Where Are The Real Women Like You And Me In Serials?!

Can we have strong, intelligent women, whose sole purpose in life is not to hover around and put everyone else’s needs ahead of theirs, but to pursue their lives and dreams free of judgment?

In my pursuit to try out new things, I have begun watching Hindi soaps. I have been partly amused and partly horrified at how women are depicted.

Here are my observations.

Women may have jobs, but they are merely ornamental

In one soap, the lead actress plays the role of a teacher, but to date, I’m not sure what subject she teaches. In one episode she is shown teaching physics, in another Hindi, and in yet another, business. Jill of all trades, perhaps?

Sadly, apart from occasional mentions, her occupation is of very little consequence to the unfolding story. It’s ironic that the working woman’s struggles barely make it to dinner conversations. Instead, food, festivals, and relationships take center stage.

Dressed to kill

For the past two years, in a pandemic world, many of us have resorted to casual wear. On an average day, you will find me with disheveled hair, glasses, loose kurtas, and pajamas. But in a serial? The women are dressed to kill, with their glamorous appearances. On a normal day, the bahu in an Indian serial wears a saree that weighs almost as much as she does, with matching jewelry to boot.

The last time I looked like this was in 2014, for my sister’s wedding. Doesn’t such attire restrict mobility? And is breathing optional? One can only wonder.

Colour coordination, much?

In joint families, festivals are celebrated with much aplomb. The actual festival may be for a day, but the celebration sequence drags on for a week. There is tremendous scope for plotting, not so much for the plot, and thus the sequence drags like a tortoise on sleeping pills.

What astounds me is how do all the women colour coordinate? The last time I tried, the only thing I could pull off for my family were three identical black T-shirts that came in different sizes and said, ‘I heart NY.’

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Physics? What’s that?

Let’s take the celebration of festivals, where gravity-defying miracles ensue. These are often construed as ‘auspicious omens’, blessings from divine providence approving a relationship.

A typical example would be the vermillion bouncing off a plate by accident and falling conveniently (and in slow-motion) on the forehead of a married woman. I’m indignant because I aced projectile motion equations in Engineering. Apart from the insult to logic and physics, this gives out the wrong message.

Case-in-point? A jilted lover in Gorakhpur forcefully applied sindoor to a bride on her wedding day. Things did not end well for this blundering Romeo. Police escorted him away, and the girl married her chosen groom.

Time is never a problem

Let’s take the average woman. Between work, home, and raising children, 99% of her day whizzes by.

One does wish that there were more than twenty-four hours to a day. Yet, women are shown to have ample time to gossip, plot, plan, meddle, fix relationships, and what-not. I wish I could crack this secret to having so much extra time.

Women are shown to be one-dimensional

I’m not saying that every soap is this way. There are occasional gems.

But how often do we get to see a woman with a hobby or a passion? If there is one, it then becomes the main storyline with her trying to achieve something against the odds.

What about portraying hobbies and passions as a ‘normal’ rather than an exception? We are layered creatures, you know.

Age? It’s just in the hair

The middle-aged mother of two grown-up children looks like she is in her thirties, giving me an inferiority complex.

There are also occasional ‘time-jumps’, applicable to any serial running for too long, prompting the writers to do something drastic. The trick to jump a few years is to show aging, mainly in the mane. Insert a single shiny silvery-white strand onto the heroine’s head, depicting the forward leap by ten years.

I look at the fifty shades of grey that my hair is, and I sigh. If only!

Looks, make-up, and Miss Universe

Does beauty in soaps have to be stereotyped to astronomical glamourous levels? Do women need to have alabaster skin, silky tresses, and flawless figures? Can they be more real? Can we get to see chubby heroines with spectacles, acne, and non-hourglass figures?

How delightful would it be to celebrate women as we are, propagating the notion that we come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, and we are beautiful just the same!

Intelligent conversations

Do you know what would be most refreshing? A woman discussing world politics, or matters of national importance, and offering her opinions with confidence. When making an investment decision, envisage the protagonist buying a car or a house independently! Or even discussing financial matters with her partner with equal authority.

Where are the intelligent women who can speak up?

Gender Stereotypes

A lot has been written about this already. Let’s stop projecting women as the paragons of self-sacrifice and duty, who will give up their dreams to nurture the other members of the house.

In the era of OTT, the younger generation may not watch such soaps, but prospective mothers-in-law might. My request to them is not to get influenced and expect the same behavior from their future daughters-in-law!

All said and done, serials are addictive, which also means they can be used as powerful tools of reform. What do I want to see? Strong, intelligent women, who are equals in their relationships, whose sole purpose in life is not to hover around and put everyone else’s needs ahead of theirs, but to pursue their lives and dreams free of judgment. Is that too much to ask for?

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

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