Some people like to read, some like to go to the movies, some follow the soap operas. These are three very different forms of entertainment. Each form has its own unique style and artistic licences. As an audience you can either accept or reject any of these forms of entertainment but there’s no question of comparing one with the other or criticizing any of them for its style or stereotypes and expecting something that does not inherently belong to its style.
I always preferred the movies over books or TV series. I am a person with very short attention span, so I don’t have the patience of reading a book or waiting for a whole day / week for the next episode. I want a piece of fiction to be built and concluded within 2-3 hours.
That was me before I started watching a Bengali daily soap ‘Ishti Kutum’ on Star Jalsha. And then my life got complicated.
One of the latest episode (2nd Aug) of the series ended with the screen split in three parts, Kamalika (Mun), Archisman (Archi) and Bahamoni (Baha) were all seen shedding tears, anxiety and pain equally spread across their faces and the background music turned dramatic leaving its viewers spell bound with confusion, fear, hopelessness and dismay.
Several questions were raised in people’s minds. Would Archi bring back Mun to his home? If he does that, would that mean his love for Baha has disappeared? Would he tell Mun the truth about Baha? Would Mun want to come back after knowing the truth? What would Baha do after Mun comes back? Would she walk out of this family and fight her battle alone?
The episode marked a major shift in the story of Ishti Kutum and the future of these lives and their relationships with each other. It launched the Ishti Kutum teams TRP driven ‘divide and rule’ policy by creating two major camps amongst its audience and inducing fierce rivalry between them – the Mun camp and the Archi-Baha camp.
It also marked a shift in the treatment of Ishti Kutum as a mega serial. Until now, it was treated as if its a screen adaptation of an original novel with the touch of an art house production. From this episode on it turned into a typical TRP driven script based mega series. And that contains the seed of my tiresome paper, this in-depth analysis of the show.
As the show would progress from now on, it may or may not retain its original audience. Already quite a few of us have begun to feel a downfall of the script. But it would be unfair to expect anything different because after all it’s a mega serial, not a novel. But what if it was? That’s where I am coming from when I start writing these next few chapters.
So why am I writing this thesis?
1) Firstly, because Ishti Kutum is an important show from feminism point of view. It deserves to be seen (read) and understood by a larger audience beyond Bengali entertainment industry. Ishti Kutum truly does justice to Star Jalsha’s new mantra, ‘Chalo Paltai‘ (Let’s Change).
In a recently launched 2012 promo of Star Jalsha’s Chalo Paltai theme featured in Ishti Kutum we see a young Bahamoni Soren lost and wandering about the city lanes and by-lanes of Kolkata. She speaks to the audience, “You all thought I am so unfortunate, no? I have never known who my father is. My husband also would never acknowledge my rights. Well I’d have to make my own identity. Ir beti ur bou loi, mor laam ta habek mor porichoy (Not X’s daughter or Y’s wife, my name shall be my identity in this life).” But that alone is not a big deal. The story of a young girl struggling to make her own identity is not new. Such stories also usually end in the girl finding a hero who would marry her in the end. Although Baha’s struggle neither begins nor ends nor does it revolve around ‘finding a man’ yet Archi is an integral part of her life. The interesting thing about Ishti Kutum is Archisman Mukherjee, Baha’s husband from a forced marriage.
2) That brings me to the second reason why I am writing this paper. I am going to defend Archisman Mukherjee from his critics. The character of Archi has faced harsh criticism and is accused of giving wrong message to the Bengali youth. I on the other hand would argue that Archisman Mukherjee is an iconic man, a role model for a modern Indian youth. They say behind every succesfull man there’s a woman. Archisman is a romantic, loving caring man behind a strong independent fighter woman. He is Baha’s father, mother, brother, friend, lover and above all her mentor all in one. He is there not to lead her but follow, watch her back and hold her if she falls. And he is there even when Baha doesn’t know that.
There is a reason why Archi is special in-spite of coming across as immoral cheater heart-breaker in the society’s eyes and I think that needs to be said loud and clear. That’s what I am doing.
3) Thirdly, to defend Archi-Baha’s relationship against the Archi-Mun campers. My main point of argument being since you can’t force love, and a man can truly love only one woman, whom should he chose should depend neither upon social or moral obligations nor upon the length of the prior relationships or its vows but the but the ‘need’ of the new relationship.
4) In addition, I would analyse the female characters and their male counterparts in the show from a feminist perspective.
5) Lastly, on a lighter note, perhaps I need not take it so seriously, you could say I am doing this only because I love the show too much. To take stock of the story so far (launched on 24th October), relive the great emotions it has kept us engaged with and possibly wish for an ending I think it deserves rather than seeing it being dragged on in the typical soap opera style.
This is going to be a lot of words so I would share it in parts. Coming up next is the first part where I have given the background to the story of Ishti Kutum for those who haven’t seen the show from the first episode or perhaps have not seen at all.
About the show:
Ishti Kutum (Language Bengali)
Starring – Rrishii Kaushik, Ronita Das, Ankita Chakrabarty and others
Aired on Star Jalsha Monday to Saturday, 6.30 pm with repeat telecast at 11.30 pm.
Story, script, dialogue – Leena Gangopadhay
Direction – Shaibal Banerjee, Diganta Sinha, Paramita Sengupta