’s relationship, he became angry so much that he never tried to understand her. Yet she was determined to see Radhe win the Sangeet Samraat title. I loved the part where she brought the entire family together (when Panditji was observing maun) to ensure that all of them put in their best efforts.
However, in the entire series, Mohini never sings a single song! I hope in the next season (if they are planning to release Season 2), Mohini will be portrayed better.
Last but not the least, Panditji finally came in to ‘save’ Mohini’s dignity by confessing that she was never at fault and how he was unfair to her all throughout. What was he doing all these years? I felt so bad when she broke down and Radhe held her tight. Later, as though some sense prevailed in him, he finally asks Mohini to join them at the dinner table. Mohini obliges patiently.
Before ending, I want to ask some pertinent questions to my readers, which are still prevalent in today’s age:
Do we need sanction from others to maintain our own identity/priorities?
Why can’t women sit together and eat with everyone? Why do they have wait so that the men can finish first?
When will we put ourselves in the ‘list of things’? Isn’t it upon us too?
While I still ponder, I am left numb with the powerful Virah song, the silent chemistry between Mohini and her lover, and the painful tears that roll down her eyes…
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