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Regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Hum Aapke Hain Koun, SushMA?

Unwittingly or otherwise, the proposed surrogacy bill in its current form has laid down the parameters that define an “Indian” under the BJP-led regime.

TT Bureau Published 26.08.16, 12:00 AM

Unwittingly or otherwise, the proposed surrogacy bill in its current form has laid down the parameters that define an “Indian” under the BJP-led regime.

The proposal cleared by the Union cabinet debars single persons, homosexuals, live-in partners and those who are already parents from having a surrogate child. “We can say this (surrogacy right to those mentioned above) doesn’t go with our ethos,” senior minister Sushma Swaraj had explained on Wednesday.

Which means the Indian “ethos” — as defined by Swaraj’s government — does not have space for single persons (and divorcees by extension), homosexuals and live-in partners. 

Swaraj also appealed to “ma, bhabhi, mausi, mami (mother, sister-in-law and aunts)” to carry the child of their childless relatives with no expectation of monetary incentives.

Such a familial environment may not be easy to find in the age of nuclear families but for one avenue: the sanskari films of Sooraj Barjatya. 

Picture-perfect family is the fulcrum of Barjatya movies that teem with father, mother, uncles, aunts and cousins — all statutorily heterosexual and preferably married with healthy offspring. And the signature movie of the genre is Hum Aapke Hain Koun (HAHK), the 1994 blockbuster.

Harish Iyer, whose mother Padma Iyer had posted a matrimonial advertisement last year seeking a groom for her son, says the government seems to have taken Barjatya’s idea to the next level.

“Narendra Modi’s government has taken a lot of inspiration from Barjatya’s idea of a perfect family but takes it to the next level. Where Nisha (Madhuri Dixit in HAHK) doesn’t only adopt her dead sister’s child but also agrees to lend her womb to a sister who can’t have children. But what happens on reel doesn’t happen in real life where there are all kinds of people in a family — people who don’t want a family, people who don’t want children, people with alternative sexuality, singles who want their own children, widows, the list is endless,” Iyer says.

The Telegraph puts the characters of HAHK through the Sushma Surrogacy Test to see how it fares in Sushma’s Swaraj of 2016.

Quick guide for the few un-Indians who have not seen the movie: Prem meets Nisha, the sister of his brother Rajesh’s wife Pooja, and they fall in hush-hush love. Pooja dies, leaving behind a baby and triggering a family plot to get Nisha married to Rajesh. Prem and Nisha decide to sacrifice their love for the sake of the baby and the family.  Rajesh discovers the Prem-Nisha love story in the nick of time and unites them. The baby remains with Nisha and Prem.

Prem and Nisha 

Since they get married and presumably adopt the child of Rajesh and Pooja, they will not be allowed to opt for surrogacy. (Or did Barjatya keep the adoption a bit vague to keep the door open for Sushma Swaraj’s surrogacy bill?)

Rajesh and Pooja 

Even if Pooja, who dies in an accident halfway through the film, had lived, the couple wouldn’t have been allowed to go in for surrogacy since they already had a biological child.

Prof Chaudhary and Mrs Chaudhary

Professor and Mrs  Chaudhary have two healthy daughters — Pooja and Nisha — and that automatically disqualifies them from opting for surrogacy.

Mama and  Mami

Married and childless for many years, the Mama and Mami to Rajesh and Prem would have been eligible for surrogacy. Towards the end of the film, however, Mami was shown as pregnant. She was possibly in her 50s by then; so age would have been her surrogacy bar. 

Chacha

Single and possibly in his early-50s, Kailashnath (chacha to Rajesh and Prem) would have had to first get married and immediately opt for surrogacy if he wanted to beat the proposed age limit of 55 for men. 

Who would he pick as the surrogate mother from this HAHK frame? Pooja would have qualified, on the basis of being married with one healthy child, only if she hadn’t been killed off. 

Nisha was out of bounds for Chachaji till she and Prem had a biological child of their own. What about Pooja-Nisha’s 
mom, Mrs Chaudhary? Well, only if she wasn’t over 50. What about Mami? Sorry, she was childless in the film till that last shot of her pregnant — was that Chachaji’s surrogate child, we wonder? 

BJP workers hurl eggs (in red circles) at the car that took Congress leader and actress Ramya to a Dahi Handi event in Mangalore on Thursday. Ramya, against whom a sedition case has been filed for differing with the defence minister and saying Pakistan is not hell, had told a Kannada TV channel that “Mangalore is closer to hell than Pakistan” in view of the communally sensitive nature of the city. Mangalore  police commissioner M Chandra Sekhar said 50 BJP workers were arrested. Pictures by Dayanand Kukkaje

ANANYA SENGUPTA AND PRIYANKA ROY

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