Telly’s male characters are reduced to either being props, support acts or cardboard cutouts
The soap sagas in Hindi GECs have one common trait. Men who do nothing for a living!
From Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’s Mihir Virani whose biggest achievement was probably to marry Tulsi and put the reins of the Virani parivaar in her able hands to the more recent Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon?’s Arnav Singh Raizada who simply talks to clients via Bluetooth, works furiously on his laptop and only seems to get animated when he’s entangled in an eyelock with his newly acquired wife, not much seems to have changed in the past dozen years on prime time entertainment television. Sure satellite television’s reach has multiplied manifold since it invaded the Indian skies in 1993 India has an estimated 35 million DTH subscribers, but the male characters continue to be props and support act, and are often reduced to being simply flat cardboard cutouts. This despite the fact that they have respectable jobs to flaunt.
Ram Kapoor in Bade Acche Lagte Hainis a biz tycoon. Only he never seems to have done much beyond travelling to Australia on a conference, organized surprises for his wife, sending mushy smses to his wife. Viren (played by Karan Tacker) in Ek Hazaron Mein Behna Haiis a promising lawyer who’s hardly pushing himself professionally. Last spotted: in the middle of a huge dilemma – to tell or not to tell his arrogant brother about his fiancee who can’t cook! Manav (now played by the sulky Hiten Tejwani) in Pavitra Rishtais a biz tycoon who’s working from home and taking part in neighbourhood Gudi Padwa celebrations, wiping flour marks off his wife’s face and attending engagement parties. Arnav Singh Raizada (played by current telly heartthrob Barun Sobti) of Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon?is a hotshot fashion designer who’s sloppily clad in the same set of tuxes and shirts for the last few weeks, has organized only one fashion show since the serial’s inception, and devotes most of his energy to corner his petite wife. If the hero is middle-class and goodlooking, and married (like Pawan Shankar in Kya Hua Tera Wadaor Ankit Narang in Tum Dena Saath Mera), then he can take part in office parties/picnics and have the pretty woman boss fall madly in lust with him. Or if he’s rich like Viraj (Karnvir Bohra) in Dil Se Dua.. Saubhagyavati Bhavothen he can focus his entire attention of harassing his wife instead of working to keep his millions and his swanky lifestyle intact.
So is there an anti-men conspiracy brewing in Indian soaps? Or do we blame it on the so-called target audience which is primarily women? That might explain why men in prime time (also evening, afternoon) soaps are the ‘targets’ of feminine ire, get reformed from rakes to devoted hubbies and let the fairer sex call the shots, while they simply provide the backdrop, sometimes by going shirtless, stepping under the shower or at the max beating up a baddie or two to pulp. For all those soapstruck zillions glued to the telly morning, noon, afternoon and evening, a hero is allowed entry in the soapy domain only if he’s droolworthy, willing to be reformed, suitably antichauvinistic, walks beside the woman and shares half the sky with her. That’s when he makes it as the ‘hero’. No pun(ches) intended. And hey, no one’s complaining yet! Not even the men!