Set in rural Rajasthan, ‘Balika Vadhu’ traces the arduous journey of child bride Anandi from the brink of childhood to womanhood. Married at the tender age of eight, Anandi had to accept and accustom herself to a new family of strangers and accept her roles as a friend, lover, wife and a daughter in law during childhood itself. Now, as a young adult, she faces new challenges as she tries to carve out her own identity in the world. ‘Balika Vadhu’ very sensitively portrays the plight of children who are unwittingly forced into marriage, in the name of tradition, and have to bear the repercussions for the rest of their lives. The dominance of the elders in her new home – the expectation of a child to take on the responsibilities of a woman. The harsh treatment meted out by the in-laws for any infraction and the complete lack of any outside support is both painful and shocking to viewers as this is the reality in rural India even today! However as time passes they show this very child bride to become a strong independent woman with the support and unwavering love of these very in-laws.The serial has portrayed the plight of child brides in a very sensitive manner and story has gone on to focus on several women’s issues that need to be addressed and reformed in India today. Most importantly the storyline emphasises the importance of respecting women and empowering them in every way in order to lead full lives and contribute to society at large.
Child Marriage has been a venom to the Indian Society more specifically in the rural areas since the 16th Century; with the help of Reformers and the British regime, India somewhat has been able to remove it from the Indian system over the last few centuries; however we can still find traces of it in rural areas even today. The irony here is that social evils portrayed in a largely uneducated rural India resonates with the urban audience because in many ways women in urban India routinely face problems of being discriminated at home, in their workplace and even in pubic areas where they can be bodily harmed with the ‘protectors’ of society looking the other way. Women in both rural and urban India feel the to be empowered – this is the sentiment that Balika Vadhu hits upon and attempts to send a positive message of change to millions of viewers.
‘Balika Vadhu’ started of as a serial talking about the tribulations and mentality of the Rural India and how they look at Child Marriage as a scared tradition of coupling; with an epigram in the end of every episode giving a thought of change to the millions.
However, the serial soon lost its sheen, what started of as an offset from the regular drama serials we see on Indian Television, it soon turned out to be just a regular serial. The characters became predictable and the drama turned into a daily soap. Social issues based programmes are difficult to make, a tough line to walk through, after a fairly successful run, the producers soon lost on ideas and turned to the tried and tested, cliché storyline seen in the Balaji serials. The programme lost its plot when it took a 5 year leap, the central characters were children and were popular faces, though the show required a change, the leap wasn’t however necessary, there are many a tales of childhood and adolescence yet to showcase.
The show soon got back on track showing a love triangle between the central characters, showcasing one of the major drawbacks of Child Marriage; our choices aren’t the same as we grow up. Issues like Remarriage, Position of Women in the Society, in the Grahampanchayat, Education for Girls, Girl Child are touched upon every now and then in the serial, however it doesn’t seem the same way like it promised at the start. Its novelty seems lost in the attempt to maintain the TRP’s.
As far as performances go, Anandi, the face of the serial has been changed thrice, the young played by the very talented Avika Gor, later on by Pratyusha Banerjee and now by Toral Rasputra. All the three talented actors have brought out something new to the character, though the character is flat at times, the performances have been top notch to save the day. Siddharth Shukla as Jagdish has kept the audiences riveted with his portrayal of a young handsome IAS officer – exemplifying the highest ethical and moral standards. His strong but gentle portrayal of a powerful bureaucrat and a loving and accepting husband has the women audiences swooning . Surekha Sikri as Kalyani Devi has been the star of the show, a veteran in the Television Industry she has played the character to the skin, though her screen time has reduce over the years, she never disappoints with her performance.
Anup Soni,Smita Bansal, Satyajit Sharma do complete justice to their characters, the chemistry between Anup and Smita is soothing and may be even better than that of the lead pair on a given day. The performance of each character, whether the central, supporting or the guest characters all have helped to up the ante and helped hide the flaws in the storyline.
In a Family drama, maintaining the storyline is a strenuous job. Shifting from one track to another and also keeping the audience interested is tough – with limited deadlines and your work seen by millions, its not easy. Balika Vadhu tries to maintain that, the show tries to keep a balance between being a daily soap and also trying to keep the basic theme of a social drama intact, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. The storyline too receives a similar fate.
Created by – Purnendu Shekhar
Written by – Purnendu Shekhar, Gajra Kottary, Rajesh Dubey, Usha Dixit, Raghuvir Shekhawat
Directed by – Sidharth Sengupta, Pradeep Yadav
Production company(s) – Sphere Origins
Original channel – Colors TV