Remember the swiftly-cancelled serial Pehredaar Piya Ki? It was a recent controversial new serial from Sony that showed the marriage of nine-year-old prince Ratan, and an 18-year-old woman named Diya, who’d been entrusted by Ratan’s dying father with the task of protecting him from enemies within the family? After numerous complaints, and a 1-lakh strong petition addressed to Smriti Irani demanding a ban because of its portrayal of child marriage, the show was shifted to a later slot, and required to carry a trailing disclaimer that clarified it is fictional and does not support child marriage. It was later decided to just take the show off the air.
But not for long! The show’s creators clearly have a never-say-die attitude, and have now come back with all guns blazing and a revamp of this ill-fated show. Rishta Likhenge Hum Naya tells the story of the same set of characters, but with a 12-year leap into the future, which now puts Diya and Ratan at 30 and 21 years respectively. Diya seems to have spent her time over the last 12 years training in martial arts and security services, because she’s now a much more formidable guardian (with armour under her ghaghra and a Bluetooth headset to coordinate security operations and also look important), while Ratan is a selfie-loving brat with a six pack studying in London.
In this interview with Scroll.in, the show’s producer Sumeet Mittal still seems a bit sore about the original show’s reception, and defends it in a manner that makes it hard to follow the logic. He says, “We always treated Diya as a nine-year-old girl instead of treating Ratan like an 18-year-old boy. But it was not liked by people. So rather than proving our point, we wanted to come up with a new show.”
More interestingly, he also pointed out that it was a “different breed” of people who came out negatively about the show on social media when it first came out, and that its “hardcore audience” of television viewers clearly liked the show despite the controversy, and the show’s numbers didn’t descend. He also said that there’s a difference between the internet audience and the “real audience”.
I’m not sure about the difference between the “real” audience and the internet audience, but there does seem to be some kind of difference between the people who came out against Pehredaar Piya Ki on social media, and the people who consumed this show and others like it on television regularly. Online discussion forums dedicated to the show, for example, were full of people defending it, writing about why they like it, and explicating how anyone who watched the show would understand that the plot line is more complicated than it seems, and that the show doesn’t actually support child marriage. You’d also find frequent entreaties to actually watch the show before complaining about it. In fact, Buzzfeed India even ran a piece titled “I Watched Every Episode Of “Pehredaar Piya Ki”: Yes, It’s Awful But No, It Shouldn’t Be Banned”, which gives you the indication that most of the people who were complaining about the show online hadn’t actually watched all the episodes, and that that’s what set this particular Buzzfeed piece apart.
Which does make you think. When the show first came out, many of us did indeed recoil in automatic horror, but why? Because we thought it would encourage its targeted audience to support child marriage? But the show’s own audience seemed to enjoy the show, and continued watching it even after many folks articulated what all they felt was wrong with it, and more importantly, discussion forums actually reveal that the audience didn’t find the serial appealing just because of the child marriage plot line, nor were they fooled by the plot into supporting child marriage, but that they saw past that aspect and just liked the story. Sure, there was plenty that was laughable about PPP, but nothing that really should have mobilised anyone to call for banning it, and not letting the people who wanted to watch it to do so. The show’s makers got a rough deal from an unexpected place, so I hope Rishta Likhenge Hum Naya fares a lot better than its predecessor.