Hindi daily soaps which are also called soap operas, are written, directed, produced, filmed and played by Indians where episodes are broadcasted on Indian television. They are one of the most popular category of shows in Indian television and is a part of our popular culture. Hindi serials are mainly popular among young girls, middle(mainly housewives) and old aged women and sometimes men also watch them along with their wives or mothers. In every family we can find atleast one member who is a regular daily soap watcher.
There are multiple drama channels among which popular are Colours, Sony, Zee Tv, Star Plus etc. with shows of various concepts and dimensions. Some popular shows are Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, Naagin 3, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Udaan etc. There are many genres of daily soaps like child specific, drama, romance, thriller, comedy, horror etc with stories extending across several episodes. These soaps have become a part of our lives in such a way that our activities at home and outside depends on the timings of our favourite serials and they have the capacity to reshape our society’s popular culture, which have now extended beyond novels, music and has taken all media of expressions into its grab. Modern mass culture have now strengthened due to socio cultural elites and our soaps have also transformed depending on the audiences’ nature.
Soap operas are famous all over India as they are easily accessible to the masses with the advancement of technology and media. Hindi serials started its journey and came to limelight with its first show ‘Hum Log’ in 1980 which was based on middle class Indians and their life, beliefs and struggles. It is the main medium of our relaxation where after whole day’s work, in our free time we can finally sit, relax and travel in a fantasy world where we sympathize with the roles portrayed. These serials are designed in a never ending way, although some are finite series. The name soap operas is given to hindi serials by media because most of the sponsers were soap manufacturers. Serial’s main theme usually revolves around domestic violence and conspiracy against women, female foeticide, adultery, heartbreaks, women empowerment, revenge, sibling rivalry etc. These operas are part of the popular culture as they are consumed by people of all classes and status. They don’t need extra knowledge or experience to understand what is being shown. They are the source of entertainment for numerous people of various age, gender, ethnicity. It has been observed that hindi serials are more popular than reality shows and are mainly consumed by those who are not under much work or academic pressure.
Now these serials have become a common ground of gossip which bonds friends and family together and are also bringing sensitive content on the forefront which were not spoken about in public earlier. Indian soap operas are mainly famous for their over dramatic stories where background music plays an important role in evaluating the importance of a scene. Their main target are female audiences, by highlighting and romanticizing misery. An important trait of daily soaps are, the more good a person is, the more he suffers silently. Hindi serials are mainly regressive and repetitive, where mostly the main story revolves around a hugely suffering female lead who gets justice at the end.
The popular concept in our society, that women are ill treated at her in-laws is basically replicated in shows which use certain stereotypical formulas such as tears, pity, wickedness etc. Despite its misery and unrealistic depiction of societal conditions, people are still drawn towards it, as it is a non realistic way of gaining pleasure, which one can’t achieve but can relate to. Serials have certain fixed technological effects, pattern of scripts, large amount of resource requirement etc, so they they are inevitably stereotypical and people are attracted to clichés. Hindi soaps focus on archetypes, various societal issues and taboos which dictate how we judge people in our society and their roles. Story writers use our popular culture to make an impression on the minds of the audience, serials being the modern version of story telling via depiction. In case of India, the content of the hindi serials are very important as people’s lives are highly influenced by the socio cultural values, but these are portrayed negatively in most serials.
Women always dominate the plot in terms of casting and storyline centre whereas, though men are shown as superior and dominating in the story, they are merely present to carry the storyline forward. There are stereotypical and traditional characters of desirable and undesirable men and women, influencing the concept of ‘gendered’ roles. Women are shown to prioritize her family interest above everything else, maintain her dignity yet keep her down down and face the humiliation without taking stand for her ownself which will show her character strength. Such portrayal sends out a wrong message that women are supposed to be meek and submissive. Women are mainly divided into good Indian women i. e. ‘bahus’ and the negative women i. e. ‘vamps’. The former are devoted to their husbands, ideal home maker, takes care of everyone, good at heart, doesn’t argue and the later are always decked up iin heavy makeup, jewellery, outspoken, selfish and cannot see anyone happy.
Vamps are an integral part of daily soaps, as they are the main entertainers, plot twisters and sometimes their promising acting also gains public support. This is how popular culture attracts people even when they know these are fantasies and negative characters. Women conspiring against each other as shown in serials is a very old technique of entertainment, due to which our popular culture has a notion that women are each other’s biggest enemies. Soaps show that even if women are financially independent, they won’t still be given due respect and equality, despite all attempts. Patriarchy is strongly reinforced and women are supposed to stay within the four walls, which is not acceptable in reality, but people are made to believe this in soaps. Women has to face many more genuine troubles in her life, like rape, molestation, work place inequality, her workload between home and work, on which hindi soaps should start focussing on. Hindi serials impact our culture and also gets modified by our popular culture.
One of televisions most popular serial, Kyunki Saas Bhi kabhi Bahu Thi, was hugely famous because it stressed on family values, and was the first saas-bahu serial where the audiences were able to relate themselves. The combination of a perfect daughter in law, an evil mother in law, sacrifice for loved ones, living together in a joint family, evil conspiracy, was all together an instant hit. Following this, due to people’s growing demand, similar shows like Kahani Ghar Ghar ki, Kasautii Zindagii Kay etc were also launched. Early realistic serials which were based on our society’s ideologies tand conditions like Humraahi (which was based on women’s rights to equal education, to choose her marriage partner and to decide about family planning), Hindustani (which showed how theme of patriotism penetrated our popular culture), Tamas, Nukkad were shows of substance which are replaced by current unrealistic and meaningless daily soaps which mani[ulate and tamper with the societal norms, behaviours and beliefs like Sasural Simar Ka(where there were supernatural elemenst and the female lead turned into a fly), Naagin 3 (based on ‘icchadhari naagin’), Pehredaar Piya Ki (where a nine year old boy marries an 18 year old girl, who is his saviour) etc. However the direction of the daily soaps are changing now, with more real portrayal of India and character makeovers like independent, progressive women who is strong, can fight against patriarchy, take care of their own self and manage both work and family and men who are also sober and responsible. These in real life gives women strength and courage and also acts as a mirror for the society, making them guilty of their wrong doing. They have started showing characters who are more real and have their own flaws.
Soap operas have multiple story lines and characters with plot and subplots along with big joint families where multiple generations are living together. Lots of twists and turns, affairs, illegitimate children etc carry on the story further. These serials are basically a change and/or modification of our tradition and reality. They attempt to portray a story which people can relate with themselves but it ends up being vague and fictitious. In contemporary times, some serials are also directed towards social issues which brought positive impact among public, like Balika Vadhu based on child marriage, Na Ana Is Des Laado based on girl foeticide, Udaan based on bonded labour, Gangaa based on child widow etc. The main reason behind these shows were break away from larger than life saas baahu serials with heavy makeup, outfits and jewellery. Fantasy always attract people as that won’t happen in real life. Popular culture has such a hold in human’s life that earlier boys and men considered it too feminine to watch serials, but nowadays males have also started watching theses shows, mainly because maximum time the television remains occupied by the females. These impact us in such a way, that clothes worn by the actresses becomes fashion trend. Women finish their daily work, sometimes ignore their husband’s words, to watch her shows in peace and if anything interrupts her during the show, it might lead to arguments and household problems.
Behavioural changes also can be observed in some people who follow these serials rigorously. Television serials specifically reproduces our popular culture on screen. Hindi soaps replicate certain concepts and ideas which are established as dominant and preferred cultural ideas and conduct of behaviour. This is how daily soaps play an important role in the producing, modifying and changing the popular culture of Indian society. However, in an attempt to portray our social modes of behaviour, people’s everyday practices and lived experiences, these serials divert far from reality and end up being unrealistic and contradictory. But as daily soaps have become a combination of social, cultural and religious elements, it creates an image of India as a society, making nation a cultural product.
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