Dear Sharad Yadavji,
So nice to see you emerge out of the political woodwork, though I am not sure the issue you raised is worth Parliament’s time. But your clarion call to ban ‘Balika Vadhu’, Colors’ top-grossing daily serial, is intriguing to say the least.
Coming as it does in the middle of a bitter battle for the top slot, which Colors seems to be winning at the moment, it is possible that many will see a conspiracy in the timing of your late realisation of the untold harm the serial is causing.
I will not take you there, because there is no end to the argument and nobody knows the truth. For example, some people will say that if the serial is indeed banned, it will help Star Plus. Some others will say that if this controversy rages on, it will benefit Colors. Implicit in either group’s belief is the assumption that either one of the channels leaned on you to sauce up Parliament’s dour debates.
I for one belong to a third group, which thinks corruption in Parliament died with the cash-for-query sting in 2005 and that members of Parliament are not just privileged, but are also honourable.
So, let’s abandon that road after this one legitimate question: “‘Balika Vadhu’ has been on air for one year. Why is he waking up now?” That is countered easily. You do not watch the soaps and you were surfing for Doordarshan when your eyes fell on a ‘Balika Vadhu’ promo. That’s how you came to know of its existence. You are entitled to your right to not see TV soaps. So, nobody should grill you on your sleeping habits. I mean, come on, nobody asked Rip Van Winkle that question, why you?
As far as I am concerned, it all comes down to what you are objecting to, more than why you are objecting and why now. Hence, we will discuss only the substance of your objection, not the motive.
But how could you come to the debate without fleshing out your argument? You say the serial is against the law of the land because it glorifies child marriage and hence, should be yanked off. Flimsy argument, Sharadji, very flimsy. Firstly, how about eliminating child marriages before shooting down a serial on child marriages? Have you not heard about Akshaya Trithiya and what happens on that day to many young girls and boys in many parts of the country? Or do you think we have shooed away child marriages with a legislative wand: “Here’s the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, vanish you evil, whoosh!”
Secondly, if it is your conviction that there should be no serials on topics that have been banned by law, just what is Doordarshan showing these days? Does Doordarshan showcase some sanitised, fantasy land where there are no murders, no rapes, no dacoities, no scams, no atrocities, no exploitation, no evil at all?
Or is it your philosophy that what you don’t see doesn’t exist, so crime is easily eliminated by eliminating serials?
Thirdly, since you have accidentally discovered the existence of this pernicious evil called ‘Balika Vadhu’, why don’t you find out a little more about what is happening outside the tranquil world of Doordarshan? Raakhi Sawant is trying to find her “true love” on national television (NDTV Imagine). Boys and girls first heap abuses at an outgoing contestant and then chuck heaps of cowdung on that person’s face in Bindass’ ‘Dadagiri’. It’s a constant supply of ‘F’ words on MTV’s ‘Roadies’ and the channel’s ‘Splitsvilla’ has a bunch of young girls desperately trying to outdo each other to entice two cool dudes. People are eating worms and sleeping with snakes for a reality show on Sony. Middle-aged women are going on national TV to answer questions such as “would you have physical relationship with another male if you thought your husband would never get to know” and 60-plus TV actors with three wives and one mistress are being asked if they have illegitimate children! (‘Sach ka Samna’, Star Plus).
Today’s TV is an entirely wild, new world, Sharadji. ‘Balika Vadhu’ is one of the sanest forms of family entertainment and even comes with an irritating social message at the end of the show every day. You are lucky you miss it, as a regular viewer I envy you that. ‘Balika Vadhu’ is not alone. Serialdom is agog with stories of the girl child; abused, exploited, discriminated, traded. ‘Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Kijo’, ‘Na Aana Is Des Mere Lado’, ‘Bidaayi’, ‘Bhagyavidhaata’… (Ambica Soni is clever. She is not about to heed your call because she realiases she could be banning serials for the rest of her long tenure!)
Since soaps are anathema to you, Sir, I’m sure you get to see the news on the private channels occasionally. While doing so, have you happened in on the promos to their crime, astrology and science shows? Or even a story on adulterated food or genetically moderated food? Designed to scare and intimidate, they have replaced Gabbar Singh in the post-‘Sholay’ mother’s list of lullabies. “So jaa warna news channel chala doongi!”
You see, Sharadji, a lot has been happening while you have been living in the DD bubble. Since you don’t force me to live in it, I have no issues, but now that you have peeped out a bit, let me tell you there’s a gigantic war going on out there. Suddenly, from the monopoly of one channel, there are three channels at the top of the heap. There’s a fascinating slugfest between Colors, Star and Zee. So far, it’s been a healthy, fair game, and we are enjoying it the way it is.
We don’t need any politician to muddy the waters here. So, thank you for not watching the soaps, Sharadji. Stay with Doordarshan.
(Venkat, as the author is called, recalls that Sharad Yadav is the one who said he would commit suicide if the Women’s Reservation Bill went through Parliament!)