We played host to a few relatives from Tamil Nadu, India lately. Uncles-in-law & aunts-in-law have been taking in a spot of the Californian sun and we added ourselves a few pounds of weight with all the cooking and eating that ensues. In all the hustle and bustle that visiting folks entail, I was not entirely surprised to see that Tamil TV serials reared their ugly heads in the television too.
Before I start, I want you to imagine a cage with a baboon waiting to get near an orchestra of badly tuned musical instruments nearby. Bear with me, I shall explain why a baboon is caged nearby.
I was cleaning up in the kitchen after an impressive sort of meal while the visiting folk switched on the Tamil serials. I need not have worried that I had not been following the serial for the past year and a half. In ten minutes, I knew the whole plot: Rohit and his father were bad, bad men and bold-actress-with-lots-of-make-up, had filed a police complaint against Rohit. Bad Rohit’s bad father clutched his heart when his Rohit was arrested and was carted off to the hospital with a weak heart. Rohit’s mother came to plead with bold-and beautiful actress with lots of make up, who was sitting at home and reading a magazine, to take back the case, and cried a river. All with me so far? Good. For it is here, that we wade into murky waters.
Bold-and-beautiful actress said she could withdraw the complaint but she had one condition.
The baboon breaks out of his cage and is now letting loose on a harmonium, while thumping his feet on the drums and the horrendous background music prepares everyone in our house, and the neighbor’s house too, that impressive stuff is about to happen.
B-and-B actress goes to visit ailing father in hospital and tells him her conditions for withdrawing the police complaint. Baboon is warming up now and lets you know that. Apparently, reprehensive Rohit had raped poor Divya, gotten her pregnant and not only had he abandoned her, but bad Rohit and his bad father then tried their best to get poor Divya killed.
The baboon now tries a windpipe sort of instrument that makes one forlorn and wane.
The B-and-B actress sets forth her condition: Rohit must marry Divya.
The baboon bangs, clangs and deafens one with the din on an impressive scale.
There are loud murmurs of approval from the audience, and I am shocked. I should know better than to expect anything else from a TV serial, but I still am shocked. I mean to condemn that poor girl Divya with a rascal of a husband is nothing short of criminal. She could have carved out a life for herself (and her baby if she wanted to keep the baby that is) with dignity and self-respect. Who wants her to be saddled with the rapist for life?
The maudlin entertainment pulled my attention when the parents or parents-in-law were here several times previously. There the heroine is: impeccably groomed, dressed like she is going for a party, to receive her abusive husband or to confront angry relatives. She babbles on paying no heed to the social cues, and pretty soon, there is an explosion of sorts and everything thuds to a stop with a slap on her face. The glycerine acts immediately and there are tears and dubious sentiments on culture and I gag (once again) in the confines of my home.
For all our efforts at education, social reform and trying to open the mind to gender equalization, I think we have an epic fail with the Television serials. The producers may say that in the end, good triumphs, and after three years of bearing abuse, the emancipated young lady defies that kind of ill-treatment in the last one week of the television show and their souls are salvaged.
But where is my apology? Where is the apology to the audience? For three years, you send misogynistic messages every evening to the audience – an audience comprised of young, impressionable children, parents of married daughters, parents of daughters-of-marriageable-age, parents of young sons, parents of sons who are married, not to mention every human-being, who actively seeks or passively receives the entertainment. What is the social message you are sending them? There is no subtlety there – the socially disgusting messages are there in Techni-color with dialogues.
Like my young daughter says, “Oh. In Tamil TV, everybody slaps the women when they don’t want to talk about something anymore. They never just walk away!”
That feels like a slap. Let loose baboons on drum now.