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Maryada is the story of four women's attempts to keep their family together. Amidst the regular kitchen politics that is central to most of these shows, its homosexuality track is a bold attempt to break away from convention. The move has found mixed reactions from its audience, though mostly favourable. This has left even the show's producer, Tony Singh of DJ's Creative Unit, surprised. "It is an experiment but the fact is that as awareness spreads regarding taboo issues, people tend to get less judgmental. To include a topic like this, is our way of taking it forward," he says.
While it remains to be seen whether Gaurav will ever come out of the closet, there are other shows that are pushing the envelope too. Ekta Kapoor's Pyaar Kii Ye Ek Kahaani (Star One), which is cashing in on the popularity of vampire sagas, also has a parallel gay track. The lead couple in Geet... Hui Sabse Parayi (Star Plus) share quite a few Mills & Boons-ish passionate moments. The daughter-in-law in Sapnon Se Bhare Naina (Star Plus) wears a little black dress and drinks socially with her in-laws. Angad Hasija hardly hesitates to take off his shirt and show off his six packs in Phulwa (Colors) And the male protagonist in Rang Badalti Odhni (Star One), played by Karan Tacker, did a towel sequence a la Ranbir Kapoor in Saawariya and later even shared a liplock with his on-screen girlfriend — though the camera angle left much of it to the viewers' imagination.
Gautam Hegde, the screenwriter of Sapnon Se, agrees that the shows are getting bolder but clarifies that the intention isn't to titillate. "Most of the shows on General Entertainment Channels consider youth as their target audience. Hence, the themes as well as treatment have become very contemporary. This, however, would not have been possible a few years ago," he says. According to Yash Patnaik, the producer of Odhni, two factors have been instrumental in bringing about this change — bold content for movies since films often lead the way and the exposure to international shows. "Now, if the girl shares a kiss with her lover in a show, she is no more considered characterless."
Tacker, however, prefers to call it "getting real" rather than "getting bolder". "Cinematic medium needs to be closer to reality and the shows are making a slow but sure attempt in that direction. The audience too is willing to accept the change."
Despite these instances, it may be too early to rejoice. Ekta Kapoor, who has experimented with bold themes in her films Love Sex Aur Dhokha and now, Ragini MMS, points out that it's different with television. "You don't want to destroy the small-town audience's beliefs. Television is after all a medium for family entertainment."
But then how does one explain the lip-lock between Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots, which was a family film? Tacker says, "There is a censor board for films. To go watch a film with family is a conscious choice one makes whereas television is for everyone. I personally have no issue doing a kissing scene but if we can generate the same impact by using a camera angle then why not do that?"
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