Ever since the news broke that Munmun Dutta and Raj Anadkat, who play Babita and Tapu respectively on Hindi sitcom Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, reportedly seeing each other, memes have been flooding the internet.
Besides the predictable trolling over the couple’s nine-year age difference, there is mass mock sadness over Tapu overtaking his father Jethalal (played by Dilip Joshi) in pursuing and clinching a relationship with Babita. The flirty friendship between Jethalal and Babita, characters married to other people, has been the basis of one of the most popular and consistent plots on the show which started in 2008. More here.
Amid the sorries and sympathies for Jethalal, albeit through humour, there is a discernible tone of moral policing running on social media today with Dutta and Anadkat in the eye of the storm.
What is making fans squirm? Is it the thought of an older woman dating a younger man? Is it all that difficult to find consonance between accepting the couple’s relationship and having to see them play neighbours (to Tapu, Babita is “aunty”) on-screen? Whose responsibility is it to dissociate the reel life from the real if not the fans’ own?
Munmun Dutta And Raj Anadkat: What Makes Social Media Uncomfortable?
It’s not unusual for people to love a person much older or younger than them. What are nine years really when successful, eternal love stories like that of Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu (22-year difference) or global ones like Amal and George Clooney (17-year difference) have created unmatched legacies?
Is it fair to question the “intentions” of Dutta, or any other older woman dating a younger person for that matter, when the relationship is between two consenting adults? Should the public feel voyeuristically entitled to contort a maybe-romance into perverse measures?
— Andy (@iamandy1987) September 9, 2021
— Facts Wing (@ein_scofield) September 9, 2021
A lot of the Taarak Mehta fanbase commentary surrounding Dutta and Anadkat’s relationship is nothing short of loose talk that is sexist and objectifying with respect to Dutta. This, from the same trolls who don’t bat an eyelid at the antics of Jethalal, a married man, freely chasing Babita, also a married woman.
So where even a fictional male character has the privilege of hinting at infidelity, a flesh and blood woman cannot exercise her right to choose a relatively younger partner without braving a storm of labels – cougar, sugar mom, MILF – thrown at her? On what grounds is such moral grandstanding justified?
It is high time we address how we are okay with married man flirting with another woman, who is also married, in the name of family entertainment, but love to dish out below the belt comments on a relationship which doesn’t fit into our stigmatised gaze.
Views expressed are the author’s own.