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TOI: Has OTT Mom in law outlived-Supriya

Armu4eva Coolbie

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Joined: 26 November 2009
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Posted: 16 August 2013 at 12:46pm | IP Logged

Has the over-the-top TV mother-in-law outlived her appeal?
Supriya Pathak in a still from the show 'Chhanchhan'
How many times have you watched a TV show and cringed at the overly-dramatised portrayal of characters that have no connection with reality? A fuming and scheming saas and an extremely docile bahu is the mainstay of most serials these days, even though we have apparently left the saas-bahu era of television behind. 

Actress Apara Mehta, who shot to fame as the quintessential mother-in-law in the K-serials' flag-bearer Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, recently said that TV is still portraying a stereotypical image of the mother-in-law, showing them as sari-clad villains and taking us 25-30 years behind. We ask a few on-screen mothers-in-law whether they agree with her.

Exaggerated, Yes, But not far from reality
Utkarsha Naik, who has played a mother-in-law in several shows, agrees with Apara. "I feel mothers-in-law are shown in a very dated manner. I have met some women who are mothers-in-law today, who tell me that their mothers-in-law used to be the actual TV-type saas, who'd probably get sadistic pleasure out of making their daughters-in-law slog. But that was a few decades back. Now, the whole system has changed. There are mostly nuclear families, and both, the saas and thebahu, need each other. The saas in real life has mellowed down. But most TV shows have a sadistic, negative mother-in-law, and the bahuis like a tyag ki devi, always sacrificing and suffering. But, at least in metro cities, that's not the picture anymore."

Jayati Bhatia, who plays the strict Mataji in Sasural Simar Ka, begs to differ. She says, "Truth is always stranger than fiction. The portrayal of the mother-in-law on screen is correct to some extent. We are in a state of flux, socially. It is true that in-laws are friendlier these days than they were 20 years back. The saas we had was stricter and would impose many restrictions. But these days girls are smarter, and even the mothers-in-law know that. There are factors which are accentuated for drama on screen, but that doesn't mean all of it is not true. Don't we read about dowry deaths and domestic violence in the papers every day? I have seen in my own extended family that the mother-in-law has given grief to her daughter-in-law. We have the recent Yukta Mookhey example as well. What we show on screen may not be 100% correct, but it is not far from reality."

Actress Supriya Pathak, who has recently joined the small screen saas bandwagon to play a woman who doesn't approve of her daughter-in-law, says that even she had felt that the portrayal was over-the-top when she began acting in Chhanchhan. "In the beginning, I used to feel that they are going over-the-top, but afterwards, I met a lot of people who are like this. Dusron ke ghar mein kya hota hai yeh humein nahin pata hota hai, but when somebody confides in you and shares their experiences, I realised that we are not really portraying something which doesn't happen. There are mothers-in-law similar to the ones we are showing on TV," she says.

It depends on the society the character is representing
Krutika Desai plays a vengeful mother-in-law in Uttaran, who tortures her screen daughter-in-law to avenge her husband's death. In her opinion, the portrayal of the saas depends on the society and the family that is being shown. "In big cities the situation is probably different, but in smaller towns and rural areas people are not so forward in their thinking. There are all kinds of people in society and it is not fair to generalise. It is true that today's parents are friendlier with their children. We are less conservative than what our parents used to be. But there are different situations in different societies. My sister-in-law wears shorts in front of my mother, but she couldn't do that in front of her mother-in-law," she says.

Another popular TV saasNeelu Vaghela, who plays Bhabho in the Rajasthan-set soap Diya Aur Baati Hum, agrees with Krutika. "Whatever we show is related to real life. There are such ladies in Rajasthan. Wahan saas sochti hai ki mera ghar mere hisaab se chalega, but that doesn't mean they don't love their daughter-in-law. The younger generation has to understand that. Rajasthan has modern people as well, but the setting of our show is a village, jahan ki ek maryada hai jisko log maan ke chalte hain."

But Supriya has a different take on this - she thinks tradition or modernity has got nothing to do with it. "I don't think it has anything to do with what kind of a society you are living in. There are all kinds of people living everywhere. It depends upon the families, not the place where they live. It is not about being traditional or modern - my mother-in-law is quite traditional, but she is the sweetest person on earth. I know a lot of girls who have gotten married into modern, affluent families but are still facing a lot of trouble," she says.

They are not essentially evil
Their screen avatars might go to any lengths to ensure the daughters-in-law remain under their control and the entire household is run according to their whim but the actresses insist their roles are not really evil. Jayati says, "My character of Mataji in Sasural Simar Ka is a strict disciplinarian, but she is not evil. After her husband's death, she has looked after the family and business single-handedly. She follows traditions, but is not orthodox. She has the qualities I have seen in some of my aunts."

Supriya insists that the reluctance to let go of the position of importance is a human trait. "I don't think my role is evil. She is the kind of person who believes that this is how life should be led. Otherwise, she won't be able to keep things under one roof. I have met some people like her who are very strong in their heads and believe what they are doing is right. Giving up the importance that you have in the family as a mother, to some other woman, is difficult, and maybe that drives them to do certain things that are not understandable," she shares.

But we don't connect to our roles
Neelu might be seen huffing and puffing at her docile bahu on screen, but in real life she is quite a different person. She says, "I am a very soft spoken and cheerful person in real life. I keep smiling all the time, and Bhabho is a person who doesn't smile at all. It was very difficult for me to be like her in the beginning. But there are good things in her. Apne parivar ko jaise jodh ke rakhti hai, woh seekhne layak hai. When I become a mother-in-law, I will insist that my son and daughter-in-law stay with me. I will love as well as scold my daughter in law. Bhabho gussa karti hai, par pyar bhi toh karti hai."

Supriya also doesn't connect with her role, but believes it to be realistic. She says, "I personally don't connect with my role. But I am playing a type of character that I do believe exists. There are women like this, who are adamant about proving their point." Jayati is seen speaking in chaste Hindi as the authoritarian Mataji, but she is sure she will be be a different mother-in-law herself. "I will be a much more friendly mother-in-law than what Mataji is. Main itni clisht Hindi bhi nahin bolti hoon. Even my own mother-in-law was a very gentle lady. But I am sure in rural areas there are families who still talk like this."

The way they dress is also part of the image
Loads of makeup, jewellery and heavy saris are shown as the daily wear of mothers-in-law in shows. Utkarsha says even the way mothers-in-law dress on screen is old-fashioned. "Women are shown in a bad light in terms of the way they dress. People have the freedom to choose what they want to wear and look like. So, even a bahu should have that much of freedom, at least in metro cities. My friends and I wear shorts in front of my mother-in-law. Whatever they are showing on TV is a bit old-fashioned. Personally, I think such things should not be promoted. TV, as a medium, has a major social impact. My daughter has been watching TV since childhood, and she will form the idea ki saas toh aisi hoti hai and bahu ko toh aise hona chahiye."

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Beauceant IF-Rockerz

Joined: 06 October 2012
Posts: 6874

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 12:53pm | IP Logged

TV shows have made MILs so scary ppl ll prefer dracula these days..
Agree with Supriya, most of it is about the person..

UB jaisi saas kisi ko na miley..

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SS88 IF-Dazzler

Joined: 16 October 2012
Posts: 4802

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 1:02pm | IP Logged
In a way they're all right. There are people like all those fuming, OTT, angry MILs all over. And Supriya is right, it has nothing to do with social strata or community or family. Some very educated people living in metros also behave hideously with their DILs. But  I like the way Uma has mellowed down. That shows a mature person. She is headstrong and wants to prove herself right at all times, but when she's confronted with her mistake (as in Kaumudi's case), she actually apologized . 

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TheGlamourgal Goldie

Joined: 13 December 2007
Posts: 1458

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 1:11pm | IP Logged
OTT and anger MIL 's  do exist in real world and these characters resemble such people. its not about coming from rural or urban backgrounds ,it depends upon individual  .

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MadhuO IF-Rockerz

Joined: 11 January 2013
Posts: 8253

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 1:26pm | IP Logged
My family is pretty liberal, but I do know families and women like Umaben. Supriya is correct, it has nothing to do with wealth, class, Urban or's all about individuals. 
OTT MILs exist in other cultures as well...they may not have joint family system, but MIL is MIL...some sweet some not.

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BillyJean. IF-Sizzlerz

Joined: 14 August 2012
Posts: 10560

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 3:51pm | IP Logged

Such MILs do exist, but TV shows go a little over board and exaggerate. In reality there are MILs like UB, but more subtle in their ways.

Edited by SanayaIsBest - 16 August 2013 at 3:51pm

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kbtr IF-Sizzlerz

Joined: 24 July 2012
Posts: 10283

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 4:56pm | IP Logged
Boggles the mind, that such people can actually exist. 
I emphatically believe in the rights of individual freedom and am unable to understand how anyone can treat another person without the dignity that they would themselves demand.
It's a sad state of humanity, that people tolerate and accept behavior such as this.
That person in the article who says her daughter would base her morals and values by watching TV serials, needs first of all a lesson on parenting. And secondly, she should ask her daughter to watch Chhan Chhan! At least her daughter will be well equipped to hold her own if she ever gets a 'sasu' like the one she feels she deserves!

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jyothi- IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 25 September 2008
Posts: 32425

Posted: 16 August 2013 at 6:39pm | IP Logged
Thanks for sharing this article.

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