31 August 2008

Balika Vadhu

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.


  1. I think since quite a substantial percentage of the viewers (NRI's and South Indians) of these "K" shows are those who probably dont know how to actually read the language, hence it makes sense for the producers to use an "american english spelling for a (Hindi) word".

    And those who watch these dont watch them with an analytical point of view, but rather to spend time at the end of the day with the subconscious intention of wanting to forget all the responsibilities and to either laugh, cry or be in awe of the fantasy lives created by the producers. When to the viewers it really does not matter if one of the characters (as in the elderly lady in "kyun ki..") should logically be the oldest person to have ever walked on Earth, what difference would it make to having a kid married off in fanatasy land?

    Perhaps the producers are simply trying to say ..."look at all what happens to a young girl if she is married off at such an age."

  2. I am a regular viewer of this daily soap but its not like all "K" shows it has a message with every episode to stop Child Marriage.

  3. Yaar, tere liye comments kaafi serious kism ke lagte hain! major!! heh heh! BTW, I JUST LOVE the way u write!!!

  4. Angel: thanks. Yes, I did see the comment at the end of the show that says "Child marriage in India is illegal". It's a prudent message.

    Tranquille ame: thanks for the msg. Yeah, I suppose I'm sad that people watch the show for entertainment. To me the show would be more meaningful if the emphasis was more on breaking the mould rather than embracing it. perhaps they should introduce a socialist firebrand who threatens to expose this to the authorities. Simply being benign about the show is unacceptable to me because it trivializes a very serious issue.

    aimless: thanks.

  5. Second most popular show in the country..


  6. i think this show is a breath of fresh air from those boring stereotype soaps
    i just love the concept and more than that the child
    when i see her crying on the show i feel like getting into the TV and giving her a big hug.

  7. wow! 2nd most watched show! :)

    anuja: the show makes me want to send this kid back to her home, give her an education and let her know that whether she wants to be a good wife or an astronaut nobody can make her do things that she doesn't want to.