Dressed in chiffons, eyes highlighted with kohl and a long bindi on the forehead, she is often scheming about how to bring down the other woman — the female protagonist, who is angelic and sacrificial. If you have already guessed that this is the antagonist of popular Hindi soap operas from the stables of Ekta Kapoor and her spawns, you won’t be disappointed with its regional equivalents. Minus the chiffons and the big bindis or the kohl-eyed women, they are next-door neighbours or distant relatives, who only wait for the minutest of opportunities to target the ‘good woman’. They spread lies about her character and talk to her about how an ideal widow should dress up.
Pinch yourself hard and realise that yes, this is the kind of women you will get to see in the drawing room, across channels day and night. At a time, when women are breaking glass ceilings and when workplaces are talking about gender diversification, you have no choice but to settle for stories that portray women as conniving or murderous antagonists. Amid all the rage to avenge and settle scores, their only ambition is to marry the man they deeply desire, who is obviously in love with the ‘good woman’.
Television, a once-progressive medium that had sown the seeds of changing how women were perceived, has receded into stereotyping women in the most regressive forms in India.
Swarna Rajagopalan, founder, Prajnya Trust, which is engaged in gender equality activism, says she has lost count of the number of times when the antagonist in the reboot of Kapoor’s 2000s’ show Kasautii Zindagii Kay has attempted to murder another person.
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