Indian TV has produced good shows. However, they are so few, you can probably count them on your fingers. Especially if we look at the ones from the last 2 decades. The quality of content seems to be deteriorating with each passing day, and the writing is not just progressively becoming stupid, but also more sexist and problematic. Here are a few examples from 2020.
1. Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain!
Over-arching plot: Two men trying to woo each other's wives.
It's the story of Vibhuti Ahuti Narayan Mishra - who makes advances at Angoori Manmohan Tiwari - who is married to Manmohan Tiwari - who makes advances at Anita Mishra.
In this process, they often cross lines, say the most problematic stuff. Meanwhile women, too naive to understand it, just laugh and nod. For instance, in one of the episodes, Manmohan tells Vibhuti how the latter is a siyaar (jackal) who manipulated a 'slim, trim deer' and married her.
That is one of India's most successful shows for you.
2. Namak Issk Ka
Over-arching plot: Journey of a dancer, who faces stigma due to her profession.
And how did the makers choose to show it? This is how.
The tweet reads, "Kya aap karoge ek nachaniya ko apne ghar ki bahu ke roop mein sweekar?". Which translates to, "Would you accept a dancer as your daughter-in-law?". When you're able to get over the number of times they have used the word 'nachaniya' in the picture below, let us discuss how they have reduced a woman's worth to just being validated by her in-laws.
Not to mention, they are portraying dancing as a disgraceful profession that comes with its consequences.
3. Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah
Over-arching plot: A peek into the lives of a bunch of families living in the same society.
If you take a look at the way women are portrayed in this show, which is a huge hit in India, you'll know what exactly is wrong with our television.
The women have very specific roles and they always remain in the shadows of their husbands. Husbands, who for some reason, are shown to be fed-up of their wives. The sit at a tea stall and complain about their lives, and go back and flirt with other women. Am I the only one who finds this problematic? I can't be.
4. Barrister Babu
Over-arching plot: A rich barrister marries a young girl to protect her from early widowhood, and then takes it upon himself to sort her life out.
Okay, child marriages were a reality in India. Unfortunately, they still are. And it's okay if you want to show the harsh truth. However, there is a way to do it. This guy marries the kid because the person she was originally getting married to, dies at the altar.
That gives a certain arch to his character, but to show him as a 'hero', who can talk to the girl however he wants as if he owns her is simply disgusting. This guy teaches her stuff and during one of the quizzes she forgets the answer. Look at how he talks to her:
5. Pinjra Khoobsoorti Ka
Over-arching plot: A woman who wants people to look beyond her beauty, gets married to a guy who cares for anything but.
So, it is true that certain skin colour, height, weight are considered to be 'ideal' in our society. That's a flaw, which needs to be addressed. But it has to be addressed nicely.
Any person who tries to break free of these notions, faces challenges. Show those to the world to give people a reality check, but with respect towards the character. In this serial, she is always at the receiving end of things. To the extent, that to 'ruin her beauty', her husband gives her a permanent scar. I mean...
Additionally, conversations about scars should also be done responsibly. A lot of people have them, that doesn't mean they are any less beautiful.
6. Apna Bhi Time Aayega
Over-arching plot: Daughter of man who drives cars for a royal family, tries to make it big in life.
It's a fact that many people don't treat their house-help with respect, but if you are going to make a show on this theme, you have to do it with sensitivity. Their dignity should not be compromised with and the hope should be that everyone watching the show, feels like they are just like any other person who is doing their job. That they are not someone who should be pitied or treated badly.
But how are you going to do that when every second scene is cashing in on the class divide?
For instance: In one of the episodes, a member of the royal family gives the driver's daughter a broom and says that no matter what she achieves, she will always be a 'naukrani'. No, this is not how you make your point.
7. Kundali Bhagya
Over-arching plot: A woman tries to convince a man who once loved her, that he is married to the wrong woman.
Karan gets married to Preeta to save her from marrying the bad guy while she, in turn, is saving his brother from a woman. Anyway, Karan turns out to be weird, blames her for ruining his brother's life, ditches her as an act of revenge, and gets ready to marry another woman.
All this while still being married to Preeta legally.
My questions again are: Why is this woman trying so hard when all she faces is humiliation and gets called a "gold-digger"? Why does she not leave all of this behind?
The way in which women are portrayed in these shows, as if they have nothing to do except correcting an ignorant man's life, is truly disgusting.
What's ironic is, that harmless stuff like kissing is censored from movies in India; but there are absolutely no standards maintained on TV with regards to sexism and general regressive portrayal of characters.