Resemblance to actual women is accidental

TV serials are woman-centric but not woman-friendly

A young woman is brutally raped in Delhi, a grim reminder of what it's like to be female in India. On television, something else is playing out.

A middle-aged man, drunk, molests a woman's sleeping form. They struggle, she eludes his crazed, violent advances and douses his passion with a bottle of spirits. She, then, lights a match and threatens to flame him. He backs off, scared: "Yeh dar tumhari aankhon mein hi hamari jeet hai,'' Tapasya taunts Tej Singh Bundela (Uttaran, Colors).

Applause. A female character in a TV soap bests a loutish man. Now, if only more followed her example.

Switch to Punar Vivaah (Zee). It's a second marriage for both Aarti and Yash. Her first husband returns to complicate their lives ó and the plot; Yash suspecting, with a little help from a wicked female relative, that Aarti still loves him, offers to stand aside. Aarti pleads with him to keep her even if he hates her because she loves him so, she'll do anything. Sita, she says, underwent agnipariksha. "What must I do to prove my love for you?" So, we still haven't got beyond the Ramayan.

Or, the K serials.

Television fiction is female-centric but not woman-friendly. Serials are about women and for a female audience, but the female characters are more enslaved than emancipated. Worse, the serials do not even come close to reflecting the urban India of 2012-13, forget about treating subjects such as sex or sexual politics. The closest we've come to acknowledging their existence is in the kiss between Mr Kapoor and Priya (Bade Achche Lagte Hain, Sony). And burning looks maybe exchanged but only by married couples (Parichay, Diya Aur Baati Hum).

Most lead characters, male or female, live in a bygone era (presuming it ever existed), who believe love is a four-letter word synonymous with "duty" and "obey". Serials delight in subservient women, bahus ó all of them "painted" and some "dented", mostly living in homes that are replicas of the Taj Mahal. And for most of them, occupation is a hazard they simply avoid.

... contd.

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