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Shararat: Thoda Sexism, Thodi Patriarchate – Feminism in India

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Publisher's te: So this month October 2020, #MoodOfTheMonth from FII is Childhood and relationship with parents and familywhere we invite different articles to highlight the different experiences that we all have had in some form in our birth or in selected families and that we negotiated with them every day. If you'd like to share your article, send an email to pragya@feminisminindia.com.

Posted by Utkrishti Katheriya

You feel oldest in your twenties. later you stop caring about your age and getting older. One of the first signs that you are getting old is remembering your past and feeling nostalgic about what you used to do, your likes and dislikes. Then you realize: “stalgia is really one of the greatest human weaknesses, second only to the throat. "As Dwight Schrute discovered in the office.

I recently took the nostalgic nosedive of choosing a TV show to watch during the embargo and started my 192 episode journey of Shararat, an Indian sitcom about a family of fairies that aired from 2003 to 2006 has been.

Shararat is a sitcom that aired on Star Plus – each episode lasted an average of 30 minutes and was a staple of any '90s kid's entertainment diet! The story is loosely based on Sabrina: The Teenage Witch and revolves around a family in which the oldest female member has magical powers on her 18th birthday due to the good deeds of Rani Devi, a great-great-great-great-grandmother is blessed.

Nani, their daughter Radha and their granddaughter Jiya can perform magical feats with just the touch of a finger and rhyming couplets after chanting the mantra: Shring-Bring-Sarvaling, Bhoot Bhavishya Vartaman Badling. You would think this is a story of empowered women who use their powers to change the flawed social constructs. But you realize that in the 2000s and maybe even now, being a woman means playing stereotypical gender roles in a patriarchal family structure, whether you're a fairy or not.

Let me give the most obvious example of Radha Malhotra, mother of Jiya (Shruti Seth) and daughter of Nani (Farida Jalal). Radha can do any housework in a snap with magical chants, but you can see she rarely uses her powers! The reason? Your husband doesn't like it. Suraj Malhotra, although a lovable husband with funny antics and an interesting comic book presence, blames his Jaanu (as Radha and Suraj call themselves) for using her magic to cook food or do chores. In fact, when Nani persuades her to use her powers on the show, Radha's stubborn catchphrase is "Unko mera jaadu karna pasand nahi hai". (He doesn't like it when I do magic.)

Shararat is a sitcom that ran on Star Plus. Each episode lasted an average of 30 minutes, and was a staple of any 90s kid's entertainment diet! The story is loosely based on Sabrina: The Teenage Witch and revolves around a family in which the oldest female member is blessed with magical powers on her 18th birthday.

I thought it was just Radha, but on one episode Nani's husband visits the family and Nani is reluctant to perform magic because Nanaji aka Khushi doesn't like when Nani does things with the help of magic too. While Nani condemns Suraj for not allowing her daughter to do household chores with fairy crafts, she is preventing herself from doing the same due to her husband's preferences! This reminded me of our families where we often treat our daughters-in-law with suspicion and want them to take responsibility for the whole house every minute but really complain and criticize our own daughter's relatives when given the same treatment and expectations to beat all day.

This whole episode turned into a battle of the sexes in which the men literally say, "Women should always be among men and respect the superiority of men." The women of the house decided to show men their place by not cooperating! I thought it was great! Finally, some disagreements against the patriarchal rules. But the episode further emphasized the stereotypical gender roles in which men only understood the role of women when they had to cook for themselves, and women who knew magic turned out to be technically disabled from repairing an electrical fuse because it supposedly did the A man's job is.

I really thought, what's the point of using your magical powers?

Then I equated it with its real counterpart, your personal skills or talents! In a way, Suraj and Nanaji actually feared the powers of women and forbade them to reach their full potential. If the ladies had done the chores in one fell swoop, imagine how much free time they would have to invest in their growth and other talents! And I can't remember Radha's talents other than cooking, cleaning the house, and being a good parent. This also happens in our families. We limit women to the household, ignore their work and pressurize men to be the sole breadwinner, and expectations of stereotypical masculinity limit them as well.

I associate Shararat with fond memories, but I can't stop realizing the impact it had on us, the kids of the 90s, when we laughed at jokes with blatant body embarrassment (calling a broader and curvaceous female buffalo an insult) and as Women against women (Jiya against Pam, the vampire in short dresses, and Radha against Shanti, the nosy neighbor who flirts with Suraj).

Also read: A letter to the churails of the 21st century

Suraj thinks that the food brought by magic is not tasty and that's fair as the food teleports from another location and is not made by magic. But in one particular episode where he takes his senior out to dinner to impress him with his wife's culinary skills, he still doesn't allow Radha to use her magic, even if the senior is his entire family of around 8-10 people and the food prepared by Radha is only sufficient for his immediate family.

Even in such emergencies, magic was unimaginable.

In perfectly normal situations like Jiya's interest in modeling, participating in a music competition, and going out with friends, Suraj is relieved with his fits of "humare ghar ki ladkiyan aisa nahi karti!" (Girls in our family don't do such things). Repeating these moments was extremely problematic after understanding the sociopolitical context and its unconscious impact on the audience.

It may seem entertaining, but it affects how we see our family and accept those gender roles, which promotes sexism and stifles growth, nothing else! As it is a reflection of families, it could be called realism, but here was an opportunity to show three women breaking the mold of sexism and setting an example for young girls and women for their talents and their potential.

I associate Shararat with fond memories, but I can't stop realizing the impact it had on us, the kids of the 90s, when we laughed at jokes with blatant body embarrassment (calling a broader and curvaceous female buffalo an insult) and as Women versus women (Jiya versus Pam, the vampire in short dresses, and Radha versus Shanti, the curious neighbor who flirts with Suraj).

Also read: Of Masculinity and Mental Disorders – How Guilty Is Bollywood?

Our family rooms can change when popular culture can experiment with progressive families who are there for one another!

Utkrishti is a master's student studying clinical psychology at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. She is an intersectional feminist and amateur songwriter who questions her consumption choices every day. At best, it tries hard to save paper and water. She believes that human kindness will one day solve societal problems! You can find them on Instagram and Twitter.

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