Life as a Hindi Serial Heroine

1:49:00 pm

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How do I know what life’s like as a Hindi serial heroine? Allow me to explain.

At the risk of sounding extremely patronizing, I’ll say this – I seriously dislike Indian TV. Yes, I’m horrid and arrogant and unpatriotic and whatever, but it’s true. I’m happy with Star World, Fox Crime and Z Café.

My dislike obviously extended to regular Hindi soaps, though my sis and her friends used to watch them regularly (I know, I should disown her for this). When I heard them discussing the shows with so much fervour, I decided to see for myself what the whole deal was about. I’ve only read about Ekta Kapoor’s serials being regressive, but it wasn’t really specified in what way. Curiosity got the better of me and thus began my experiment.

I knew a few things beforehand: the ladies in general were overdressed, more so the ‘vamps’. Everyone lived in huge houses. People’s expressions were shown in close-up for several seconds, one after the other. To maintain a level of consistency, I watched only Star Plus shows.

And finally my findings; after months of toil and sweat, here is my understanding of what your life would be like, if you lived inside a Hindi Serial.

Note: Please excuse the quality of the pictures, good ones aren’t that easy to find :)

1. You will ALWAYS wear eye shadow

You could have been in an accident, woken up in the middle of the night, laying in hospital, cast out on the streets – whatever your circumstance; you will invariably be wearing prominent eye shadow – in a color matching your saree. Also, the amount of make up on your face will be directly proportional to how mean you are.


2. You will not respect or care for your body

You could be sick to your bones but when someone suggests calling a doctor, you immediately wave it away as ‘nothing’. ‘Doctor ko bulao!!’, shouts someone. ‘Nahin, nahin, main theekh hoon’ – should be your response, eye shadow and all. Any kind of condition that requires immediate medical attention – burns, fainting, deep cuts – all you’ll do is put some turmeric or something (after all, you do live in the kitchen). I am yet to see a serial actress who asks to see a doctor, even when they are on the verge of childbirth!


By the way, people in Serial-land always have friendly neighborhood doctors who visit you, you never have to step foot inside a clinic. Well considering all the women refuse treatment, the doctors probably aren’t all that busy.


3. You’ll stand by your husband – even if he’s abusive, distant or just plain crazy

A lot of Hindi serials start off with the hero as a negative character. He will abuse you, force you into marriage, hit you, taunt you, starve you and do everything to lower your self esteem. But should you react to this? No!!! Because you trust in the great institution of marriage, and that the Gods will respond to your prayers and that things will turn out all right some day. ‘Parivar’ is, after all, over and above ‘swabhiman’, you say. And since this is Serial land, you’re right – things do work out in the end. Too bad psychos don’t transform overnight in real life.


In the event that someone else stands up for you (read: another man), you’ll refuse his help. (For more details as to why you do this, see point 2). And you’ll continue to sit at his feet and literally worship him.


4. You’ll have a standard uniform – and you’ll work it (literally)

You and your serial sisters will all have to dress the same way – glitzy saree with an unpleated pallu, long straight hair left loose, arms decked out with bangles and a huge prominent mangalsutra hanging down your neck.

So you go from this:


to this:


Other than that you all look like clones of each other, it’s no big deal - but for the fact that you are expected to work all day – cooking, drying papads, caring for babies etc. – in an outfit that is clearly not designed with comfort in mind. At the very least, your pallu is a fire hazard in the kitchen, your loose hair a hygiene problem, and your bangle stack a plain inconvenience.


But should you dare to change into something more comfortable, prepare to spend episode after episode debating this with your Saas, Kaaki, bhabhi and other sundry (female) relatives. It is obviously a matter that requires much more discussion than the 2014 elections. Do you really want to deal with those disapproving stares?


5. You’ll say goodbye to non vegetarian food

I’m not sure what the reason behind this is, but every single household in Serial Land is vegetarian. Some even avoid onions and garlic, so be very, very sure before you start cooking there. Don’t forget that the ever watchful eyes of your Mother in Law are on you.


God forbid you decide to make an egg mask for your hair – what are you going to do with the eggshells?? The disposal of said shells alone qualifies for an entire story arc consisting of several episodes. Also, if your household is more ‘traditional’, you’ll be the last person to eat. If you’re lucky you get your own plate; else your husband’s used plate beckons you to finish his leftovers. Read on while I go and barf.


6. You might not know your own husband’s job description

Hindi serials are accused of subscribing to patriarchal norms, although ironically, the men in the family hardly have any decision making power to speak of. 100% of decisions regarding the household and relationships are made by women, and in some families even business decisions are made by the businessmen’s homemaker wives. The men meekly carry briefcases and mobile phones and appear to be furiously busy, although they are home whenever any drama takes place, which is about….always. Oh, and they always wear suits, regardless of the current weather or where they live.


But their businesses are hugely successful as you can infer from their palatial residences, their multiple cars, the amount of jewelry their wives wear etc. Strangely though, they never seem to have enough maids or other house help – you and your serial sisters end up doing most of the work.


7. You’ll never have a private conversation again

Sorry honey, but it’s true. Every conversation you have will have an audience, either visible or hidden. For one thing, you’ll never lock your door, you’ll think aloud far more than necessary and then your family members never realize the need to knock. Eavesdropping is completely legal in Serial land, so don’t shy away from doing it yourself. Also, do not hesitate in intruding upon a private conversation and offering your two bits. Discussing suitable birth control methods with your hubby? Be ready for this:


Also beware of embarrassing interruptions:


8. Your Mother in Law owns you

Ah, the joys of living in a joint family!! Once you are married, be prepared to surrender all your autonomy to your MIL. The minute you’ve brushed your teeth, she’ll be ready with your to-do list for the day. She decides everything for you – what you’ll cook, when you’ll eat, if you’ll be eating at all (there are a lot of traditional fasts), when you’ll have kids, what you’ll wear, where you’ll go. If you need to do something as simple as get your eyebrows threaded, be ready for a Q & A session that could last an entire episode.


9. You will not stand up for your rights

Yes, not under any circumstance will you stand up for yourself. You are not expected to voice your opinions, or even have them, for that matter. It is immaterial how educated or emancipated you were prior to getting married; now you will submit everything to the rules of your new home (see point 8). Your choices in any subject do not matter. Your personal dreams and aspirations do not matter. And hobbies? Honey, your only hobby now on is ensuring that no one has any complaints. In case you face injustice, you will suffer in silence and wait for things to work out on their own. Good luck to you, then.


10. Your life is over once you turn 60

This doesn’t apply to the men in your life, only you. Once you’ve got grandkids and great grandkids, bid goodbye to all material pleasures. You now get into your ‘Grandma costume’ – Plain sarees with the pallu over your head, full sleeve blouses and a look of general benevolence. Your main tasks are going to be – 
a) Cuddling little children and supporting older grandkids


b) Discussing the good old days with fellow seniors 


c) Getting upset at all the bitching and politics that happens around you 


You are not expected to do any work and are not allowed to have any other interests outside the ones mentioned above. Forget autumn years, your life pretty much resembles the dried out branches of a tree in dead-cold winter.

Wokay….that was a really long post. Just so you know I could actually go on and on – but then there’s a limit to testing your patience :-). So how do you like life as a serial heroine? Have you felt the same or are you a fan of Hindi serials??


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81 comments

  1. hahaha Fab! That was a delightful read. Agree wholeheartedly! I don't know who suffers this crap?

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    1. Thank you, Rachna!! I think it's intended for a particular target audience, although I wonder how long they'll keep churning out the same formula!

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    2. Hilarious Post mam , really like the articulate way of your writing things...

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  2. OMG Hilarious!!! I feel saddened by the fact that when US has stuff like Blacklist, Homeland, Scandal and Big Bang Theory to offer, we are stuck with this crap. But judging by the celebrity status these actors get and the non stop churning of these serials, I am sure there are people who live on this stuff. Sigh!!!

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    1. Oh God, we can't even think of comparing Homeland and Breaking Bad to this junk. But you're right, something in this appeals to our audience and rather than improving their outlook, the makers of these serials profit by building upon regressive attitudes.

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  3. This was fun and you are spot on!! I cant stand these tele-serials for a minute. But I am amazed at the patience, dedication of people to watch these regressive serials day after day, month after month and finally for years together!

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    1. Very true, Shilpa!! Some serials really, really test your patience - they take forever to say something really basic like, "I don't know." Watch it for a few days and you'll go 'AAAAaarghhhh!! Just say it already!!"

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  4. Heyy Fab .. This post reminded me of my yesterday's visiti to the parlour. One of the help answered me that she still stays in her home ( maika) as its the norm as per social and cultural norms .. Only after 3 years after marriage , they are supposed to live with their husband. I was like WT .. !! All these old stupid telle tales still prevailing that too in Mumbai ?? It has to happen wither ways .. TV Serials have affected the culture or the culture has influenced the TV serial .. Either ways I felt its just unfair .. Excellent post.. Keep coming with more and more

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    1. Thank you Sangeetha!!! Yup, it goes both ways - society influences TV and vice versa. But the serial makers don't realize that they're reinforcing a certain stereotype for Indian women and are making life more difficult for the ones who don't fit into that stereotype.

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  5. hehe
    I used to watch one or two serials which are good in the beginning (in sony) but then all follow the same pattern U described here. This is a howlarious post and a fab one of course
    ROFL !

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    1. Thank you, Afshan!!! You're absolutely right; even the ones that start with some promise and make you expect something new all end up on the same bus to traditional Hindi Serial Land. It's so disappointing!!

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  6. hhahahahahaha hahahaha too good! yours is one of the funniest blogs I have read in a while!
    Added to my list :)

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    1. Thank you so much Canary!! Glad to know you enjoyed reading!!

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  7. Tamil serials are not always rich households but there is a central heroine who has zero self esteem and lets every a,b and c take advantage of her 'angel' nature. Every scene will have a sad melancholic music that has suicide promoting tendencies ! Was a fun read.loved the post

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    1. That sounds very similar to Malayalam serials :-). The heroines are just the same; only difference is that there's loads of paternity issues and illegal children and extra marital affairs floating around :-D

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  8. Anil Kapoor's 24 may not be as sharp as the TV shows they have in the US, breaking bad, homeland, sherlock, house MD and all other cool shit... but I appreciate 24 a lot because it is only hope we have that may end this riot of Saas Bahu Saga... great post... we gotta stop this torture Mate.. !!

    Amrit R
    http://thoughtsaboveall.blogspot.in

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    1. I have seen a little of 24 and was pleasantly surprised!!! It's hard to believe that this show and the ones I've mentioned in the post are made for the same population!!! I hope everyone watches more of 24 and gives it high TRPs, that's the only motivation for serial makers to mend their ways!!

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  9. Superb post Fabida. Reality shows are more my cup of tea :)

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    1. Thank you, Janaki! Besides Masterchef, I watch just one reality show, and that too just random episodes. I personally find them a little better than soaps, and even among them I prefer the dance based ones. The unnecessary crying and forced sentimentality gets on my nerves.

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  10. Funtastic ! I do try to watch Fox crime & Comedy Central & yet stop after some time as they are extremely addictive ditto facebook !

    Hence , I watch Hindi serials as I can watch anytime & leave anytime as it makes no difference !

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    1. Crime based shows are my favorite!!!! Comedy shows like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family come a close second. My husband was in a Breaking Bad daze for a few weeks and couldn't think or talk of anything else :)

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  11. Fabida wonderful blog and like your tongue-firmly in the cheek humor here !

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    1. Thank you so much, Pooja!! Glad you liked it!

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  12. Bruhahaha! Wait...let me go and bwarfff!

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    1. I know, right?? Thanks for reading!!!

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  13. This post is screaming hilarious. Great observation and fabulous narration with those pictures. I can't stop laughing out loud. :D

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    1. Thank you Swarnali!!! I really enjoyed working on this one, though the pictures were a little hard work :-). But all worth it when I read all your comments!!!

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  14. Hilarious post :) I am a Star World and Comedy Central fan. Have never watched the Saas Bahu serials and the glimpses I have seen have been exactly like the ones you have described. Rib tickling post :)

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    1. Ah, Sulekha, stick with Star World and Comedy Central and don't even bother trying to watch Hindi soaps- you'll actually feel like your IQ is coming down!!!

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  15. You did very well I started watching two serial and stopped after watching them after story get same. always.

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    1. Very true Swathi, even the ways in which the events unfold are so similar you can start predicting stuff - and be right about them!!

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  16. Nahinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, yeh padne se pehle maine chashma kyun nahin lagaya!!!!!!! Tum ek aurat hokar doosri auraton ki Bhavana, Pooja, Shraddha, Aradhna ko kaise kuchal sakti ho. Bhagwan, TRP aur Sponsors tumhein kabhi maaf nahin karenge. Agar woh kar bhi de, toh Ekta Maa ke prakop se tumhein kaun bachayega!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *Gives side profile reaction three times*

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    1. Ha ha ha!!! Ek aurat hokar doosri auraton ke Brain Cells ka naash hote hue nahin dekh sakti main, kabhi nahin!!

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  17. Howlarious!! I prefer dog movies over these any day. :P I loved this post Fabida!!

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    1. Thank you, Pooja!!! Watching a good movie after watching a Hindi soap can fill you with lots of self loathing - trust me, I know!!

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  18. Very funny!
    The only thing I will add to this is that no matter which serial or channel our TV heroine hails from, there will be a Baba in her life. And he will be played by the actor Alok Nath.

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    1. Ha ha!! And he'll be dressed in a kurta-pyjama-Nehru collar waistcoat :-)

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  19. This is hysterical...my MIL loves these dramas. I don't get half of what they're saying!

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    1. Ameena, you're lucky you don't understand anything!!! At least your IQ level is in no danger of dropping!!

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  20. Haha !! Amazing write up. Burst with laughter. Whats wrong with people, why do they even watch it.
    www.theitgirl.in

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    1. Thank you, Mukta!!! That's a good question; maybe people start off and then get stuck. Also, there aren't that many good shows in Hindi, I guess.

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  21. Bahhahaha such a super fun post. Loved it! Luckily since I do not live in India I do not have to watch this at home anymore. The serials are seriously annoying. They do follow some laws though. More evil= more makeup. Once you're married, you have to wear tons of make up, the later at night it is- the more make up you need to have on.

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    1. You're lucky you don't have to lay eyes on these!! Yup, once you're married, you pretty much transform into another person :-).

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  22. This post has been selected for the Tangy Tuesday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging :)

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  23. Lol...This is such an awesome article! I remember as a kid started watching Ekta's serials but then after a yr all got extended to so many more years!!!
    all characters from dadi to bahu looked young and rich! and no matter what their financial situation was, they all managed to wear great clothes and amazing jewelries!!! heheheheh...

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    1. That's true! The story jumps ahead by 20 years and the adult characters don't have even a strand of grey hair!!! Amazing anti ageing :-)

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  24. wow....these points are so true...and funny descriptions.. i couldn't stop laughing....

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  25. Hey, Fab, why did you stop? I would have liked you to go on and on. I was having so much fun reading. You must come up with a Part 2.

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    1. Ha ha, maybe I will!! Let's see :-)

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  26. Oooh. Loved the tangy post. This is a side of you which is delightful. Keep up the humour lady. Your post glows with it :)

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    1. Thank you Poornima!!! I should probably write more funny posts :-)

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  27. came across your blog from indiblogeshwaris. Hilarious post and completely agree.. all serials encourage veg and organic? that alone i didn't observe :) dressing is almost same in all serials as if there is a dress code for a good bahu and bad one :p how could they cook with bangles and sarees with rich embroidery work suffocating them.. interesting observations

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    1. Thank you, Mahathi!!! Yes, I have never seen a single one of them eat non vegetarian. Even Punjabi dhabas serve only lassi and vegetarian food!!

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  28. Hahahaha! This was a fabulous post! I usually watch Star World, Zee Cafe, TLC or Fox Crime and many in my family give me that stare which says "what on earth is wrong with you!" :P Btw another aspect that boggles my mind about these serials is how they manage to look bright and lovely when they wake up in the mornings.. dressed in those georgettes and glitzy jewelry too :P

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    1. It's not just the mornings too, catch them in the middle of the night, and you'll find them all made up, saree pleats intact and not a hair out of place!!!

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  29. LOVE IT! LOLLLL also, i dont understand why the couples have windows that are always open that face inside the house? like there could be a romantic scene happening and the whole family is watching :|

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    1. Thank you!! Yes, in serials, everything you do or say in the privacy of your room is akin to broadcasting it on national television - everyone hears things they shouldn't and no one hears what they should!!

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  30. It was a Fab read :) I second you Fabida, hindi serials are just crap. Though I don't get enough time to watch TV but whenever I get I prefer Discovery channel or hollywood movies.

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    1. True!! And I personally find them quite stressful too - too much negativity and plotting and scheming!!!

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  31. Lol!!! Hillarious. The sad part is the benefits of living in a joint family are omitted altogether!

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    1. Exactly!! Although they claim to promote Indian culture, they actually seem to be showing the worst of it!

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  32. This is so well articulated, fun and critical.

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  33. FAB it really nice article you r just fabulous. I agree ur each and every discussion. Here are some list of serial http://www.sonyliv.com/show/list-genre-drama-current-shows

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  34. This is absolutely hilarious!!! i'd love to read your update on the serials of today :) star plus again, offcourse!
    Ishieta @ isheeriashealingcircles.com

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    1. I did consider doing a part 2, but the thing is nothing has changed in the years since I first wrote this post! People are still plotting, loading up on makeup and talking to themselves wayy too much!

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