Modi needs to watch Indian TV serials to know that ‘family’ isn’t a dirty word.
‘It’s all about loving your family’: The overwhelming majority of 1.25 crore – and counting – Indians would heartily agree with film and TV impresario Karan Johar’s sentiment. Indeed, facetious as it may sound, the parivar is our genetic invention and gift to the world: It identifies, defines and binds us in a way no adhesive can.
And yet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, politely, begs to differ.
In speeches over countless years in politics, Narendra Modi has railed against ‘the family’. Just last weekend in televised campaign rallies in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Modi challenged the Congress to appoint someone ‘outside the family’ as its prime minister.
The ‘family’— specifically, the Nehru-Gandhi family minus Maneka and Varun Gandhi – is Modi’s favourite target and the BJP has followed his lead: Last Sunday, BJP President Amit Shah derided the Congress as a ‘family enterprise’ in the service of the ‘dynasty’- ah, the other favourite ‘dirty’ word in the BJP’s lexicon.
Such is the antipathy of PM Modi & Co. to the ‘family’ that the word has become a pejorative. Our most priceless possession sounds like a taunt each time the BJP utters ‘parivar’.
Disclaimer: This is no defence of the Nehru-Gandhis, nor is it about them. This is about the BJP and the Big Fat Indian Family.
Four years into power, the BJP continues to attack the ‘family’. For the public, however, fatigue may have set in with the argument that all that ails India is the fault of Rahul Gandhi’s great-grandfather, grandmother, father, mother and of course, his own.
Also, the collective Right-wing groups are clubbed together as the ‘Sangh parivar’, right?
So, does criticism of the family go against the grain—our grain? Don’t many of the most successful Hindi films deify the family, thus confirming Johar’s comment?
We love family, family sells. The themes include families splitting, reuniting, sticking together to take on the world, and children eventually carrying on parents’ unfinished goals and legacies.
Switch on the television and the evidence couldn’t be more evident. As the mythological makes a comeback with Mahabharat (Star Bharat) and Karn Sangini (Star Plus), the family, with all its glorious contradictions, is at the very heart of the narrative.
The plot thickens as it becomes more contemporary: Popular shows such as Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai (Star Plus) and Kumkum Bhagya (Zee) are both sprawling family dramas, the first about a Rajasthani family, the other very loosely based on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility follows the fortune of two feisty sisters and their family.
Nimki Mukhiya (Star Bharat) is essentially about irrepressible Nimki’s encounters with her in-laws and her own family; Nazar (Star Plus) brings witchcraft into the family while Naagin 3, the most popular TV drama on Colors, celebrates snakes within the family as the lead female characters are transformed into serpents to seek justice: they are literally revenging reptiles within the joint family.
Both Guddan (Zee) and Kya Haal Mr. Paanchaal (Star Bharat) stretch the family in different directions in search of new ways to capture audience eyeballs: In the former, married sisters Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati (note the names) convince young Guddan to become their stepmom, and the family saga revolves around the young mother-in-law and her ‘daughter-in-laws’.
There’s another step mother-daughter and parivar in Tujhse Hai Raabta (Zee) with Anupriya and Kalyani in a love-hate relationship.
Meanwhile, in Kya Haal…, five brides for one groom live happily together with their husband, his mother and now their children. Uff, too much.
Sony’s Main Maike Chali Jaungi Tum Dekhte Rahiyo, sees the ideal and idyllic married couple Samar and Jaya living lovingly with his joint family – the villain? Why, Jaya’s mother who strains to separate them. There’s also the Muslim family saga in Mariam Khan Reporting Live (Star Plus) and Muskaan (Star Plus) in which Muskaan is brought up in a brothel ‘family’-like atmosphere.
In Savdhaan India (Star Bharat) and other shows like Crime Patrol (Sony), based on actual crimes, more often than not, the family is at the heart of the incidents. A recent episode saw a mother and her son kill her daughter in an honour-killing episode only to be caught by the daughter-in-law. How’s that for a twist in the family plot?
In most of these and many other serials, the setting is the family home, often a gigantic mansion, with family members, dressed invariably like they are either setting out for a wedding or returning from one, seeking to outwit each other. The plot involves family business households, primarily, and the principle of primogeniture dominates the proceedings: The father is the head of the family and his son will inherit the mantle – for better or for worse. Last week in Main Maike Chali… Samar’s younger brother rebukes his wife for trying to undermine Samar.
We are family, for better or for worse. Do we all need to redefine our attitude to the family? May be.
Get the PrintEssential to make sense of the day's key developments