If you’ve been on social media over the last few days, chances are you’ve also found yourself obsessively humming to the tune of “khaali cooker gas par chada diya” or randomly screaming “Kon tha!” at unsuspecting members of your household.
On August 20, music producer Yashraj Mukhate posted a video on Instagram that has appealed to the Indian imagination and modern-day humour. Setting a scene from the daily soap Saath Nibhaana Saathiya to music, he created a rap video that has gone viral and amassed over 5 million views.
The scene in question is a fairly staple one for the Hindi daily soaps of the 2000s. Kokilaben, the matriarch of the household, is uncovering the truth behind who tried to put her in harm’s way by emptying the cooker of chana and placing it on the stove, leading the cooker to explode while she was inside the, now infamous, rasoda (kitchen). The scene in question shows her finally blaming Rashi for placing the “khali cooker” on the gas stove.
Netizens are having a field day with creating memes out of the viral video. #Rashi is now trending on Twitter almost 10 years after she plotted her devious cooker plan.
Making Iconic Pop Culture Of The Past Iconic Today By Acknowledging Its Ridiculousness
While Mukhate’s unsuspectingly addictive music has helped the video rise to fame, its popularity is contributed to by how it has revamped a familiar thing of our past to fit into popular culture today.
The show was once iconic and enjoyed by viewers unironically. Most Indians who use social media and are up to date with online trends today, however, are likely to have left daily soaps in their past.
It is fun then to see a show that several Indians are likely to be familiar with, come back into the spotlight and become iconic in a way that fits modern humour and values.
It is an acknowledgement of how ridiculous the daily soaps could get, by a section of people who have more or less outgrown and dismissed the stereotypes they portrayed. As a group, we can laugh at the hilarity of Kokilaben’s old-timey dialogues being turned into modern-day rap – at what we once enjoyed and who we once were.
It is heartening to see that we have come to a point where we find the tropes propagated by the Indian television industry laughable.
However, it remains that the industry mostly caters to audiences from smaller towns – audiences who largely aren’t privy to social media humour and trends. While netizens find relevance in the daily soaps by making parodies out of them, there is an audience that the TV serials not only cater to, but also are an exaggerated reflection of.
The Internet has made the stereotypes propagated by Indian pop-culture of the past laughable for a section of people who had already dismissed them – not the section of people still living them.
Indian TV Serials And Regressive Portrayals Of Women
In 2016, The Caravan published a report where television writers talked about the outrageous and outdated rules of scriptwriting for Indian TV serials. Most of these rules had to do with portraying a stereotyped and patriarchal idea of a woman, with the justification that this portrayal is what Indian audiences appreciated.
“Take any female lead from any show, she will be an epitome of sacrifice. Quiet submission is a trait appreciated by the Indian audience,” said a writer Gitangshu Dey.
The “heroine” must always be self-sacrificing, and “nice” even in the face of injustice, much like the whimpering Gopi bahu who outs Rashi ben in the video. She must be generous and helpful, to the point of willing to go through extreme pain herself. She must preferably be sweet, to the point of being naïve (cue the iconic Gopi bahu washing a laptop meme).
“Strong-female characters will not be appreciated”. While strong female characters are hardly ever the central heroines, they are represented in the form of belligerent mothers-in-law like Kokilaben, and antagonists, dubbed “vamps”, like Rashi. The difference between the heroine and the “vamp”, according to the report, will be established through the vamp wearing garish make-up, immodest or western clothes, and eating “non-veg” food. (If the heroine feels nauseous at the sight of meat, that’s a bonus!)
Heroines like Gopi bahu know how to cook and take care of the household, and villains like Rashi are bad at housework. Men will never contribute to housework, nor will they be expected to by the women around them.
After all, while Kokilaben plays detective in the mystery of “Rasode me kon tha?”, trying to find out who placed the empty pressure cooker on the stove, she never even considers the men of the household.
The justification is that pandering to audiences’ regressive beliefs about gender roles means higher TRPs. It is a vicious cycle of the audiences appreciating regressive portrayal of women, and the TV serials feeding and encouraging these patriarchal beliefs through their characters and plotlines. The Indian TV industry, however, is the one holding the choice to break the cycle.
Until the cycle does break, we all know that the real answer to “Rasode me kon tha?” is still women.
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