A powerful spoken word poem is acting as a reality check for what Indian television audiences have been served as “content” for years now. “Dear Ekta Kapoor”, by spoken word poet Diksha Bijlani, shreds into pieces every television soap that has projected regressive ideas about how women should behave (with their husbands and with one another), what an “ideal” housewife should be like, and how others in the family must treat their women.
Growing up in Allahabad, Bijlani saw the women around her watching television soaps that always showed women as subservient to the men in their lives. She admits that she was even guilty of once being a “pageant dreamer”, as she puts it in her poem. “I have also romanticised the idea of heterosexual relationships and being submissive just so the man and his family might like and accept me,” she told Scroll.in.
Her illusions were shattered once she moved out of home and realised how flawed these ideas were. “But my mother and everyone else back home were still watching these regressive television soaps as guides for how they should behave with their husbands and other women in the household,” she explains.
Though the poem is addressed to “Ekta Kapoor” and the dystopian world of television that she has created, Bijlani explains that this is a systemic problem: “In my mind, I view Ekta Kapoor as a metaphor for the whole TV industry which is feeding on this validation that our society gives to making women appear as submissive housewives.”
While many people have pointed out that now Ekta Kapoor is doing “progressive” shows, Diksha is certain that it does not undo the damage they have done with their earlier shows. “She (Ekta Kapoor) has gained her popularity through feeding on this validation and commercialising this idea of subservient women,” said Bijlani.
In her poem, she also counters the claim that what we see in the media is simply a reflection of what happens in the society (Like the artist next door who said / “Art is supposed to reflect the society,” / And I said, hell, how do you know where to place the mirror?).
Bijlani hopes that people who hear her words realise that television soaps are meant to influence the audience in a certain way, and that realisation causes behaviour change. “It’s important that Indian families understand the importance of questioning and critically analysing any form of media that they consume,” she said.