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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Balika Vadhu - a path-breaking serial on Colors, depicting the clash between the generations

Balika Vadhu has been a path breaking, trend setting and award winning effort in the world of Hindi serials, ever since it began. The entire set up of prime time serials had been fashioned in a particular mould till Balika Vadhu came along and brought in a paradigm shift in terms of content. Moving away from city-centric shows that usually focussed on the personal lives of a particular family, this show set itself in rural Rajasthan. For sure it had a woman protagonist as is the norm in television; it also talked of child marriage for the very first time.

For many of us child marriages are a relic of our cultural past, something that we got to hear about from our grandparents who experienced it in their lifetime. However in many parts of rural India and smaller towns, this is still a reality, a part of the social fabric of life. Balika Vadhu brought it into our focus by introducing us to Anandi and Jagiya- a pre-teen girl and boy who get married. It showed us the trials and tribulations faced by Anandi as she struggles to adjust to her new home, her new life and her new roles. As a daughter she was used to a carefree existence, concentrating on her education at which she would excel. Post marriage the first thing she is forced to give up is school.

As of now the focus is on the unfair discrimination between sexes when it comes to education. Anandi does not attend regular school but because she is such a brilliant student that she is able to take her annual exams by doing self studies. However her Dadi-sa forces her to spend maximum time tutoring her husband who is not as good as Anandi in studies. She also has to complete her share of the household work. On the morning of her examination, Dadisa makes her prepare tea knowing fully well that she could have used that time for revision. In her haste Anandi spills tea on her writing hand which Dadisa construes as heavenly intervention. In the evening when Jagdish tries to feed Anandi, Dadi-sa takes offence as a woman is not supposed to have food before her husband. Anandi has forever been subjected to Dadi-sa’s derision, recrimination and hurtful jibes and this act made the feisty old lady fly off the handle.

As a tearful Anandi looks on Dadi sa attacks her fierecely for making her husband work for herself. Jagdish protests as he considers it only fair exchange since Anandi has many times in the past helped him in a tight situation. Her other family members, especially her father-in-law (he has more faith in Anandi’s faith than in his own son) is more sympathetic to her. Dadi-sa is symbolic of all the old and traditional customs and norms, the not so good beliefs and values that need to be changed.

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