Kastur comes from an upper middle-class family but is an illiterate girl (not that educated girls on prime-time television behave any different) who dotes on her parents, her brothers and dadi. She is also madly in love with childhood sweetheart and her husband Mohan, a seedha saadha boy, who is pursuing a degree in London. Back home Kastur pines for him with Piya bawri hoon playing in the background and practically ‘sees’ her Mohan smiling at her wherever she goes. It also seems that this show is for the Gujaratis. That’s because Kastur wears her ‘caste’ like a badge. In one scene inside a mall, she lectures a girl who is wearing a short-dress, the virtues of being a Gujarati because she made a dig at her ‘Gujjuness’. Kastur reminds the girl of how Mahatma Gandhi and Dhirubhai Ambani were Gujaratis, how one bound the country together against the British and the other taught everyone to karlo duniya mutthi mein…Phew!!
Meanwhile, Mohan’s grandfather is a fossil, rigid in his thoughts and beliefs. He thinks speaking English is slavery and feels everyone and everything should go according to his plan. He also believes that his family and its izzat comes before everything else, individuality be darned. I can already see Kastur and grandpa bonding very well once the former enters the house. Interestingly, grandpa doesn’t approve of Mohan being educated on foreign soil. Now Mohan is back but he can’t visit his house and is staying put at his mamaji’s place with the approval of his mother who dreams big for her son, even if it means going against her father-in-law’s wishes. Yes, to him being a Gujarati is also coincidental, not something he should be necessarily proud of.
The show is a throwback to the ’70s and ’80s’ social films when directors from South cast Jeetendra, Jaya Prada and Sridevi in family dramas, everything was sacrosanct, the Barjatyas had saccharine sweet young girls playing sacrificial lambs and dutiful heroines placed everything else above their happiness. Just when I thought Dharampatni came from Ekta Kapoor’s assembly-line factory of serials, I was told it was Deeya and Tony Singh’s (the same producers who gave us the cult Banegi Apni Baat and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin) and Endemol’s (who produce Khatron Ke Khiladi) brainchild.
Thankfully, there are a couple of things that makes this show endurable. Like Aasiya Kazi (last seen as Ronit Roy’s young wife in Bandini) as Kastur, she is earnest and fits the part like a glove. There is Harshad Chopda who is an eyesore as the oily-haired Mohan but comes into his own when he wears leather jackets and designer glasses. I like the character of Kastur’s dadi (good old Gopi Desai) who wears a hideous wig but is a Salman Khan fan. She wears her glasses on the back of her old-style blouse just the way Salman wears them in his films, watches all his movies first day first show, prefers to see Mr Bean when the rona dhona of her favourite daily soap gets too much to handle and drills sense into her son and grandson whenever they are at loggerheads. In short, she is the balance between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern.
My problem with the show is why should Kastur be portrayed as an uneducated girl? Does being uneducated guarantee good moral values? Does being educated means a breakdown of the moral and social fabric? Are things really that simplistic?
If you are not yet tired of watching docile obedient bahu-betis on prime-time television, then this Dharampatni is just what the serial-killers ordered for you.
BY: Kshama Rao