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?
Show: Balika Vadhu
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