Regression at the forefront

Chitra Sampada Ramesh
Friday, 10 May 2019

The residents of Konkan and Malvan are unhappy with the portrayal of the region in Ratris Khel Chale. They say that the people are shown to be superstitious, which is incorrect

Daily soaps have a clear set of gender roles with patriarchy blatantly evident in them. Women characters are either submissive or there is an overdose of scheming vamps. The trend seems to be getting more complex as even educated women characters are shown working hard to impress the family members or win acceptance of society. With Ratris Khel Chale, a daily soap series telecast on Zee Marathi, it has hit a new low. 

Shot in a Sindhudurg village, Ratris Khel...is a horror show toasting black magic. It showcases most of its women characters not just weak, powerless and stereotyped but extremely superstitious. It makes us wonder if the writers of the soap have tried to portray the real Malvan/Konkan, its people and especially the women?

What’s the show all about?
The soap was opposed by people of Konkan when the first part was aired. But the channel continued to air the show citing that it doesn’t promote black magic. Now, the channel has introduced a prequel to the story, where the characters shown are young. 

For those who have not seen the show, Ratris Khel... is the tale of power struggle between the protagonist, a cruel, lustful, wealthy landlord Anna Naik and his aunt, Vachhi. Anna’s wife Indu, tries to pacify things by seeking the help of priest Raghu kaka, who resorts to orthodox practices. Vachhi’s son Kashi is injured during a scuffle with Anna, which affects his thinking ability. 

Vachhi is a stereotyped negative character shown hurling abuses. Along with her daughter-in-law, Shobha, she resorts to practising black magic against the protagonist. The soap has shown animal sacrifices, telltale objects of exorcism, including the black doll. 

The serial sends out a clear message to the viewers that these women fail to use common sense, deprive themselves of learning and educational opportunities, and moreover, hardly put their analytical skills to use on a daily basis and especially during crises.

Even a medical condition is cured by Raghu kaka, who offers prayers to the village deity. The available ‘doctor’ fails to administer an injection and suggest taking help of the priest, as he is not confident of curing the patient.

What do Konkan residents say?
Namrata Desai, a native of Degve village on Maharashtra-Goa border, says, she has never witnessed incidents of black magic in and around Konkan villages. 

Desai, a PR and media consultant has been actively interacting with women during her extensive travel in villages across the state. 

She points out, “Women are rarely involved in activities performed in the temple or other cultural activities in villages. Even the food is prepared by men on such occasions. So there are rare chances of women being aware of and practising black magic.”

“Ratris Khel Chale is misleading the viewers and the makers are trying to cash inn on age-old forgotten folktales by reviving them,” she adds. 

Such insane plots might be aimed at only entertaining the masses, but what is scary is that these messages are strongly being conveyed, which may encourage women and men to follow illegal and dangerous practices, due to lack of prevalent scientific temper. The most worrying part is children and teenagers could be forming opinions based on what they are watching.

Award-winning author, Pravin Bandekar, who is a native of Konkan, feels, “Often it is found that women from this part are more educated than their spouses. Women don’t face discrimination at home, instead, they are treated equal. They are confident which reflects in their way of dressing and overall behaviour.”

“On occasions, I have found women from Konkan sharper than men. When it comes to work, marketing their farm produce, they come out as sharp-witted,” adds Desai. 

Bandekar, whose third novel Indian Animal Farm, was published recently, says, “If we look at the results of competitive exams, we will realise that women fare much better than men. A girl from Kudal stood 256th in this year’s UPSC exam. Also during SSC and HSC board exams, girls outnumber boys in rankings.”

Women in this part of the state are educated, support their families financially. Nayan Khadapkar, who is a director of Kokan Bazar, an NGO which works for the economic upliftment of underprivileged women from Konkan, by offering them livelihood opportunities, says, “The younger women are extremely enthusiastic about developing their career and getting ahead in life. The serial shows the region and its people in bad light.” 

Khadapkar herself has pursued Masters from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and has been working with women for over four decades. She adds, “I have witnessed a tremendous change in the mindset of women here, the age-old orthodox beliefs are taken over by scientific temperament. You find women setting up businesses, which was very unlike for a ‘Kokani person’. I have followed their journey, as they grew stronger and more confident.”  

Raising questions as to why the makers of the serial are dishing out outdated perceptions of Konkan, noted poet from Kankavli, Ajay Kandar said, “Why can’t the makers of Ratris Khel... portray the real picture? Each village girl is educated, there are several cases of successful women from this region. Chaitali Sawant, daughter of a farmer from Damare village has become a Tehsildar, another girl from village Harkul has become a pilot. Poetess Sharayu Acholkar has been winning awards for her work.” 

Kandar, who is the recipient of Maharashtra Foundation award, adds, “The soap doesn’t create any awareness on real issues, but by depicting such spurious characters lacking any roots in the reality, the makers are developing an inappropriate perception of women of Konkan and the society at large here. It is wrong and unacceptable.”  

Darshana Gavkar, from Devgad, who is into garment business, points out, “Women have developed a scientific mindset and seek medical intervention when someone falls sick. They don’t resort to black magic as depicted in the soap.”     

Rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, who spearheaded the anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra for 18 years, was assassinated in 2013, the same year Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, came into force.

Along with Dr Dabholkar, there have been several activists who have been working tirelessly for decades to create awareness against such social and religious evils. Soaps such as Ratris Khel Chale, not just push an enormous amount of work carried out by rationalists, down the drain, they also reinforce superstitious beliefs which are detrimental to society.

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