An open letter to TV viewers

An open letter to TV viewers
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First Published: Fri, Feb 27 2009. 08 54 PM IST

Balika Vadhu: Are you hooked to the life and times of a child bride?
Balika Vadhu: Are you hooked to the life and times of a child bride?
Updated: Fri, Feb 27 2009. 08 54 PM IST
Dear TV addicts (mum included),
I know you’ve been out of sorts ever since all those saas-bahu serials went off air. Honestly? The K phenomenon was something I never really understood. But Ekta Kapoor had your pulse. She recognized the power of a zari-draped tale and she gave you what you wanted. When her best-sellers went off air (or should I say when you finally accepted they were becoming repetitive), you were at a loss.
You, my darlings, were prime candidates for some rebound love.
Balika Vadhu: Are you hooked to the life and times of a child bride?
Then along came the sob story of a child bride and you tuned in to eight-year-old Anandi’s every post-marital disappointment. So real. So sensitive. Unlike those saas-bahus, the members of this family had shades of grey, right? Besides, what’s wrong, you reasoned? Child marriage does occur in several places, including Rajasthan, where the story of Balika Vadhu is set. And the show carries a disclaimer at the end of each episode cautioning you that child marriage is injurious to the health of this country.
Now that you’ve pushed the child bride (and her child widow friend) to the top of the general entertainment channels’ rating game, they’re dishing up an even more sensational tale of female infanticide for you. Your faith in the child bride (and her child widow friend) empowered the creative types so much they prepared a promo for the new show, Na Aana Iss Des Lado, that showed a group of people drowning a just-born girl child.
What’s wrong, you say?
At least in Kapoor’s world you knew who the bad guys were. The black and white characters made it easy to distinguish between right and wrong. The only thing you copied from those serials was the clothes and bindis. You knew it was a grand show, nothing more.
Remember Rajni? The star of Basu Chatterjee’s 1980s Doordarshan serial was everyone’s favourite crusader. Now that’s a woman who was interested in battling India’s everyday wrongs. Currently, policewoman Kiran Bedi is trying a version of alternate dispute redressal on her ongoing show, Aap Ki Kachehri.
But Balika Vadhu?
How does a serial that dwells on the happy and sad moments of a child bride and the people she lives with do anything to fight the crime that is child marriage? It just exploits the horror of a phenomenon that some Indians are fighting hard to eradicate.
If you really want to do something about child brides, there are a million organizations that could do with your time and money. But please don’t fool yourself into believing that a television channel is saving the world by its “sensitive portrayal” of child brides and baby girl killers. Crimes against girl children, it would seem, are the new quick route to TRP fame.
By watching these serials, you legitimize the existence of such phenomenon. You tell the channel it’s okay to use crimes against baby girls to entertain you. Go ahead, we viewers are with you, you seem to be saying.
But I have faith in you, dear viewers. One day soon I know, you will see the light, break the addiction, switch the channel.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Feb 27 2009. 08 54 PM IST