Banegi Apni Baat, for instance.
It was sort of like an Indian Beverley Hills 90210. It was cool, about college kids, their problems, relationships, blah, blah, blah. And gasp! It showed people kissing! Like real-real kissing. Not the stupid peck-on-the-cheek type. Not the come-so-close-it-looks-like-you’re-kissing-when-you’re-secretly-not type. Full on kissing, boss. Dillagi, another show, also did this, but since the people involved were old (when you’re 12, 25 seems ancient) and not that nice looking, it didn’t count. BAB, on the other hand, had college kids kissing, no, wait, COLLEGE, as in place I’ll be at in four years, which has BOYS in it, who apparently KISS you!
And it handled subjects like teenage pregnancy, drug use, dysfunctional families, single parenthood and a whole lot of other shit that was mindblowing, shocking, controversial.
Let’s face it, it was COOL. Not to mention, in the 1990s, progressive to the point of being almost alientating.
Cut to the year 2009.
You switch on the TV and see – Utaran, Balika Vadhu, Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Keejo, Chittod Ki Rani Padmini Ka Johur and any number of soaps that are clones of each other in their plots, characters, costumes, values and pretty much everything. Especially in the wonderfully unifying element of being completely, totally regressive.
Seriously. Watch any of these shows for more than 5 seconds and you get pelted with ideological gunfire from the 1800s that tells you to forgive a cheating husband, mutely tolerate abuse at the hands of your in-laws, accept ill-treatment as part of your destiny as a girl, stay steeped in self-esteem issues because you’re dusky and be ok with dowry, child-marriage, sati, the caste system and pretty much every social evil that has plagued India since the time the East India Trading Company was just a gleam in Victoria’s eye.
All in the name of Indian values and the importance of family.
My question is this:
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH US?
Did we embrace BAB and its ilk because they represented a modernity and similarity with Western culture that we dreamed of but didn’t have? And by that logic, are we lapping up the Zee-and-Star Plus shitfest because we secretly ache for the past, where women were women and men were men and patriarchy ruled common sense?
What is it? Someone needs to find out. Because every pair of eyeballs glued to these little kaleidoscopic (and hence warped) windows to the Utopian past is dragging us back to the dark ages.
And I thought it was just our politicians…