Saas-bahus, glamorous girlfriends, conniving nands, bojh bani betiyan, bechari bhabhis, sariyal sisters, pareshan pehli biwis, dayan doosri biwis, nosy rishtey wali aunties…. matlab ke bas soch hai aap ki. Pick any drama on any channel at random and you are highly likely to find a woman holding court.
There is, therefore, no arguing the fact that our drama industry is very female focused in terms of the kinds of stories they choose to tell. Ask the industry people about this phenomenon and they will happily acknowledge that this is no accident. Given that the majority of their viewers are women there is a conscious effort to package and present stories in a way that would be attractive to this demographic, hence the plethora of ‘women-oriented’ dramas, where women and their issues are the focus of attention.
So far so good. But what does it actually mean for a drama to be woman-oriented? Is it enough to say that just because it features a woman in a lead role it is a woman-oriented serial? Should we be still calling it a woman-oriented story if the woman in question has no say in her own story and is effectively powerless to make decisions about her life? What about the question of her agency?
Closely related to the question of women’s empowerment is the overly simplified distinction that viewers tend to draw between a ‘weak’ woman and a ‘strong’ woman. Is it really as easy as saying that a woman who cries is weak and the one who doesn’t is strong? How do we differentiate between the two? And does this have to be a case of an either or situation? Can a woman not be ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ in equal measures depending on her particular circumstances?
These are but only a few questions that come to mind whenever the term woman-oriented drama is used to describe what we see unfold on our TV screens day in day out, there is so much more here that can and should be questioned and discussed. I invite you all to join me for a cup of chai and share your thoughts, feel free to illustrate your responses with pertinent examples from dramas.
I have started the ball rolling with this recent article that I wrote for The Friday Times, where I reviewed four recent serials with similar questions in mind. In addition to addressing the above-mentioned issues I have also highlighted how differently a same old story reads when we change the protagonists from female to male, thus underscoring the point about the very limited, if any, agency assigned to women in our everyday serials.
I now look forward to reading your thoughts so bas ab aap log jaldi se aa jayen … chit chat aur chai awaits you!
Written by SZ~
Link to my Friday Times article