The depiction of women in Hindi TV shows has changed dramatically over the years. Sadly, it hasn’t been a positive change. For a while it seemed as if Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin would herald the return of powerful women such as Rajini and Shanti, but Tulsi and Parvati continued to rule. Flip through any channel today and you are bound to see women pushed into unrealistic slots and then portrayed in a totally unbelievable manner. Of course, there are exceptions. Priya of Bade Acche Lagte Hain works as a lecturer even after marrying into a rich household. Widowed Megha Vyas of Na Bole Tum… Na Maine Kuch Kaha gets a job so she can supplement her family’s income instead of depending on her brother-in-law. But they remain exceptions, not the norm. Here are a few of the norms that had us groaning:
Woman as upholder of family honour
Diya Aur Baati Hum: Sandhya has 15 days to prove she is worthy of being a daughter-in-law. And what are the qualities of a good daughter-in-law? She has to do all the housework and carry a matka with a veil covering her face. She can’t drop it, as it will be inauspicious to do so.
Sasural Simar Ka: Simar is a ‘good girl’, so even though she is a professional dancer, she doesn’t want to wear a short dress on her honeymoon. Her husband insists and she relents. When her in-laws find out, they berate her – not the husband – for putting the honour of the family at stake.
Balika Vadhu: Anandi’s exam results are posted to her home. Her husband’s uncle knows the envelope contains her marksheet and opens it without any qualms. He calls Anandi and the other relatives, but doesn’t give her the marksheet. Instead, he goes through it and declares proudly that she has scored very good marks. He then passes it on to Anandi’s father-in-law, who also grins proudly. Anandi and her mother-in-law are right there, but neither asks to see the marksheet. Anandi smiles, touches her in-laws’ feet, says her achievement is all thanks to them and smiles again. The scene ends and Anandi still doesn’t know how well she has done since she hasn’t looked at the marksheet yet.
Woman should be a homemaker, not a working professional
Sasural Genda Phool: Suhana gets a job as – lo and behold – a television actor! Of course, this involves late nights. That angers her mother-in-law who claims that her duty is to take care of her husband Ishaan. “Tumhe Ishaan ki khushi ke liya laaya hai, tum uska khaane ka dhyaan nahin rakhte ho.” (You have been brought to ensure Ishaan’s happiness, you are not taking care of his food.) As if it is too much to expect a grown man to arrange for his own meals when his wife is supplementing his income.
Saas Bina Sasural: Toasty is a top computer science student, but once she weds Tej, she gives up all her career ambitions. It’s not forced, nor is there much hullabaloo about it; it’s just something that is understood, an expected course of action.
Sasural Simar Ka: Simar cooks dinner, but her in-laws claim it is tasteless. Simar begs to be allowed to make the necessary changes, but Roli walks in with the dinner she has cooked. The family tastes it and says it is indeed very yummy. They then compare the two girls’ cooking and equate their skills in the kitchen with how accomplished they are. As if the women don’t have an identity beyond their homemaking skills.
Fat women are the best caricatures
Kya Hua Tera Vaada: Pammi (Delnaz Paul) is an overweight woman who is constantly trying to lose weight. She firmly believes that if she doesn’t do so, her husband will leave her. But why is she fat? Because she eats too much. If she even discusses food, she will feel hungry. If she exercises, she will feel hungry. When she advises Mona (Mona Singh) to eat a hearty meal before she and her family board a plane, Mona tells her, “Mujhe aur mere parivaar ko itni bhook nahin lagti.” (My family and I don’t feel that hungry.) What is that supposed to mean? That Pammi is an oddity?
Sawaare Sabke Sapne Preeto: Preeto’s sister Meeta is slightly plump. Meeta breaks up her engagement with a cheat, but she is still upset and wonders who will marry her as she is neither beautiful nor thin. Initially Preeto cheers her up and says she will be loved for who she is. We soon realise she didn’t mean it. Preeto insists that Meeta go jogging every morning, as only then will she lose weight and get a good man. She also insists Meeta stop hogging ghee-laden parathas and paani puris. If Preeto had said just once that it was not good for Meeta’s health to eat such cholesterol raising foods, we wouldn’t have minded.