Indian television has not been known for doing anything ground-breaking in several years but it is certainly taking us back in time. First there were the saas-bahu sagas that were roundly derided by critics but notched up impressive TRPs and found a loyal audience; then came shows like Bigg Boss, Roadies and Splitsvilla that created headlines but were lapped up by its target viewers. However, now now comes a show that is breaking new grounds as far as absurd storylines go. Pehredaar Piya Ki is a show on Sony Television that has been the talk of the internet ever since the first trailer was released. The reason: it probably had the creepiest story possible - that of a 10-year-old boy getting married to a 19-year-old woman.
At a time when the narrative around feminism and women empowerment has changed, one wonders what made the channel (Sony TV) greenlight such a bizarre project. Perhaps the makers had never heard of the term 'child marriage'! Under the guise of being a 'unique love story', what the show (so far) ends up doing is justify stalking and behaviour that certainly does not suit a child! The first episode that aired just a few days back (17 July), has created somewhat of a tornado online, with people expressing their shock at the concept.
Here is a summary of the plot in case you missed it: A young prince is given the responsibility of running a haveli. But he needs to be protected and taken care of. Who does this repsonsibility fall on? None other than a 19-year-old woman whose father wishes for her to marry the child, in a way to repay the family. Why would he do that? Because he is grateful for all that the prince's family has done for them! The little boy's father, strangely, is happy with the arrangement. Simply put, the marriage between a child and an adult woman is sanctioned because the young prince needs 'protection'.
To establish this 'relationship' there are scenes that show the child (yes, the little boy!) developing a crush on the young lady. Creeped out? You should be! A still from the show doing the rounds on the net show the kid applying sindoor on the young lady. In just a single stroke the makers offended a lot of people - feminists, writers, actors and just about anyone who seek some sense and sensibility in television.
Thankfully, there are some in the industry who have taken offence to the show. One among them is actor Karan Wahi who personally requested the makers “not to sell stupidity in the name of content” in a detailed Facebook post.
In response, actor Suyyash Rai, who is part of the show, posted a message on Instagram that read, “Guys whatever @imkaranwahi said it’s his point of view, no1 can question him, neither me nor you guys. But this doesn’t change the fact that WE the whole team of #PPK we love this show and we all have worked really hard for it and our motive is to entertain you guys, not promote child marriage or anything. This show is different, please don’t judge it and jump onto conclusions.”
Clearly, the people behind the show plan to defend it. Perhaps as the show progresses, the makers will justify the storyline. But the question to be asked is: Is this what we want in the name of television? To what extent will TV shows stoop to grab eyeballs? On one hand, we have web series and other new formats of entertainment coming in, but when it comes to mainstream television, the aim still remains to target the lowest common denominator. At a time when activists are struggling hard to create awareness about crimes against women, when efforts are on to promote progressive thinking, should shows like these be patronised? The choice lies with the person who has the remote in his or her hand.