Some afternoons I watch the tube with my mother and share her TV watching experience. Mostly, I comment on the outfits (too loud!) or how no one on the soaps seems to hold a regular job or that in each episode the family aggregates in the main living space and dramatically ponders over a situation. Let's not also forget the digital enhancements that pick a person's face and delivers their expression to us in several angles lest we don't digest their emotions adequately. When the five minute long advertisements flash between the ten minute drama my mom channel surfs and if I am around she switches to the news channel. Now due to the enthusiasm that neither of us has to properly master the blasted remote control we have to flip through all channels between soaps and the news. While on one such journey I chanced to read the title of a show called "Balika Vadhu" (approximate translation: Child Bride) on a channel called Colors.
What caught my attention first was the spelling. Why is an Indian channel using an american english spelling for a word? Then, I was curious about the premise of the show. Child marriage is still actively practiced in India so I was impressed that a media outlet had decided to talk about it. Naively, I assumed that the show was to highlight that child marriages are illegal and how this social practice needs to end as the purpose it served previously is no longer relevant in today's context. Imagine my surprise when instead the premise of the show is about a girl Anandi, married to a boy at age 8 and revolves around her role in the joint family. Her trials and tribulations are the theme of the show. Besides making people aware of child marriages the show does nothing else to address the issue. It's pure entertainment, that a lot of people seem to like (based on my analysis on various discussion websites) because instead of the usual adult tableau of mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law this show chronicles married life from the lens of an 8 yr old. But, if you look at the show carefully the saas-bahu manifests itself clearly in another type of relationship: the lady of the house (Daadima) and the little kid.
Television media is so powerful, because in a country of illiterate people it's truly the one media that reaches everyone equally, besides radio. So, why is a television channel making a gross social practice - "entertainment"? Am I missing some other point here? That awareness trumps the social consequences? Or is it too much to assume that viewers don't care about the context of their soaps as long as they present something entertaining and different? Quite annoyed.
Also read Rashmi Bansal at Youth Curry who is equally revolted by show.