While shooting for ZEE TV’s new serial Do Saheliyan: Kismat Ki Kathputliyan in the middle of an arid village somewhere in the interiors of Rajasthan, the two female leads, Ankita Shrivastava and Sulagna Panigrahi, are not surprised that there are scores of villagers sitting crouched by the peripheries of the sets watching the actors take their shots. After all, both think that the audience in smaller towns of India are hooked to television, and are great fans of soaps that run on social issues.
The show traces the lives and friendship of two girls from Rajasthan with the background of class divide putting their friendship to test at every step. Both Ankita and Sulagna are happy that despite the fact that most of the soaps on TV today deal with social issues,often ending up sounding very similar to one another, the same shows are finding a big audience in smaller towns and villages. Ankita points out, “The soaps all carry a social message that is very important. There is a big audience out there who are glued to their TV sets watching such shows. Since I have been shooting in Jaisalmer, I have noticed lights going off by seven in the evening and entire families huddling together in front of their TV sets to watch serials.”
Sulagna is happy that more and more serials that deal with social issues are choosing to base their stories on women. She says, “TV is increasingly becoming a woman’s domain. We do not have to go dancing around trees anymore. Unlike films, on television today, the women are idolised and the men glamourised.” Ankita adds, “After all, it is women who make the biggest audience for soaps. I am not complaining.”
Sulagna also feels that it is the onus of TV stars to take upon themselves the responsibility to spread awareness against social issues like caste divide and discrimination on the basis of colour and race. She concludes, “In rural regions, where caste divide is dominant, a television show can actually affect the thought process of the audience.”