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With scripts tackling issues like cancer, remarriage and single motherhood, television has moved away from the machinations of the evil saas and the docile bahu. What's driving the small screen's revolution towards progressive story lines and realistic characters?
Have you caught up with Anandi recently, Indian television's balika vadhu who was married off at eight to a boy called Jagiya? Now that she's divorced her childhood husband, Anandi is rebuilding her life quite differently. She is the "sarpanch bitiya" of her village and runs a school for girls. Recently, she was in the news for stopping a child wedding in her village, with the help of the dashing collector saab, but more on him later.
First, let's talk about Maanvi, Jeevika's younger sister. The vivacious, prank-a-minute girl is currently battling cancer on primetime television. She's braved chemotherapy and lost her hair but doesn't think of herself as a victim. The tears she sheds are because she can't be with the boy she loves, Virat. Says Siddharth Malhotra, producer and show creator of Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai on Star Plus, "Maanvi never cries because she has cancer. She cries because she feels she can't be with the boy she has fallen in love with. Her emotions are that of a normal girl. She is taking cancer on the chin and has the attitude ki main cancer ko rona sikha doongi (I'll teach cancer to cry)."
The small screen is in the midst of a paradigm shift. Progressive storylines, modern treatment and realistic characters are bringing in fresh energy to teleserials. It's no longer just about the sagas and the saazish of the saas, bahu and the betis. With story lines tackling issues like cancer, female empowerment, remarriage, single parenting, television has come a long way from the days of kitchen politics and people returning from the dead. Today's bahu is not just content to make the best kheer in the family but, like Sandhya in Diya Aur Baati Hum, the country's top-rated show according to TRP ratings, aspires to be an IPS officer, and is encouraged to dream big by her uneducated husband Sooraj. Or, like Aarti and Yash in Zee TV's Punar Vivaah, happy to discover love after their first marriages don't last. No wonder television producer, Ekta Kapoor says, "Television soaps are, in many instances, more progressive than films."