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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ghar ki Lakshmi Betiyaan

This is the popular 10 PM weekday serial on Zee. It also clashes with another programme on Star Plus, on the same theme (Betiyaan, Apni Ya Paraaya Dhan), namely that of a household having a strong patriarch (father) and of more daughters in the house than sons. And this in a household that values sons much more daughters. So, with 2 serials of the same nature, there was bound to be a clash, and it happened in the nature of a legal skirmish between Zee and Star before the serials started. Anyhow, there was an out-of-court settlement, and now both serials are ongoing.
Ghar ki Lakshmi Betiyaan is about the sexism that occurs in a number of families in India, and shows this in a form that is truly horrific. I don't know whether the intention of the serial was to be so blatant about it, but the first few months of the serial were an absolute horror to watch, what with a father being so blatant about his preference for a son over the daughters that he has. He is shown favouring his son in everything and absolutely uncaring about the wishes of his daughters. Is this a realistic portrayal of things happening in India? In urban areas, among the families I have seen, I don't remember any family having such a warped mindset, but with such prevalence of dowry and female infanticide, it is quite possible that such things happen a lot.
However, the serial seems to have toned down this part of the discrimination a bit, and actually shown the lead characters to be capable of revenge, and of playing a part in the betterment of conditions in their house, so maybe the serial makers thought that things were going too awry.
So what's the story? There is this father, Suryakant Garodia (Yatin Karyekar), whose word is law in his family. He is married to Savitri and he already has 3 daughters, and he is positively impatient for a boy. He is assured that the next child is going to be a boy, but come Diwali time and a daughter is born, called Lakshmi. Suryakant is absolutely horrified by this, and with the approval of his mother, he re-marries and gets Menka (Tanushree Datta) to the house as his second wife (illegal of course).
She is of course, shrewish. She gives birth to a son, and is always on the lookout for how to get primacy in the house, especially since she is the second wife. It is easier since the first wife has only daughers, and the clear assumptions is that the daughters are paraya dhan, that is, they are meant to go to somebody else's house as brides, and are not expected to play any major role in this house. That is something that is ever clear to them, both in terms of future (they will get married) and in terms of their status in the house. This situation is all the more galling, even more since there would be households where something similar happens, and anybody practising such a thing will be easily able to justify such practises.
Well, they grow up, and the eldest one, Saraswati (Kshitee Jog) gets married. Lots of joys in the house, with an extended marriage preparation, although with a lot of drama related to the daughters. However, Saraswati's marriage turns out to be a disaster, with her husband, Bhavishya, turning out to be a nutcase. He tortures her in different ways, and finally burns her. Saraswati comes back to her house, and her mother, who is totally subservient to her husband, supports her in this. In the matter of getting revenge, Saraswati works with her sister, Laxmi (Twinkle Bajpai). Laxmi, even though she is the youngest, is supposed to be the most wise person, and not willing to take any wrongs lying down. The idea is that these sisters will start to show their true colors, in terms of doing good things, solving issues and proving their worth to their father.
However, the biggest issue that I have with such serials is the fact that they take a family situation which is absolutely retrogade, and any improvements in the situation will not happen for months or years, till which time one sees prime-time serials displaying discrimination at its worst.

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