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Baakiyalakshmi gives us that rarest of rare things on Tamil TV - real women who are not perfect and support each other.
Baakiyalakshmi gives us that rarest of rare things on Tamil TV – real women who are not perfect and support each other.
I am not proud to admit that throughout my life I’ve been an on and off watcher of Tamil television serials (including dubbed versions of Hindi series), even during times that I’ve known that they are extremely sexist.
They are my guilty pleasure but I never wanted anyone to admire the way women are portrayed in them, that is, until I started watching Baakiyalakshmi on Star Vijay. It is one of the many Tamil television soaps I began watching during quarantine, thanks to my grandmother. And it really is unique.
Baakiyalakshmi is the story of the titular Baakiyalakshmi who is taken for granted by most of her family members (an upsetting reality for many women even in today’s world). She attempts to establish her individuality in a household that is used to seeing her as someone who merely exists to take care of their needs. Here’s why I think this story is worth watching:
A noticeable difference between this serial and most other Tamil soaps is that none of the female characters are two-dimensional. They are not just good or evil.
They come in realistic shades of grey in contrast with the characters in other serials who are ridiculously good or comically evil a lot of the time. This is good because categorising women as only good or evil does not provide much scope for female solidarities as the women are always up against each other. This advantage is obvious in Baakiyalakshmi.
For example, Baakiyalakshmi’s mother-in-law, Eshwari, is extremely critical and demanding of her daughter-in-law only to turn around and stand up for Baakiyalakshmi when Baakiyalakshmi’s oldest son, Chezhiyan, argues with her.
Baakiyalakshmi herself is not as “perfect” as some Tamil serial heroines who never seem to lose their patience no matter how much abuse they have to put up with – for instance, Chithi 2’s Venba does not give up on her mother-in-law even after she attempts to murder her.
Baakiyalakshmi, however, gets annoyed with the way she is treated and gossips irreverently about it with her domestic help, Selvi (Baakiyalakshmi still puts up with all the bullshit though, which is annoying).
Selvi is no angel herself and at one point, ends up using violent means to stand up to her husband. Baakiyalakshmi and her daughter-in-law Jenny help her get out of legal trouble.
Speaking of Jenny, she is flawed too and is accepted despite her past mistakes. And it is a breath of fresh air to see a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law (and women in general) support each other so much in a Tamil serial.
I have watched several Tamil serials, and I have never come across an inter-religious couple in any of them before this one. Chezhiyan is a Hindu man and his girlfriend and later wife, Jenny is a Christian woman. Their struggle to get married is representation we rarely get in Tamil television soaps.
The portrayal of Selvi’s issues and how they differ from Baakiyalakshmi’s provide a much-needed class angle. Baakiyalakshmi’s sister-in-law Kavitha is a widow with a daughter and she also has financial problems.
Baakiyalakshmi’s friend who gives her money to help start her business, is a divorcee and single mom – how often do we see a fictional Tamil woman being allowed to challenge the family unit by choice?
This diversity of parenthood, religion, and class adds layers to the show. We get to see more than one version of both oppression and empowerment, and that is so valuable.
My ammamma (maternal grandmother) told me that she could relate to the dynamics between Baakiyalakshmi, her husband, and her younger son. She said that it reminded her of her relationships with my maternal grandfather and my maternal uncle. And therein lies the brilliance of Baakiyalakshmi!
It is very relatable. It gives us insight into our own homes. It makes us examine how we treat the women in our own families. It deals with mostly realistic situations unlike other Tamil serials.
If not for any other reason, I think this is a reason to give this serial a chance. It is not the story of someone else. It is the story of us.
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A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
There is never a day when she pushes off her own burdens. She knows not to give up on people she loves. Women in general, are givers by nature and hence, give without asking anything in return. They have been the care givers and lovers since centuries however receive no appreciation.
It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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