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   DR. VEENA SHATRUGNA - Anveshi

In the 70s and the 80s as part of the women’s movement we were shocked by the media’s disconnect from the issues which concerned women. The images we saw in films did not belong to the “Real” world; women had no other role to play except as dolls or weeping wives or very often as scheming vamps in the cinema. In contrast a “woman’s” film was exotic, ran for 2-3 days and left us more confused than ever before.

The representation of women on TV left us cold. Yes there were women coping with illnesses, confronting the law, or the education system on TV, but again there was a clear mismatch. Our experience of illness revealed large number of women and young girls curling up with pain due to the monthly cycles or heavy bleeding, with severe back pain, or even side effects of surgery, to our surprise the ads showed beautiful women running around ‘carefree” because they were protected with a special brand of a diaper…! We wondered how diapers helped reduce pain or heavy bleeding! At the other end the government ads depicted women, triumphant after tubectomy or with the use of pills, and other family planning devises helping the country achieve targets. We could not relate to any of them.

Our world’s were weighed down by work, irregular water supplies, non availability of cooking gas, children’s illnesses to name a few. At that point I remember there was a serial called Rajani (Priya Tendulkar in real life) who nabbed the petty cheats single handedly and solved the problems of shortages of gas, irregular water supplies, auto rickshaw drivers who overcharged, and many others. Rajani even challenged the police constable, government clerks and other petty officials to respond to “Our needs”. It was the depiction of a self- righteous middle class woman against the poor. However we could not relate to Rajani, as she was fiction, far removed from our lives.

TV did not show women quarreling at public taps, instead we saw images of beautiful bathrooms, bath tubs filled with water with floating roses, as women stepped in daintily…it was not just the differences between the rich and the poor women, it was the media’s perception about women, as erotic beings, who loved their bodies, and their bodily functions and had all the time to indulge their senses. The whole thing was surely off the mark.

Till Naveena came on!

Naveena has done what was thought of as impossible—represent women’s concerns with all its complexities. The discussions acknowledgethat there are no easy answers to our day-to-day problems. For example Naveena does not suggest legal solutions to marital problems. Naveena recognizes the need for economic independence, support from family and/or friends, housing for single parents, child support, and a host of other questions before a woman files for a divorce.

Naveena does not gloss over issues; it has laid bare issues once considered taboo or sacrosanct, such as sharing housework, or even violent families! There is now hope because Naveena has set high standards, without trivializing or glamorizing Women.

I wish Naveena a rich and complex future.

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