Strength of character & content

Telly script

Strength of character & content

Penning creativity: Purnendu Shekhar

His mother was married off at the tender age of 15. Listening to her tales, as a kid, Purnendu Shekhar always wondered what trials and tribulations a girl would be going through as a child bride. It’s this experience that inspired Shekhar to pen down a story on child marriages. Thus, Balika Vadhu was born. In a conversation with Sunday Herald, Purnendu Shekhar talks about being a writer in the TV industry. Excerpts from an interview:

What makes Balika Vadhu click?
I had written Balika Vadhu in the form of a movie script way back in 1992. Growing up in Rajasthan, I have witnessed so many minor girls getting married. The experience left an indelible impression on my mind. This social evil is known to have existed since decades, but I wonder why no one thought about showcasing it on television before. The concept works as it stimulates public reasoning and inspires shock and awe. Secondly, it’s the characters, which have an inherent relatedness to them. Anandi is the central character but people still have built a strong bond with Ma saa, Bhairav, Sumitra, Jagdish, Sugna,  Gehna and Basant. In many a serial, people sometimes cannot remember anyone beyond the protagonist.

Being a writer for soaps is a 24X7 job?
They say, writing is a creative job, but TV writers don’t have that privilege. How would we, considering we have to churn out numerous episodes everyday. I’ll say it is tough. Especially when you have to maintain the quality of content — free from any gimmicks or drama. I spend eight to nine hours everyday working on a single serial. Sitting with my team of writers, I have to go through every docket of the script, make changes if necessary.

So you end up making creative compromises?
Not really. The only issue is when you juxtapose creativity and TRPs. Both are important and have to be kept in mind while doing your job. Adding to the pressure is the unavailability of time. You write an episode, and the very next day it is aired. Therefore you never have a bank of stories to fall back on. Call it a race against time! But, the day you compromise on the creativity of content, the story will become monotonous and superfluous, eventually leading to diminishing TRPs.

You have always written serials with strong women protagonists tagged with a social message.
I believe in providing entertainment with a purpose. All my stories — be it Saat Phere, the tale of a dark-skinned girl finding it difficult to find a suitor, Balika Vadhu or the very recent Godh Bharaai, where a women is shunned because she cannot conceive a child, talk about issues never told before. We need to highlight them if not solve them. I also feel that the trauma and emotional disturbances a women can through, a man cannot, and as the premise of all my stories need the central character to be emotionally strong, all my protagonists are women.

Lately, many women-oriented serials, saas-bahu sagas have been branded regressive. Critics also feel Balika Vadhu promotes child marriage. Your take?
All soaps cannot be regarded as regressive. What’s wrong in a women only being a housewife? They too are empowered as they take all the decisions in a household. Like my father used to always come and put his salary in my mother’s hand. She was incharge of the home, the boss. There is nothing wrong with portraying that. But, yes, there exist regressive serials about women, where she is depicted as the one who bears the brunt of everyone’s anger, pity and cannot stand up for herself. That shouldn’t happen. Like Ma saa in Balika Vadhu is strict, a disciplinarian but not evil and conniving unlike stereotypical vamps. She is respected for what she is. As for all those critics who feel that Balika Vadhu is promoting child marriages — to eradicate any social evil, you first need to talk about it.

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