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Monday, January 18, 2010

What of Sidheshwari now? - Aagle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo

Okay, so now Shekhar wants to be “good friends only” with his legally married, socially accepted first wife Sidheshwari. He has even been kind enough to grant her the allowance to stay on in the same house. But he has made it very clear that he will only recognize and treat Laali as his ‘true’ wife and will not hand over their child to anybody. What magnanimity! …What travesty! One woman’s sense of dignity and respect, does it always have to come at the price of another woman’s place and position in her family and her house? If you were to go by the recent happenings in the Zee Serial Aagle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, it would appear so.

The makers of this vastly popular serial have struck gold with this story of exploitation of women in rural India. Their attempt ought to be lauded for the singular fact that they had the courage to bring in a new setting to Hindi Prime time Television-rural, poor, caste-ridden, woman-centric. Having done this the makers are unwilling to consider the plight of the many woman characters of the story, choosing instead to focus only on Laali, the central character. So while Laali faces many trials and tribulations single-handedly and emerges victorious, the other female characters though caught in the same double bind of caste and patriarchy do not seem to inspire the imagination of either the production house or the channel.

One such character whose story could have also been at the centre stage is that of Sidheshwari. Initially, the beloved of her husband, she has been cast aside as Shekhar now decides to remain committed only to Laali. Her identity has been taken from her and given to another. She is being made to feel like a guest, one whose presence or absence will leave no impact on others. Like yesterday’s newspaper, her husband has tossed her away for another, robbing her of her sense of self, leaving her without a position in society. So while Laali finds her rightful place, Siddheshwari is being denied what is rightfully hers. Like most serials here too, one woman has turned out to be another woman’s bête noire.

The road ahead for Sidhheshwari seems uncertain. She is no longer what she was-beloved wife, much adored daughter-in-law, a woman of position (even though that position was derived). Now she has lost a lot of that. Anchorless, she might drift into oblivion, becoming just a footnote in this whole story. Or she might resurrect herself as a woman out to avenge and get back what was hers once upon a time. Where does she go from here is something that can be an entirely new and interesting track. Indeed it will be interesting to see how the writers and makers of this serial are able to justify or redeem this gross appropriation of role and relationship.

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