Ekta Kapoor did not shy away from endorsing Sex, Sanskars and Feminism in her Ted Talk, unlike in her television shows. I have long given up debating whether Ekta’s projection of sanskars is right or wrong. Her definition of sanskars in her Saas-Bahu shows was/is limited to showing respect for elders, tolerating a dysfunctional marriage and letting the so-called vamps reduce sanskari bahus to tears.
I held her responsible for the decimation of content on the small screen, as she ushered us in the age of disastrous and regressive Saas-Bahu serials.
By regressive, I do not mean joint families, and family values endorsed with broad smiles by her characters. I am talking about reducing women to mannequins in a saree showroom, perched inside the kitchen, bitching over spilt milk and crying over the crooked nose, courtesy plastic surgery. Feminism was nothing more than a doormat in these, where women did nothing more than bearing on unhappy marriages, jibes from extended families, and philandering husbands.
The time leaps, plastic surgeries, humshakals, and the bicentennial Baa move many people to tears. Was this the same Ekta Kapoor, who gave us Hum Paanch? The hilarious show about five daughters, their beleaguered father, doting mother and a mother talking out of the photo frame? That show drew criticism from elders of the house, for showing girls talking back to their father. But for us kids, the characters like Sweety and Kajal dada, and their antiques became iconic. The show also gave us Vidya Balan.
Amidst her stint with women who slept, ate, and I suspect bathed in their designer sarees and jewellery, Ekta also gave us Koshish- Ek Asha.
This show with Sandhya Mridul in the lead was about a woman married to a man with intellectual disabilities. Koshish definitely stood out for it showed a strong-willed woman, who deals with a marriage which was akin to babysitting. But such flashes of bold content-oriented shows were limited. The concentration was more on churning out half an hour of open kitchen and drawing-room shots of a mansion, with zooms and multiple reaction shots from every single character, six days a week. No wonder these shows lasted ages, and by the time they ended, it felt that our soul had aged with that of Baa.
Then Ekta took a U-turn to the big screen and gave us misogynist films like Kya Kool Hain Hum and its cringe-worthy sequels.
There was neither women empowerment nor sanskar in these films. But just like she had surprised us with Koshish Ek Asha, Ekta put her money on films like Love Sex Aur Dhoka, Shor in The City and The Dirty Picture.
Ekta’s graph as a producer has more twists and turns than her serials with a minimum run time of 2000 episodes. Just when you take a breather from your rant against her regressive television shows, she shows up with an ace.
In 2017, she distributed the feminist flagship film Lipstick Under My Burkha. She also started a subscription-based video on demand platform, Alt Balaji. This platform caters to all those who cannot stop ranting about her brain frying shows on TV, like yours sincerely. So we have a web series with a limited number of episodes (I almost hyperventilated) on a gay love story (Romil and Jugal), a female Devdas (Dev DD), a female commando (The Test Case) and many more interesting subjects.
During the Ted Talk, Ekta opined on her personal stand on feminism, working after marriage, and the many dimensions of womanhood. What she said was what Ekta Kapoor, the empowered media mogul stood for. What she does as a businesswoman, is a different story.
Ekta Kapoor has her finger firmly on the pulse of the general population.
She keeps an eye out on every change visible in the entertainment horizon. She knows what every generation on every medium wants, and thus caters to them accordingly. As a producer, it's her job to do so. But it would not hurt her firm and consolidated image in the industry, if, time and again she endorses causes of feminism on the small screen as well.
Making motivational speeches on a platform like the Ted Talks is one thing, putting audience through the torture of shows like Naagin, Kumkum Bhagya and Kundali Bhagya in 2018 is another. For me, the voice of Ekta’s brand of feminism cannot overpower the din of hissing naagins and snivelling nevlaas.
Pic credits: Asian Age
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.