The female lead of a TV show is shown walking along a paved garden, the male protagonist follows her, smitten and taking photographs. Suddenly she sees a cockroach, and startled, she starts to fall. The male protagonist immediately jumps in and catches her. Cue the slow mo, soft-edge effects and romantic music. While this may sound familiar to even the most casual TV watcher, there’s just one major anomaly in this particular scene — the male protagonist is a 10-year-old-boy.
Peheredar Piya Ki, the show in question, faced a lot of flak even when the trailers were first out. However, the producers of the show assured its critics that there was more to it than meets the eye. Well, now that the show has aired, not much seems to have changed. Many may have hoped the serial handled the story of a 10-year-old boy married to an 19-year-old woman sensitively, but the sheer Bollywood-style romanticising has left actors like Karan Wahi appalled.
In an indignant Tweet, the actor wrote, “Dear producer and channel .. i understand we cant make shows like how i met ur mother and friends, and honestly i dont expect us to also ,but for the love of god and for the reason we all got in this industry plz dont sell me stupidity in the name of content whch gives trp because honestly noone is watching this . Leave aside other people i think the fraternity only dsnt . I wish and pray well fr everyone whose a part of this show also but it wud be great if we started enjoying our work and not just working because we dont have an option...
Not to sound arrogant but we can be better than this. (sic)”
It’s not just Karan who has called out the show for its controversial content. Pratibha Naithani, who petitioned in the court for a proper TV censorship body, is equally disgruntled. “The very poster of the show is a 10-year-old boy putting sindoor on a woman’s forehead. It’s pasted on buses, and up in hoardings. So, even children who are not watching the show are affected. I could file a complaint with the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry but all they do is forward it to the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), who then take no action,” she decries.
Director-producer Amole Gupte, who regularly works with children in his movies, says that he would rather not take such a chance with a child’s psyche. “While I am not really much into television, I personally avoid such stories completely. Call me old-school, but for me a child’s peace of mind comes first. It is far more important than any end product and I don’t want to risk the kind of layered impact something like this would have on a child’s psyche. No content is worth that risk,” he says firmly.
But Jameel Khan, the father of the 10-year-old lead actor of the show Affan Khan, refuses to believe otherwise. He is adamant in his belief that the character his son is playing is not unnatural. “I don’t think the show has Affan in an unnecessarily adult role. The show actually portrays him as an innocent child, who is simply following a story that his grandmother told him. It is only when one understands that context that one understands that it’s not really a romance at play here. And the girl eventually marries him because there is someone in his family who is trying to kill him, so the element of the peheradar or protector comes in, not that of lover,” he says.
Child psychologist Harish Shetty is also confident that the show won’t have a lasting effect on Affan. However, it is sure to confuse a lot of young audience members, he cautions. “When a child actor is taking part in a role like this, he is simply acting. It is like an annual day play for him and he doesn’t really understand or feel the emotions that he is portraying. So, a lasting effect on his mind is not very likely. What it may result in is a lot of confusion in the minds of the audience. So, children watching it will find it difficult to come to terms with a show like this. However, the result will be confusion and not eroticism of any kind,” he states.
While everyone is decrying the content of the show, Pratibha points out that it is a more complex problem. “When I first started the petition for a censorship board for the television industry, after a long-drawn-out battle in court, the BCCC was the result. It has no civil members and is simply filled with people from the broadcast department. Censorship of every episode of every TV show may be nearly impossible, but there needs to be stricter guidelines, fines for violating those guidelines and a stronger statutory body with civilian members as well,” she states firmly.