By R.B.L. Nigam
There was a time when mothers in India would threaten their children with the arrival of Gabbar Singh. Today, do the nasty women on TV soaps merit the same status?
From Payal (Jaya Bhattacharya) of ?Kyonki Saas Bhi….? to Pallavi (Shweta Kwatra) of the other family soap, ?Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki,? to Ruby (Rakhee Tandon), the other woman of ?Heena? on Sony, and Manisha (Kavita Kapoor) of ?Saans?, the home-breaker presents the unalloyed face of evil on the small screen, the TV. Unlike their silver-screen counterparts, who were known as vamps and had some sensual appeal, these women are driven by just one purpose in their tele-life?to wreck a home. Directors find it necessary to draw the line between good and bad so that even in the more realistic ?Saans?, the other woman has to be shown as completely responsible for a marriage breaking up.
Women are shown plotting murder without an ounce of guilt, dousing infants with kerosene and setting fire to them (?Shagun?), killing sons and stepsons (?Kahin Kisi Roz?), marrying a man to get close to the brother-in-law (?Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand?), inducing a sister-in-law'sabortion (?Kyonki..?). In such serials there is no room for any grey, so the audience is given no alternative but to hate certain characters. Jaya Bhattacharya, who plays the role, should thank the serial for ensuring her visibility. Even though the actress confesses to being ?a go-getter, much like Payal?, she has been known to refuse similar offers after ?Kyonki Saas Bhi….?
Mandira Bedi, who became one of the most popular TV actress with her ?Shanti serial?, has reportedly said that her fan-mail has definitely lessened after she appeared as the plotting Mandira in the same serial. Insiders from the production house say that Mandira'srole was eventually chopped because the audience ?could not bear the unhappiness she brought to Tulsi?. The ?good? stars are worshipped for their good karma on screen. Take Smriti Irani (Malhotra) for instance, she is the ideal daughter-in-law that the television has ever shown.
?Everywhere I go, people treat me like a badi bahu,? says the actress who has won over the audience with her forebearance in the tele-serial. Simone Singh who plays ?Heena?, and Nausheen Sardar Ali who plays ?Kusum,? regularly receive proposals of marriage from their fans!
It is easy to shrug off the fans if all you get is bouquets. The lot of the other woman, the home-breaker, is different. She has to contend with brickbats received in the form of hate-mail! When day in and day out, people see intensely negative people, they forget where the reel begins and the reel ends. This is the flip side of family soaps that bring evil into their living room.
The fact is that in their quest for twists in the tale, writers leave no stone unturned. So the plots and sub-plots get increasingly bizarre and some characters get tarred in black while others get to wear a halo that glows even from a distance!
So far no actress admits to being the monster that she portrays on the telly. But they are aware about the audience response. Shweta (Pallavi) says that children often get scared on seeing her in person. So, though she likes the negative role that gives her scope to perform, Shweta is considering an image overhaul.
Rakhee Tandon, who played the scheming Ruby in ?Heena?, is veering away from negative roles, saying that she will refrain from playing the vamp or the angel, but will instead concentrate on comedy. A large section of the audience points out that ?bad? women make the serial interesting, offering relief from the saccharine saints.