New Delhi, Oct 31: (PTI) The influx of ‘saas-bahu’ shows on Indian television in the early 2000s felt like a “planned” move to cut down on progressive content, says veteran actor Ratna Pathak Shah.
The actor said the era of television circa late 1980s and early 1990s was filled with unusual women characters but this was all ruined by the soap operas set in joint families, mostly produced by Balaji Telefilms.
“When we started out on television and were learning to work, the shows of the time used to have unusual women characters. They were much more progressive. This was all ruined by the arrival of Balaji and their ‘saas-bahu’ shows.
“I always felt that this was all planned. It was pre-decided that they want to cut down on the progressive elements and in their place ‘saas-bahu’ shows will be installed,” Shah, who has starred in shows like “Idhar Udhar” and “Tara”, said.
The 65-year-old actor was speaking during a session on women’s representation Indian cinema at Rajendra Yadav Smriti Samaroh here at Bikaner House on Sunday evening.
Shah said actors like her who couldn’t resonate with those shows lost work in television “overnight”.
“Earlier we had shows such as ‘Udaan’ and ‘Shanti’, and then suddenly there was an influx of ‘saas-bahu’ (serials). We all lost our jobs overnight because we didn’t fit in the ‘saas-bahu’ thing.
“I probably sound like a conspiracy theorist but this all felt like a planned move. It shook me a lot,” she added.
The actor, equally known for her work as a cinema and theatre artiste, said she once had high hopes from the television industry.
“I had many hopes (ummeed) from television. I really thought here is a way we might be able to match entertainment and education in many different ways. Just like the BBC did in the West. I had this hope that Indian television will be able to play that role in India,” she said.
But all is not lost as Shah said there are some ongoing shows that are presenting progressive women on the small screen.
She gave a shout-out to Star Plus’ “Anupamaa”, fronted by her “Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai” co-star Rupali Ganguly, and compared the series with Basu Chatterjee’s cult 1985 show “Rajani” starring Priya Tendulkar.
“‘Anupamaa’ is number one today. Like ‘Rajani’, ‘Anupamaa’ has created a persona of a woman who points out problems. Even though I don’t watch the show, it is a very strangely progressive show,” Shah said.
The actor also praised “Pushpa Impossible”, which airs on Sony SAB. Starring Karuna Pandey Vaidya in the titular role, the show is produced by Jamnadas Majethia known for popular sitcoms “Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai” and “Khichdi”.
“There is another show called ‘Pushpa Impossible’ that I’m hearing about. It is about this woman who runs her own aachaar (pickle) company and something like that.
“She is foul-mouthed, ready to take on anyone and yet a superb saleswoman. She is doing what she is supposed to do – running her family. So we are also seeing all these kinds of women on TV,” she added.