Keeping it real?
After the monotony of soaps and the spate of reality shows, it’s a race between channels as to which will pick up which social issue. Ever since Balika Vadhu and Bidaai arrived, a string of stories revolving around social concerns, like Uttaran, Jyothi, Jaane Kya Baat Hui
and many others have made it to prime time slots.
The audience, though, isn’t buying all of them. “These shows start off on a serious note and once you begin to get interested, you find they end up on the same saas-bahu platform,” says Manasi Gupta, a regular viewer of Balika Vadhu and Bidaai.
Others have problems with the way issues and subjects are treated on such shows. “Many of these shows distort medical and legal facts. The issues to be concentrated on are sidelined. The presentation is outlandish and the shows lack characterisation and a storyline,” says Dr Sumalatha N, who watches some of these shows regularly.
Viewers like Narendra Kumar feel that producers of shows dealing with serious issues shouldn’t take a neutral stand. “Dealing with sensitive issues like child marriage, racism, abortion, miscarriage, rape, widowhood and even extramarital affairs in a neutral manner would amount to glorifying them. If they say they are trying to change the society views with such shows, then they should focus more on the negative aspects,” says Narendra. Recalling an Ekta Kapoor serial that supported mercy killing, Narendra says, “This is such a controversial social and medical issue and was dealt with so callously. I don’t think they even bothered to consult the people concerned from the medical field.”
Even in the TV industry, there are those who agree that the storylines drift away from the main topic. “I agree that all social issue shows end up being saas-bahu sagas. They are told in the same way. This is why they lose their audience connect,” says Pintoo Guha, producer, Uttaran.
Rajan Shahi, producer, Bidaai, says such shows should be kept short. “A social issue-based serial becomes like any other soap when it runs for more than a year. After that, the subject gets diluted. To avoid this, channels should dedicate just one show and slot to this genre,” says Rajan.
When asked how these shows can make a greater impact, Rajan says, “The right topics must be picked up and researched. The show should bring out both the positive and negative aspects of any issue. The subject should be treated in such a way that the show provides solutions.”
Not everyone agrees that serious issues are being mishandled by serial-makers. “We are not romanticising issues. However, we can’t get preachy or bring about social change,” says Purnendu Shekhar, concept and story writer of Balika Vadhu. “Recently in Rajasthan, a 12-year-old girl was married off to a 35-year-old man. But people got together and annulled the marriage. This is the impact of Balika….”