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Prime time soaps are here to stay For bad or for worse, soaps are here to stay

R. Sujatha

Serials cash in on popular family sentiments Serials cash in on popular family sentiments

CHENNAI: Primetime television serials enjoy a large viewer base, but much debate is on about the portrayal of women in these serials.

Many viewers feel that women in these serials do not seem to hesitate to cheat, swindle, dupe men and even destroy the marriages of their own children.

Do these characters reflect society?

TV, competition for movies

At a gathering of management executives some time ago, studio owner A.V.M. Saravanan reflected on the depletion of women audience in theatres: "Television is a big competition. We could not think of getting into TV 10 years ago. Trends have changed. Women are glued to the TV. They don't come to the theatre. We are like hoteliers. We cook food for the customer."

Caricature of villainy makes for lively discussions over endless cups of tea and coffee and helps to kill time. Hari Prasad who watches television serials says: "It is difficult to play the villain. The more the character is talked about the more successful is the actor who plays the role."

Consider popular literature such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, which have time and again been made into television serials. Elizabeth disapproves of Mrs. Bennett's attitude, but fulfils her mother's dream by marrying Darcy. Scarlett O' Hara devastates the men who love her but remains a heroine.

Kushboo, the protagonist of Kalki, says of her role: "It is the situation which turns women into negative characters. They are not by nature negative. The character I portray in Kalki is of a very strong woman who tends to go wrong at times. The heroine is a normal person and is not a crybaby. She is not out to solve everybody's problems."

The medium is the message.

Noise and the dazzling array of views, opinions and information leave little time to gather one's wits and decide for themselves. With implausible storylines and exaggerated portrayal of characters, the serials cash in on popular family sentiments, adding colour to unpopular, private thoughts of family members. They are presented in much the same way as a dull dish is spruced up for a special occasion.

`Why target women?'

Sumathi Vaidhyanathan, who watches serials such as Kolangal and Malargal, says: "Why target women? They are projected worse than they are in real life. Young girls are already prejudiced and the portrayals of mothers-in-law in serials worsen their prejudices. We are broadminded. We are embarrassed to watch such serials with the men in our family. They [the men] probably think the worst of us."

But, whatever one says, soap continues to remain primetime entertainment for a large chunk of couch potatoes in Chennai.

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