With A Shot Of Nostalgia-Laden Cliches, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi To Return To TV

Smriti Irani-Ekta Kapoor Controversy
Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi will soon return to television two decades after it first aired, the show’s maker Ekta Kapoor announced Tuesday. The daily soap, that ran as one of the most successful small screen productions between 2000 and 2008, turned its lead and now-Union Minister Smriti Irani into a household name in the country.

While the soap is available for viewing on OTT, it will mark its homecoming to television from February 16. On Instagram, Kapoor shared the all-too-familiar promo of the show that begins with a youthful Irani as Tulsi inviting her audience into the Virani household.

“Today, as I look back, I recall every memory, every moment that made this show a most loved one! Usi pyaar ke saath judiye is safar se dobaara,” Kapoor wrote, tagging the star cast that included Amar Upadhyay and then Ronit Roy as the male lead, Mihir.

Centred around a traditional uber-rich Gujarati family, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi followed the daily melodramas that erupted in the Virani mansion. This was your typical desi entertainment, complete with the good-hearted underdog, the ‘vamps,’ an essentially helpless family matriarch and the kind son (the hero) who was the apple of the household’s eye.

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For someone like myself who grew up in the 90s and millennium, the restoration of a daily soap popular in my childhood to its small screen roots sure kicks in a rush of nostalgia.

Our generation comprises of passive Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi fans who were far too young to digest lofty-looking concepts of evil schemes, betrayals, double-crossings and good Indian morality.

Of course, my major interests then lay in Cartoon Network and Pogo, but which kid could resist sneaking a peek or two of the grown-up serial their mothers and grandmothers were watching on schedule, everyday, without fail? There had to be something remarkable about it for it to warrant such unwavering commitment from these women.

It is only after becoming grown-up ourselves did we realise that the only remarkable thing about this, and other daily soaps of the time, was just how long it ran for. So long that its painfully many time jumps over 1800 (1800!) episodes bored even my staunchly-dedicated nani who left the show off sometime midway.

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The mainstay of shows like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi that dominated Hindi television in the 2000s was their unbelievably sanitised glorification of ‘Indian values’, which constituted chiefly of a joint family system, obedient kitchen-bound wives, husbands whose dutifulness came through with the bare minimum.

It is only after becoming grown-up ourselves did we realise that the only remarkable thing about this, and other daily soaps of the time, was just how long it ran for.

With OTT churning out solid content that challenges patriarchal norms set in stone over decades through Hindi film and television, one wonders whether this daily soap with its dated, banal narrative will be able to regenerate its original renown among audiences.

The surge of digital content has ushered in new audience interests. While there are still large chunks of takers in the nostalgia market with whom the ideas of old daily soaps resonate, the tone of newer productions – like Anupamaafor instance – is romancing emancipatory ideas of empowering the female lead, albeit in rather run-of-the-mill ways.

So against this context, whether or not Tulsi Virani manages to regain her bygone fame remains to be seen. Either way, it will be pretty interesting to see a sitting Union Minister come alive on screen in her old acting avatar.

Views expressed are the author’s own.