Soaps as vehicles of self-expression for women

MUMBAI: Television as a medium of self expression for Indian women? And that too on the great Indian saas-bahu soaps?

Surprising to some but not to McCann Erickson India president Santosh Desai, who examined the changing role of entertainment in Indian consumers' lives and outlined the broader context in which our programming operates. The focus rested on looking at media from a cultural perspective.


Television soaps, according to Desai, today allow for more self expression. In that sense television and the media is a new tradition. We get our sense of appropriateness from there. The bahu in soaps is seen as powerful and not meek. In the past women in cinema were always the the victims of consequences, never the catalysts of change. Now on television they can create consequences for others.

Leading up to his proposition, outlined the role Bollywood has played down the years. Desai noted that fantasy is the vehicle of hope for the Indian consumer, which is what Bollywood offered with excessive melodrama. It served as a counterpoint to reality. Popular cinema has been abouth myths aimed at regulating behaviour. For instance the family social has been popular where there has ben an aggressive reassertion of traditional roles. The reason why there were so many lost and found stories tied into that. Desai spoke of the whole concept of exile and redemption being part and parcel of India's cultural psyche and referred to the Ramayan and Mahabharrata as having had key characters facing long periods of exile.



Talking of the present, Desai said the challenge is to balance tardition with modernism. Television, according to Desai, is doing a great job of selling modernity in the name of tradition. For instance a woman contestant on Indian Idol says that she is being give opportunities like this due to the support of her husband.



Desai also pointed out that especially in small towns TV has become an important route of escape into the fantasy world of fame and fortune.

Summing up the great paradigm shift in Indian societal mores, Desai said: "The change is driven by modern decision making being located much more in the individual than the collective." Chew on that.

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