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The dilemma of Balika Vadhu

A hearty welcome to our very first guest blogger, Soaps With Wine. Here she discusses what made Balika Vadhu the talk of the nation when it was first launched almost 4 years ago and the dilemma the serial currently faces.

Balika Vadhu (2008-), the flagship show on Colors, started out with an admirable premise. It was a vehicle to highlight the evil and backward practices that are still prevalent in many parts of India, starting with the most regressive of all – child marriage. And what better way to show it than through the eyes of a child who was forced to undergo the practice herself. An intelligent, mature young girl, who but for her ill-timed marriage would have gone on to do bigger and better things in life. Enter Anandi.

Through the eyes of Anandi, the show covered a range of evils that young girls face. Child widowhood (Phooli), teen pregnancy (Suguna) , dowry deaths and more. Once Anandi is married, they moved on to the travails faced by this young girl, who began shouldering household responsibility at an age when she should have been enjoying her childhood. How she had to abandon her education to keep the family members happy. So far so good.

The show then began to delve more deeply into the Singh family – Bhairav and Sumitra, her progressive inlaws; her sister-in-law Suguna; Gehna – her teenage aunt, married to Bhairav’s older brother Basanth; and the matriarch – the rigid, respectable Daadisa. And of course, Jagdish, or Jagya, her husband. The makers did a remarkable job in building their characters, fleshing them out, and building up the innocent friendship between Anandi and Jagya.

It briefly delved into the “dramatic soaps” genre – when Jagya runs away Anandi, inexplicably, accompanies his dad to Mumbai and takes a bullet to her head to save her husband. Which was a good opportunity to bring in yet another social evil. Bigamy. When Jagya’s granny gets him married to another girl and there’s a long drawn out Panchayat which finally declares the second marriage invalid.

Just when I, and other viewers I’m sure, began to feel that the makers were losing the plot, they pulled out yet another gimmick that makers of TV soaps often resort to with some success. The Leap – when the show jumps a few years ahead to take the story forward.

So it’s 5 years on and Anandi and Jagya are reunited and resume life as a married couple. Of course, it took as many episodes as words in that sentence to get there, but then this is a daily show, so we have to give them some leeway.

From there on, it exploited a golden opportunity to flog its bete noire – the evil of bal vivaah (child marriage). So Jagya goes off to medical school and meets another girl and falls in love. They marry, and Jagya comes home and accuses his parents of tying him down to an uneducated girl and how the new girl Gauri  (who, as always in the world of serials, is the ill-fated girl who was his second wife long ago. Yeah, why did they need to do that? Any old girl would have done, no? Does it make it better that the girl he married as an adult is the girl he married as a boy? Anyway, I digress) – so he argues that Gauri is more of his equal in terms of education, sophistication et al.

At that point, I mentally stood up and applauded. Woah show, you did it! Point well made!

Too soon, as it turned out.

We had Jagya and Gauri vs Anandi and her in-laws. Anandi restarts her education to get on with her life, finds her calling in social service and earns the respect of society. Which would have been a good place to end the story, no? Maybe to satisfy the Anandi lovers, they could have brought in a cool dude, better than Jagya, who would have married her so she has a TV-show type happy ending. No? Nope, wrong answer!

From the past few episodes, it appears that they are trying to bring Jagya back to Anandi. Gauri is slowly and surely turning into a scheming shrew. All her supporters turned against her. Don’t look now, but she’s actually becoming the vamp of the show.

Why Colors, why? Why did you turn it into a clear cut good guy-bad guy show? The one good thing about this show was that all characters, barring Anandi, were neither black or white, neither good nor bad, just all shades of grey. So while Daadisa was old fashioned, she had a heart of gold and while Jagya’s parents were progressive and affectionate, they were also too weak to stand up to Daadisa against child marriage, or her decree that young Anandi should give up her education. So why is Gauri turning into a clear-cut witch now?

The answer, probably,  lies in the dilemma of Balika Vadhu.

On the one hand, if you have a show that has set out to crusade against the evils of child marriage, how can you give the protagonist couple a happy ending? Doesn’t that make Anandi’s entire battle worth it, and hence send out a message that it’s not that bad a deal?

On the other hand, what about the millions of viewers for whom Anandi and Jagya are THE couple of the show? Who have invested hours of  TV viewing, discussing, debating and are now convinced that that’s the way to go. That Jagya must return to Anandi? Do you seriously want to put them off the show? And your channel?

One way they could move and meet both objectives is to have Anandi moves on to bigger, better things – politics, business, education. Jagya and Gauri split up. Justice has been served. They can  meet after years and talk about how things went wrong. Anandi a successful politician and Jagya a divorced lonely doctor.

So what do you guys think?

Which way do you think the serial should go?

Credit Roll

Show: Balika Vadhu
Channel: Colors
Premiere Date: 21 July 2008

Production House: Sphereorigins Multivision Pvt. Ltd
Cast: Avika Gor, Pratyusha Banerjee, Avinash Mukherjee, Shashank Vyas, Anjum Farooki, Anup Soni, Smita Bansal, Surekha Sikri
Creator: Purnendu Shekhar
Writer(s): Purnendu Shekhar, Gajra Kottary, Rajesh Dubey, Usha Dixit & Raghuvir Shekhawat
Director(s): Siddharth Sengupta, Pradeep Yadav
Executive Producer: Zakir Shaikh
Producer(s): Sunjoy Waddhwa & Comall Sunjoy
Cinematography: Sanjay K Memane & Anil Katke


About Cher Ami

I break down current events for a younger audience by cutting out the BS. Been a journalist for two decades, and still am, in a way. Passionate about news, passionate about social media and believe information is the best weapon.


18 thoughts on “The dilemma of Balika Vadhu

  1. I haven’t seen Balika Vadhu but I know the premise of the show. I’m with you I think. It would have been commendable of the serial to depict how the in the end the child marriage did neither Anandi nor Jagya any favours.

    Unfortunately marriages in serials, even when they are oh-so-wrong on so many levels, are a force of their own. There seems to be this idea that in the end the bond of marriage prevails over everything else*. Just think of the number of serials based on the premise of marriages of convenience and how they end!

    When Gulaal (another show from Sphereorigins) depicted a 22 year old Gulaal deciding to marry a 10-or-so year old Kesar because of the Deeyarvattu tradition I wondered how it would be taken forward. I liked the depiction of a very conflicted Kesar. Gulaal thought that once Kesar grew up she would break their marriage and get him married to Talli, his childhood friend, but ofcourse it wasn’t that simple. Aside from Kesar’s other issues with Gulaal, like his misunderstanding that she complied with the killing of her husband (his brother), imagine what getting married to your bhabhi – someone you share a loving & open rapport with and who you maybe even have an innocent crush on, does to you as a kid. He wouldn’t have know what to feel and if as a grown man he returns and finds himself attracted to her what should he do now? In the end it made sense for Kesar and Gulaal to be together because of the layers and layers of characterisation that had come before.

    However, in other cases serials, I think, should feel a sense of obligation towards depicting relevant social messages, or at the very least not undermining them. Especially with Balika Vadhu where the creatives themselves chose to take on the topic in the first place! I know I haven’t spent 4 years watching this show so my opinion can’t hold as much weight as a loyal viewer’s would but really turning the woman Jagya chose for himself into a scheming vamp in contrast to the woman who his family chose to marry him to as a child just seems like shoddy writing as well as lack of commitment to the social issue the serial chose to address.

    The blind idea that any and every marriage is forever is starting to change a bit. I’m sure viewers of Sasural Simar Ka spent months and months in terror, thinking the creatives were going to make Roli and Prem the official lead couple instead of Simar and Prem because on the day of the wedding it was the barely-18 Roli under the ghunghat during the wedding ceremonies instead of her sister Simar. However, the show finally showed that a marriage is a marriage not because of the ceremonies but because of the bond between two hearts and thus it is that Prem and Roli get a divorce and after much rigmarole Simar and Prem finally marry.

    I myself spent quite a few months while watching Maryada wondering whether the show was going to go back on all the good it had done by depicting a non-stereotypical gay relationship (a first for Indian serials) by having the character Gaurav decide that he loved his wife Vidya after all and was no longer gay and in love with Karan. The creatives however knew what they were doing and eventually everyone comes to accept that Vidya and Gaurav’s marriage should end for the sake of them both and that Karan and Gaurav’s relationship should be accepted. It took a long time but it got there in the end and boy was it satisfactory.

    If these shows can do it one would hope that Balika Vadhu could also display a sense of commitment to showing why child marriages shouldn’t happen.

    Posted by Nakhrewali | January 26, 2012, 11:10 pm
    • I didn’t follow Maryada or Gulaal, but boy if I’d known they were dealing with such progressive subjects, I sure would have. I shared your apprehension about Simar and the marriage that luckily didn’t happen. This debate reminded me of another Sphere origins show Saat Phere (Also set in Rajasthan and also dealt with another social evil – the bias against dark skin), where the dark skinned Saloni still marries into a great family with progressive inlaws and a loving husband, but that made sense to the overall plot. Fortunately for the Balika Vadhu loyalists, the conversion is still underway, so they can change their mind if they need to. LEt’s hope they figure a less clumsy way to sort this out.

      Posted by Soaps with wine | January 27, 2012, 10:42 pm
      • Yeah, I must say Gulaal and Maryada are definitely on my list of meaningful and well executed serials from recent times. And if Gulaal ended a bit too early because of lack of TRPs or Maryada sometimes stretched a particular plot too much I got over it because in the end it was worth following those shows because they were examples of how we do still have interesting and engaging fiction content delivered to our small screens despite claims to the contrary.

        Maryada was meant to finish by 25 Jan 2012 because of lack of TRPs (what else) but was recently granted a 6 month extension. I’m not entirely sure where they can go from here now that almost all the issues the show started out exploring have been resolved. I’m a bit worried they’re gonna go around in circles but let’s wait and watch.

        Yeah here’s hoping the writers of Balika Vadhu decide exactly what direction they want to go in and that the direction does not undermine what they set out to discuss.

        Posted by Nakhrewali | January 28, 2012, 12:39 am
  2. P.S. Does SeriousAboutSerials have a Tumblr?

    I just got a Tumblr (which I barely know how to operate haha) So far on there I am following my favourite Los Angeles vegan blogger and Memphis from BWhat.

    Anyway, if SAS (SeriousAboutSerials) has one, I will subscribe/follow or so forth if so hehe:D

    Posted by Vice Prez Gauri Di | January 27, 2012, 10:32 pm
  3. Lovely post and lovely pics!

    Wish I had something more of substance to contribute to the discussion but I didn’t watch BV.

    And re comments above, I didn’t last too long with either Maryada or Gulaal. (They were both a bit too serious for me. I watch serials at the end of the day, and after all the stress of work, I mostly wish to see cheerful, light-hearted fare. So I watch the candy-floss love story shows pretty much all the time.)

    Posted by Vice Prez Gauri Di | January 27, 2012, 10:29 pm
    • Thanks! the pictures are all thanks to Nakhrewali.

      Posted by Soaps with wine | January 27, 2012, 10:44 pm
    • Heh dee I remember ages ago mentioning that I tend to seek out light-hearted serials as well, at least when I was a student it was because all that padhaai ka tension would be relieved by a funny MJHT or DMG ep.

      These days I have the chance to explore other shows a bit more and I must say I am liking what I see. There really is no dearth of types of stories being told even if saas-bahu type serials dominate a little bit.

      Posted by Nakhrewali | January 28, 2012, 12:42 am
  4. if jagya lives happily with gauri than it is illegitimate relations flourishing and good but in india we have culture of arrange marriages and no doubt anandi was less educated but not gawar nor illetrate decent graceful wife and jagya lustful man for city life nothing else if it happens than marriage institution will fade away in india so stick to good points of culture that it is wife who is part of sukh dukh who is always at side of husband and even family is to support so it better jagya comes back to anandi and they get together in life and gauri should be punished with jagat . he should be thrown out frm medical for his fake identity and in gita lord says ABHIMAN is biggest cause of man’s downfall jagya was in abhiman that he is a doctor but one should first know he is a human being and wife is not a toy to throw out of life

    Posted by anshu | February 1, 2012, 6:44 am
  5. I totally agree with you and I believe that’s what they are doing. I don’t just want Jagiya and Gauri to split up but I want Gauri to leave Jagiya. I want her to say that Jaigya is not good enough for her and I believe that’s what they will eventually do. She will find another man or feel that Jagiya is holding her back and view Jagiya as a burden.

    I have been following the show since few months after the big leap. And I got basic idea through flashbacks they shwo. I truly love it and I am very proud of the writers. They have managed to keep it interesting yet truthful to topic since almost 5 years now. I JUST LOVE THIS SHOW. I think I will remember for it long time after it ends. Its the only show I am watching. I am loving the show right now. I love Shiv and Anandi togeather. I know they will stay togeather and I really look forward to what they will bring.

    I also love the side tracks this show has. Sometimes I get tired of seeing too much Anandi and Jagiya and they will feature some really real stories. (The one about guruji, who tried to rape a girl at his ashram. also Anandi helped the young girl get married and start a new life.) I truly have no compliants from the writers. It’s hard to write something and not get carried away. I believe that’s what happend when they started showing Gauri in negative character. Or it might just the way it was shown. It might have been much different on paper.

    I used to feel for Gauri’s character but not anymore. Her character is bit evil and its right for them to show it. She is arrogant and ignorant. I mean there are people like that. Another shade of humans. I do feel bad for Jagiya though. Bechara is left all alone. He has no one. Gauri at least has her job, career and bright futute, he doesnt even have that. I really look froward to what they will bring next and how they will portay it. I have trust and faith in the writers. If they have not failed till now, they will not anymore.

    Gulaal and Maryada were both great shows. But I think its the wiriting. The writers moved too fast and took it too far. I loved Gulaal at the beginning but just for 2 months, as soon as the lead died I couldn’t take it anymore. I only watched the gay storyline of Karan and Gurav but for a long time it seemed like it wasnt going anywhere howeever i loved how it ended. Actually even gulaal was tried to married off to a Eunuch. He used to dress up at night and go to temple at night but his strict father didnt know about it. And I loved that they showed soemthing new until They showed that when his mother was pregnant, they didnt help someone and that man cursed that their son would not be happy…. n that’s y he was born like that. I hated that. and couldnt take it anymore.

    Posted by ankit_1006@yahoo.com | July 15, 2012, 2:26 pm
    • I’m really sorry this is such a late reply Ankit!

      I have myself not followed Balika Vadhu at all so I don’t have much knowledge/many opinions about it. I am aware though that since the guest blogger last wrote this article much has happened, including the introduction of Shiv’s character for Anandi. I’m glad to hear their track is going well – I’ve enjoyed watching Siddharth Shukla in shows in the past. By the way, you may enjoy reading this post by Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of Ormax Media, celebrating 1000 episodes of the serial.

      I’m glad to hear that the show often features meaningful ‘side tracks’ – this is the one thing I think more serials need to explore because sometimes they get such tunnel vision with their “jodi” and kitchen politics business that they fail to realise the potential for so many other types of stories that reflect real life.

      I take your point about Gulaal – I guess I didn’t actually follow the start of it too closely and only came in after the leap when the older Kesar was introduced so it didn’t bother me much that the pace was too quick perhaps. Yeah that whole cursing bit was a bit off. For a show like Gulaal, they really needn’t have added that 😐

      Agreed that occasionally Maryada tended to drag its feet but like you I enjoyed it thoroughly. Overall the quality of the show – the tracks, the emotions portrayed, the ‘messages’ were well done and not regressive and I was very pleased about that. I was rather miffed that they didn’t even give Gaurav and Karan a proper farewell episode – how random to have them disappear off to the US without informing ANYONE but Roshni Devi! But that was more due to logistical reasons to do with actor availability so I can’t be too hung up about it!

      Anything else you are enjoying on tv currently? Any recommendations?

      Posted by Nakhrewali | July 25, 2012, 12:24 am
  6. Thanks Ankit for your comments! For some reason I didn’t get an alert for this one, but just did for nakhrewali’s response.
    Since this post, we’ve had the “cool dude” entry I had written about, and he seems on track to be Anandi’s knight in shining armour. (I must admit I kinda thought they would go the conventional way and have Bhairav and Sumitra find a boy whom Dadisa will reject saying she’s Jagya’s wife, so I am pretty thrilled to see Dadisa taking the lead with Shiv. It’s endearing and funny at the same time, especially when she overdoes it… although why didn’t Anandi see this coming?)
    Gauri and Jagya seem to be heading for disaster, aren’t they? I must say I am really pleased with the way they developed Jagya’s character…. brought up as the only grandson in a patriarchal family, he has turned into a chauvinist, which Gauri is now trying to deal with. Would be interesting to see where they take this track.
    So thanks again and keep visiting!

    Posted by Soaps with wine | July 25, 2012, 1:52 am
    • Eeks somehow failed to see your reply till now, but was glad to read your update 🙂 Sounds like the show is still going somewhat strong then. Is Gauri portrayed as a vamp or as someone who has to be what she is to match/deal with Jagya? Your comment about them intrigued me.

      Posted by Nakhrewali | August 14, 2012, 9:18 pm
  7. i jst dnt understand the concept of indian shows (esp balika vadhu).where only goal of a grl ‘s life is 2 get a life partner who loves her passionately. why can’t she live on her own terms with a progressive vision and strong broad minded attitude. she is being depicted as a depressed women who desperately needs a hero. dadisa is shown as sant mahatma now a days and jagya nd gauri, the victims of child mrg as antagonists. i jst dnt understand. are both jagya and gauri sole responsible for anandi’s woes?

    Posted by Hima | August 22, 2012, 1:19 am
    • You know what, it would be pretty neat if for once the heroine is shown rejecting the need for marriage or love at the end of a show. Alas a happily married life seems the be all end all for all serials and right now the only relatively recent show I can think of where the heroine decided not to get together with anyone was Mahi Way. And that was only because I think they were expecting to come back with s2 but never did lol.

      Posted by Nakhrewali | January 29, 2013, 7:38 pm
  8. Lately I’d been wondering, as a non BV watcher, if BV really does take a stand against Child Marriage. I hear people praise the show as combating it and making it out to be a social evil, etc etc. But from what I have gathered, the show actually uses other issues to make the point against child marriage. I wondered if anyone else felt the same and came across this. I have no idea if you still watch, or even if you will read this :), but I just wanted to give my two cents.

    You’ve already written out the problem in making Gauri and Jagya manipulative, the bad guys, antagonists, etc. Jagya now is redeeming himself. But then comes Ganga, who is supposed to be the next poster child of child marriage. But is she really? She’s a poster child for an abusive marriage and abusive in-laws. She was a child bride to an older man, second wife for the purpose of producing a child. (If I am not wrong, from what I’ve surmised this is the case.)

    Again, BV takes the issue of child marriage but throws in other social evils and uses those social evils to preach against child marriage. With Jagya and Anandi, instead of having the guts to deal with the realistic notion that the two as they grow find out that the other is not what they want, or what not, they make Anandi’s divorce by making Jagya negative. They still could’ve made Jagya cheat. For conservative reasons, okay they can’t make Anandi the one who decides this marriage is not for her (and how could she have, the way she was confined, denied education, due to her marriage status to Jagya). So it’s fine to have made Jagya the one who complained that the marriage is not his match. Hell, I’m fine with him as the cheater as well. However, it’s the lack of nuance in how all was handled. They had to make Gauri and Jagya manipulative, horrible people. Anandi could’ve still divorced Jagya for his philandering and for his lack of faith/commitment/belief in his marriage to Anandi.

    But no, they took an easy way out, that has little to do with child marriage.

    And now Jagya is on a redemption track. Ganga has been brought in as a child bride who had it worse than Anandi, and they tout that the show hasn’t lost its focus, that the show is keeping on track on child brides/child marriages and how it’s an ill to society.

    Yet, they keep showing child brides who are victims. There is no focus on the child grooms. The child brides who are shown as victims are victims because their grooms and families were horrible, not due to the actual practice of child marriage.

    I may be wrong, but this is what I gathered. And from your post an year ago, it seems you had similar thoughts. It would be interesting to hear if you still watch the show, and what you think of it now.

    Posted by Not_so_random | February 21, 2013, 6:08 am
    • Saw this comment late N_S_R! You’ve articulated the issue at hand well – had it not been for Jagya turning, in effect, temporarily negative, the narrative of the show would not have legitimized Anandi’s right to separate from Jagya (and vice versa). If they had at some point, even as a side story, dealt with a child marriage where both children had a fulfilling childhood without discrimination but found themselves unable to accept the alliance into which they were thrown in without full comprehension of its implications – then we could confidently say that yes, Balika Vadhu has addressed the issue of child marriage. Abusive in-laws, cheating husbands etc. are things one can say “aisa hamaare yahaan nahin hota” to, but to counteract the mindset that the child marriage has been done to secure the future of both girl and boy needs a message that says something to the effect of -you have no right to take such decisions on their behalf at a time when they don’t even understand what it means because nothing good can come of it-.

      This is why it really disturbs me that the makers of a beautiful show like Veera have also made Junoon – Aisa Nafrat Tou Kaisa Ishq where Meera forsakes her fiance Aakash to be with Prithvi, the boy she was betrothed to when she was kid, despite the fact that her mother suffered life-long exile from her village because she stood up for her daughter’s right not to have this decision made for her as a child by the elders of the village. This is wrong on so. many. levels.

      Posted by Nakhrewali | March 5, 2013, 10:40 pm

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