The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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STAR to pick best sauten & bahu for parivar

Mumbai, June 5: Now the women will all be played against each other.

STAR has announced its new package of kitchen politics — awards for its soap characters from the K-serials, not the actors.

Called the STAR Parivar awards, there are going to be 24 categories: best bahu, beti, beta, bhabhi, devrani, jethani, chhota baccha, mata, pita, dada, dadi, yogya bahu, yogya damad.

But wait. There is yet another category: the sauten. The audience, who will be asked to vote for their favourite bahu, saas or beti, will also be asked to select their “favourite” other woman.

The other woman, married or otherwise, has played such a significant role in the Balaji factory, contributing fresh threads of complications when the plot has become threadbare (Mandira Bedi in Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi), that STAR felt it was time to accommodate her within the family.

The first wives’ club — Tulsi from Kyun Ki (Smriti Malhotra Irani), Parvati from Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki (Sakshi Tanwar), Karishma from Kehta Hai Dil (Pallavi Kulkarni), Kumkum from Kumkum Pyara Sa Bandhan (Juhi Parmar) and Saroj from Bhabhi (Dolly Sohi) — will compete in the bahu category.

The second ones or the other women — Mandira from Kyun ki (Mandira Bedi), Anu from Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chaand (Shweta Keswani), Komolika from Kasauti Zindagi Kay (Urvashi Dholakia), Manju from Bhabhi (Shilpa Shinde) and Renuka from Kumkum (Tasnim Shaikh) — have been nominated in the saut category.

Possibly to accommodate the army of married women there is another category called Patni, which is distinct from bahu.

All the winners — saas, bahu, beta, beti, nana, nani, and the saut — will make up the ultimate STAR Parivar, and go on to appear in a music video and live happily ever after.

But the implications have made some people uncomfortable. “The saas, bahu, beti awards I understand. Maybe the channel wants to keep the audience attention from flagging. The awards are just another device to keep ahead of the competition in the soap world, the extension of the gender stereotypes that are already there in the Balaji serials,” says Nirmala Sawant Prabhavalkar, chairperson of the Maharashtra state women’s commission that held a seminar on gender and media this week.

“The only decision the bahus and saases are allowed to make is over how to fight domestic quarrels — though this is not new. But to include the other woman in the family is to say that the man is legitimately entitled to another woman,” she says.

“This is a dangerous way of looking at things when this is a very real problem in our country,” says activist Sonal Shukla. “Both the media and system glorify the second marriage,” Shukla says.

“We have our sympathy for the other woman, too. She is a victim as much as the first wife, who in most cases has to accept the situation because she can’t walk out of the marriage. Why glorify something like this to air on the media' Can there ever be an award for the ‘other man’'” she asks.

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