Culture Wars : Holi in serials

Is the mass communication of serials and daily soaps intentionally used to derail, sustain or expand the norms and values of society?  It can help us grasp the meanings of the world that our television sets portray, and the ways they influence our reality when we switch-off the television set. Irrespective of the Channel or the show, we retain more than the entertainment value!
Television Rating Points (TRP) guide the choice and topic of shows because of its capability to fuel advertising money into channels; the survival of global trade is contingent on common consumption practices and creation of new markets. Creating a common set of values is a way that marketing and media makers thrive. They will tell you that a message is never more convincing than when it’s subtle, and communicated with subterfuge; this successful trick is called ‘framing’. Ask any family planning worker: in order to get people to consider having fewer children, they must present the issue within the context of great sex. Star plus is a good illustration of the ‘intentional-influencing’ and value monopolizing surrounding its role in US and UK politics.

The cultural artifacts which have been identified as a way the older cultures like India have maintained their unique identity are not easy to smudge, but the aspects of Holi Festival on the different special episodes were half way successful. The Holi special on Sasural Genda Phool portrayed Holi as Halloween: costume(y), contrived, and conceptualized to make the festival of colors be a side bar to a “Party” theme of the festival. The episodes did not dwell on the religious significance or cultural background of the festival, and did not discuss the important meaning of Holi for the larger Hindu populations. Instead ‘Sholay,’ the all-time Movie favorite like “Star Wars” is in America, forms the background to Holi festivities. The big party at the farm house is attended only by family members, much like Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US, which emphasize family togetherness during holidays. The depiction failed to portray the ethos of Holi and Diwali as a celebration of community where neighbors and friends gather. In Sasural Genda Phool, the Kashyap family leaves to celebrate at a farmhouse, leaving the older women at home because they are apparently too old to be participating in “fun”. The scene is reminiscent of American culture, which isolates and excludes the older people, leading many to hospice and homes for the elderly. The ethos of Indian inclusivity and coexistence of generational gaps is glossed over when the Kashyap family leaves behind the two older women and lets them spend the day on their own.
There were also no sweets to be made on Holi: the Gujhiyas, laddoos, senv, and all the delicacies transformed into a discussion on making a good lunch of pulao by the older women. And then as an icing on cake, the festival that has been symbolic of the cultural peace and amity is instead depicted as a day when everyone fights. Across the Star Plus serials, holi is played by putting a three finger spectacle on each cheek, which reminds one of the chalk and body paint that football and baseball fans put on their cheeks. In Saathiya, the servant girl does not get any tika at all….the no class barrier of holi  as one more lost cultural artifact….The serial also trends towards   neglecting the neighborhood-feel. There is no aas-pados or quintessential neighborhood in the Star Plus serials, only one family. Compared to Zee or Sony where the neighborhood is important to the main characters, the Western/ American Cosmopolitan exclusivity and non- neighborliness of middle class suburbia is the norm in most Star Plus serials. The message of Holi, Bura na mano Holi hai was lost. The message of inclusivity, community, and all the ethnic flavors were lost in translation. Instead, the more cosmopolitan themes of intoxication and physical intimacy found a place in “Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Den” and Sathiya. The values of alcohol buzz, bhang and sex as rudiments of fun where emphasized: much more familiar to western audiences.

The subtleties with which behavior norms and beliefs are portrayed on television soaps and serials have a far-reaching effect. People are still talking about being an ideal bahu like the one portrayed by Smriti Irani in the serial Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thee. A lot has changed since the sporadic success of shows like Hum log and Ramayan. Cable television now reaches 130 million plus households (out of 224 million). It is also arguable that the scope and nature of television’s influence extends far and wide, as seen by the successful Anaa Hazare movement. Additionally, unlike the 24/7 news coverage of the Anna movement, the sustained messaging framed in soap and serials is equally as influential


About Chun Mun

Chun Mun are bloggers for E-Women! All the women from the Indian Subcontinent, who have anything to say are a part of the Ewomen Indian world and have this space to share their thoughts. We might not endorse or support any of their thoughts but we endorse and support their right to speak and share their opinions. Ewomen is a document on women's journey as women Reclaim their own identity and Create and Contribute to the lives of others.
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