Zee5 Series Ayali A Ray Of Hope For Girls Who Dream Big Despite Patriarchal Chains…

Control over women is rationalised by making examples of those who dare to break away. This moral policing is effective for maintaining the status-quo patriarchy.

One widely discussed aspect of women’s empowerment is girls’ education. India with its many rural villages needs to make girl child education a priority when it comes to development goals. Zee5 series in Tamil, Ayali, is a socially conscious series that tackles this along with early marriage and other reprehensible practices followed in the name of ‘tradition’.

The importance of educating the girl child who face multiple disadvantages when they try to access schools have been at the forefront for many debates. Sustained efforts have been cited as the way forward to achieve this goal, so women access higher education and enter the workforce. The importance of “school education” cannot be hence neglected when we are grappling with skewed representation and participation by women in the workforce.

While this is a need, it is also the on ground reality that Indian society has many aspects of caste, class, religion, etc. that dictate patriarchal rules for women, be it a city or a village. Menstruation, puberty taboo / rules, shrouded as culture remain the core belief system for many families.

In this context, Ayali, currently streaming on ZEE’s OTT platform, describes these disadvantages with precision.

Idyllic? In Ayali one girl plays on the swing while another girl pushes a cradle

The series starts with establishing the characters, the young Tamizh, her parents, her friends, and the village. It shows the idyllic life with a shot that disturbs us- it’s the scene where Tamizh plays on the swing under the tree and as she slides carefree, another young girl pushes the cradle looking at her longingly.

The series is set in a village in Tamil Nadu, during the 90’s. In a village ruled by taboos in the name of tradition, a young girl Tamizh bravely wishes to follow her dream to become a doctor. In her village no girl has ever studied Class Ten, as they are usually married off as soon as they attained puberty. Determined to pursue her studies, the series depicts her attempts to overcome the patriarchal stronghold over the village.

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The mother-daughter relationship and their kinship with the other women within the village depicts the power of female friendships and solidarity. The male members like the father, village -men, showcase the way patriarchy rules the village and controls women, girls.

The village deity ‘Ayali’ is also the main element of the series. The way Tamizh forges her relationship with this divinity who is cared for by women but strangely prohibited for women/girls after puberty is very wholesome. As the series progresses the questioning  attitude is later embraced by her friends, girls and women who voice out the drudgery of their everyday existence.

Where puberty means a loss of dreams

Web series Ayali captures how a society forces a young girl to motherhood, without understanding the implications on her physical, mental health.

There are numerous other instances captured by the series about the often ignored but the taken-for-granted physical labour imposed on the girls as soon as she starts menstruation. The assumption that girls/teens are suddenly transformed into women as they start menstruation and inhibit their freedoms, curtail their rights. Be it the  physical pain of tight bra straps or teenage pregnancy or marriages solemnised to take care of a motherless baby, the list of violence is endless.

The characters, be it Tamizh, her friends, or the women in the village question these hypocrisies of honour, pride, culture and “their goddess” defined by men. This realistic portrayal and progressive politics associated with girl’s education, makes Ayali a must watch.

The series has many sequences that lay bare the way girls are morphed into women, as soon as they bleed. The series proceeds to break apart the various elements of control that are intrusive but still rigidly adhered to within the village.

Ayali shows girls and women who speak up for their rights policed

Foremost, the lack of availability of schools beyond primary or colleges, and a lack of access to them deters many girls from continuing their education beyond primary. Tamizh, her friends all battle to study, to go to school, and continue their education. The importance of support and understanding within the family makes it easy to cross these hurdles.

The bond between the mother-daughter helps Tamizh boldly focus on her exams and venture to the city. Most families however feel the need to chaperone girls following puberty, and even married women are not encouraged to travel alone. The series also has its light moments like the rivalry between two grandmothers and the reformed thief. The cameo of the woman police-officer, especially describes how women need more role-models.

Women still controlled in the name of ‘moral values’

Change in perceptions is an ongoing process, and though this series depicts the 90’s there are still places that follow regressive practices with pride. The women who bear the brunt of these rules are often placed on a pedestal and pacified that they are “too precious” to be left to their own choices.

The control over women is rationalised by making examples of those who dare to break away. This moral policing is effective for maintaining the status-quo patriarchy. It starts early on for girls as they are conditioned to fit into their roles birthing children, and other domestic chores. Ambitions are chipped away, with the girls’ lives destined for marriage and children. The series dwells on these aspects of daily life and goes on to describe how Tamizh breaks free.

Shift in perceptions  about patriarchal notions, and emphasis on the importance of education are the cornerstones for a more equitable society. Ayali offers solutions and answers to the many challenges that make accessing education difficult for girls and a great starting point to understand our personal bias regarding patriarchy. As it deals with the issue from a teenagers point of view, the series is great viewing for the whole family.

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About the Author

Ambica G

Am a feminist who wished for a room but got stuck in a jar. Still, I go on clueless but hopeful and I keep writing. Taking it one step at a time! read more...

23 Posts | 88,205 Views

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