We are told that much of the success or failure of a film or tele-serial depends on whether the non-resident Indian community buys it. So in the making of such a product, there is a conscious effort to woo that audience. However in so doing, does the Indian visual media reflect contemporary reality to the non-resident community spread across the world, or does it cater shamelessly to its psychological need to be reassured that the India they left behind years ago has not moved an inch?
Thousands of people tune in to watch the serialized soaps [the ‘K’variety for example, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Kasautii Zindagii Ki, Kkusum, Kasamh Se and so on] showing joint families living under one roof, bound by some unwritten code of loyalty to a legacy. There is of course the unmistakable matriarch or patriarch who is put on a pedestal and worshipped, the sacrificial daughter-in-law, the scheming sister-in-law, the prodigal son who is forgiven all sins of straying and invited back into the fold, the moment he shows the slightest signs of nostalgia for the savory aromas of home-cooked meals, the inane cacophony of children playing in the yard under the supervision of loyal servants, and so on and so forth. Nothing can be further from contemporary reality.
Here are some reality bytes for the dewy-eyed NRI to chew on.
In urban India, the joint family has died a natural death. It does not exist any more.
The older generations live lonely lives, either in facilities such as ‘Old-age Homes’ or in apartments that their offspring have set them up in. Living lonely lives that can at best be described as a prolonged wait for the end; they have little or no share in the daily lives of their children or grand-children. It would, however, be incorrect to thus construct an entirely sorry and marginalized image of this generation. In many instances they like it this way, valuing their individual space in their golden years and not exactly looking forward to the travails of re-parenting their grand-children, while their sons and daughters pursue the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow. The media however shies away from portraying things and people as they really are. Isolated attempts like the films, Jogger’s Park or Pyar Mein Twist fail to catch the public imagination. Instead we have a much-hyped tear-jerker called Baghban that does not fail, I am told, to roll the TRPs at every telecast.
Belying expectations created by telling titles of soaps such as Ghar Ek Mandir, in real life, generation X has given up the need to maintain the pretty picture of the happy Indian family with doting parents and cute kids. When cracks begin to show in marriages, couples are much less inhibited in modern India to go their separate ways. Separation and divorce are options now and not necessarily taboo words (the perception of stigma not entirely eradicated though). Kudos to attempts at sensitizing Indian audiences to such inescapable reality-checks by the film Life In A Metro and the mini-series Saans that aired a few years ago.
Believe it or not, to have kids or not is also an option for urban Indian couples, and not seen as an inevitable eventuality of tying the knot. More so, because living-in is fast catching up as a more hassle-free way to experience the pleasures of a conjugal life with no strings attached. Thus the ‘double-income-no-kids’ is a commonality in urban India. At the same time, single-parenting is more visible than ever before, be it a result of failed marriages or single women and men deciding to bear/adopt kids. Has the visual media come forward to embrace such contemporary themes? Well, in films like Salaam Namaste and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna we saw attempts being made but the Directors evidently lacked the courage to choose India as the locale and relocated the lead pair to Australia or the US instead, thus keeping a safe distance from the Indian attitude of ‘we don’t approve of living in sin’ that has been perpetuated by the same medium.
There are however some differences in generation Y in India and elsewhere in the world. Due to India’s huge population and relatively scarce jobs in the market, this generation is less assured of an easy life and therefore perhaps more focused on their future than their contemporaries in the West. Notwithstanding the differences, statistical data on drug abuse, drunken driving and teenage sex are on the upswing. Another remarkable development amongst this generation is the acceptance of alternative sexual orientations. Thankfully, the youth-oriented movies of recent times have been attempting to broach contemporary subjects, albeit very often in caricaturist ways. [Dostana, Wake up Sid, Jane Tu Yaa Jane Na].
The point I am trying to make is that India has also boarded the bandwagon of globalization. Therefore, it is pointless to keep on maintaining the image of this land as a haven of spirituality and family values. It is perhaps time to demystify and move on. Having said that, for the NRI, India will always be the home that s/he cherishes in her/his memories; the only plea is to learn to love the real India, with all its flaws, the India that often escapes the eye of the camera.