Why's TV cocking a snook at women's empowerment?

With Women's Day round the corner TV fails to highlight women empowerment despite being a strong medium which can influence many women across the nation.

With Women's Day round the corner TV fails to highlight women empowerment despite being a strong medium which can influence many women across the nation.

Why does women's empowerment find little space on the small screen? While there is a deluge of TV shows revolving around female protagonists preoccupied with household, husband, family and kitchen politics, a career-oriented and independent Indian woman is hard to find on television soaps that provide daily entertainment staples and are social influencers for millions of women around the country.

The portrayal of female protagonists on Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) on Indian television, which reaches out to over 130 million households, is sadly regressive, say industry veterans and experts.

Veteran actress and former Censor Board chief Sharmila Tagore, who believes in promoting strong female-oriented parts on the big screen, feels the TV medium needs to step out of its stereotypical portrayal of women.

"Content of TV is stereotypical. The shows still revolve around a preference for a son and kitchen dynamics. No women go to work. There is a complete absence of working women on the TV and that is not the case in real life," Sharmila recently stated.

Rightly so.

Be it Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Sasural Simar Ka, Uttaran, Doli Armaanon Ki, Pavitra Rishta or Gustakh Dil, the stories focus more on how girls forgo their career goals and objectives in an attempt to make everyone happy.

It wasn't always so.

Circa 1993: Indian television got one of its first soap opera in Tara that focussed on modern, educated and working women. The long-running soap ended in 1997.

In 2000, Tulsi and Parvati entered the scene and changed the depiction of women as homely, who stood up and spoke out for the right, but mostly within the parapets of their house.

Of course, there have been recent shows like Desh Ki Beti Nandini, Tumhari Paakhi and Ek Nayi Pehchaan, which have tried to bring in an element of women's empowerment. But the results aren't impressive.

In most cases, whenever a few shows tried something different, the result was not positive. The latest case in point is "...Nandini", a socio-political drama about a girl who becomes a political leader, which is soon to go off air. It reportedly failed to entice the audiences enough.

Who is to be blamed - audiences who are accustomed to emotional family dramas or the show's makers who find it risky to experiment?

Director Waseem Sabir, associated with shows like Ek Veer Ki Ardaas - Veera, Maryaada Lekin Kab Tak? and Phir Subah Hogi, believes the TV industry is unable to go beyond a particular zone as housewives dominate the pan-Indian audience that watches the shows.

"The audience is more interested in watching housewife sagas. We love seeing planning and plotting, and the truth remains that we don't enjoy other's happiness," Sabir said.

Actress Neha Marda, whose show Doli Armaanon Ki portrays the journey of small-town bride Urmi and her struggle to get love from her workaholic husband, believes TV shows merely "reflect the reality in Indian households".

"People like to come home and connect to stories or tracks that they too have experienced in their lives...Our target audience is women and they connect to the characters we portray on screen," Marda said.

Agrees Madhura Naik, who plays a key role in Tumhari Paakhi, a story of a down-to-earth girl whose positive nature turns away negative situations.

"TV is medieval with its approach towards women and that's mainly because the target audiences of such shows are housewives. I believe that to catch more such eyeballs, it's necessary that such target audiences can relate to such dramas to get hooked," she said.

Their observations may be right. However, the same audiences had connected with shows like Dard, Shanti and Saans.

The big question here is: will the hope of again watching career-driven women, who can set an example for the society via TV, die a silent death?

Your reaction

Neha Marda Thumbnail

Neha Marda

Sharmila Tagore Thumbnail

Sharmila Tagore

Madhura Naik Thumbnail

Madhura Naik

Maryaada Lekin Kab Tak? poster

Maryaada Lekin Kab Tak?

Phir Subah Hogi poster

Phir Subah Hogi

Desh Ki Beti Nandini poster

Desh Ki Beti Nandini

Ek Nayi Pehchaan poster

Ek Nayi Pehchaan

Pavitra Rishta poster

Pavitra Rishta

Gustakh Dil poster

Gustakh Dil

Tumhari Paakhi poster

Tumhari Paakhi

Uttaran poster


Veera poster


Doli Armaanon Ki poster

Doli Armaanon Ki

Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai poster

Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai

Sasural Simar Ka poster

Sasural Simar Ka

Comments (62)

The answer to your question - Please watch Gustakh Dil for Women Empowerment, and you will be inspired.

10 years ago

well fr me the true modern woman in serial of current era who actually is praiseworthy would be avantika kumar frm pyaar ka dard hai...I watch serials sometimes fr time pass n i dnt hav any fav serial these days but thts one character tht I can say is strong, ambitious n confident...

10 years ago

I think the article is confused about the scope of women's empowerment. A career is not the only thing that can empower women. Women's empowerment means being able to do what one wants to do without having to face gender-based bias. Home makers don't make a woman feel less empowered. Infact by stating such an opinion you are furthering the gender bias.
Coming to Tv shows, none of the recent TV shows show the realities of a woman's struggle or life. Gone are the days of Saans, Jassi, Udaan. You just can't take TV seriously anymore these days.

10 years ago

The funniest thing is that the people who are commenting here and saying they watch only 'progressive' stuff like IPKKND, 'Madhubala'. Khushi is one of the MOST regressive characters I have ever seen.

I don't watch DABH but I know it's story and I respect the makers for showing something like that. The acting might be bad and it's dragged a lot butit deserves to be on the top of the TRP list.

Ratan stays as one of my alltime favourite characters.

And YRKKH, while it irritates me as hell is VERY progressive u
in terms of Indian Tv. Akshara has been a business woman cum mom.

Once I was watching Star Parivar Awards and they showed a guy come forward on stage and say that his family got inspired by YRKKH and the women in his family no longer use a pallu. How many shows can boast of that?

That said, I agree with this article to a extent. Some shows showing the 21st century women are a good idea.

But these shows have an upside too, they promote famioy values a lot.

10 years ago

I dont know about the saas bahu daily shows. Which I defo don't like. The article is right. Why daily shows have to surround the kitchen and taunting of the saas. Why is that women are often showcased as weak and in need of emotions. They cry at spot and need a sahara. In my family no is like that. Why can't we see women portrayed as having dreams of having a career not of a perfect love, marriage and children. Or learning how to fight and save themselves instead of waiting for a knight in shining amour to come and protect them. Or speaking back to their abusive husband and teaching them a right lesson instead of getting scared and crying in a locked room. Is the ultimate goal of life for a girl is to get married. No social no nothing. I am really fed up seeing girls having a perfect married life with a prince charming and then twists and turns happen every couple of minutes. This is all getting childish now. All shows that my mum watches have to surround the kitchen and the taunting of the saas. Every drama I see is that the female lead is crying for her rights and husband is a wimp, saas is torturous and whole family is ignorant. I initially liked DABH since it was all about female lead wanting to become a police inspector but no she has to get married and stay at home and learn how to cook perfect dishes. The only reason I like MNB as a daily show is because its all about revenge. The same with crime shows no matter how lame the cases are still it does not show crappy love stories or kitchen politics. God knows what will be the future of Indian Television if it continues like this.

10 years ago

It is about empowerement. A housewife also can be empowered. I watch couple of shows in SP Diya aur Baati hum and Veera. To me Ratan in Veera comes across a empowered woman despite her not so educated status. The effort she puts 2 bring those 2 kids Ranveer and Veera is really praiseworthy. Whereas DABH which talks about empowerement through the protoganist Sandhya becoming IPS is actually showing regressive empowerement. Sandhya with all her education and even clearing Civil services has to run at the beck and call of her MIL because she needs to be a ideal Bahu. Education is not shown as empowering her. Now and then she is on sacrifice business.
On the other part the uneducated illtrate Bhabo controls the household with both her husband and sons afraid of her.
She uses the DILs for her own selfish needs and the DILs especially the empowered Sandhya is shown bowing down and down to all her MILs injustice without even telling her husband at times.

So empowerement is not about being in career or being at home. It is about your individuality and self respect. And I feel characters like Ratan are the need of the hour

10 years ago

TBH the only indian show I have loved hearty was only DMG and IPKKND and currently Beintehaa. All these three shows what womens can do. In DMG Riddhima was a doctor and she was serious at times and also
Bubbly. Khushi was funny, mature and cute while now Aliya is serious, stands for her rights and is quiet hot-tempted. That's why I adore thes 3 shows since they showed women power!!

Otherwise I must say Pakistani dramas are trillion times better than Indian because pakistani dramas have a limited episode, different story-lines and fresh. My favorite pakistani show has to be Dastaan, since over there they showed how much a Bano went through during the partition and what women had to bear.

10 years ago

Finally someone is talking sense,but sadly speaking no woman will ever let win or make successful a working women oriented soap because they are used to of seeing kitchen politics of women,vamps conspiring,playing dirty tricks and all,if a soap does show working woman environment it end up in girl cooking in the kitchen wearing heavy sarees and jhumkaas,there is also politics in working environment and how women struggle to make there place and strong position but all the heroines are shown making their strong position among bahus who end up becoming a beti and out classing the other bahus and vamps who are conspiring against her from day one,why can't we encourage the shows where women working in office are shown strong among men it will also encourage the women living in country sides,but no one is ready to accept shows like these.

Geet was one show where geet was shown fighting for her rights but that too lost its charm later,the only show I witnessed on tv that depicted reality of a woman's life was Hum pardesi hogaye that aired on sony,the story of an innocent girl malikka trapped by an nri and than transformation from an innocent girl into a strong independent woman having no second thoughts to patch up with her husband and than how she began to focus only on her career.

THUMBS DOWN to saas bahu sagas and all shows of Indian and Pakistani Tv.


10 years ago

Seriously the crap that is written never fails to amaze me. For everyone of those who think housewives are not working women... maybe the housewive in their home should take leave for 3 days, then they will realise the amount of work done by her... just because she is not paid a salary for the work to ensure a house is running smoothly to dismiss them as "housewives" is condescending!!! half of the TV actors take pride in saying" I never watch TV" but want the rest of the world to watch their pathetic shows!!! these double standards irk me so bad!!
As is, there is just one or two Hindi shows that are even worth watching!!! Please show women working too... but the point is it is rarely realistic and therefore ppl switch off watching that kind of office environment!!! have seen no show where an office is shown as it really is!! extremely cruel boss,rude boss or silly subservient employees are shown... trust me reality is far different from that and the make up and clothes women supposedly wear - ridiculous and conclusions basis those clothes is ludicrous!!
Gosh -tired... cant write more, though I would like to write with specifics!!

10 years ago

very diluted -- march 8... too much focus on women and women issues
ah! glaring

10 years ago

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