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Naagin Indian feminism gets supernatural manifestation

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Naagin on TV is standing out amongst the spate of saas-bahu dramas. Is it the supernatural theme or our obsession with the unexplainable? There are many questions but an angry Naagin is the one who’s commanding all the respect
Naagin Indian feminism gets supernatural manifestation
The snake woman is the ladder to the top slot on TRPs Ratings. We try to decode the mystery
What do you do when naagins spew TRPs? Simple…you increase the number of shows revolving around naagins, nags, folklore, family secrets blah…blah…blah. Let me clear it at the outset that this is not a satirical piece written to denigrate the makers of what ‘logical’ people term as ‘crap of the highest order’. As every writer would tell you, holding audiences’ interest is no child’s play. So, when a formula works, you cash in on it, or make it bigger…just like Ekta Kapoor did with Naagin on Colors. It was Sasural Simar Ka that brought back the naagin back, first in 2015, in form of the sexy siren Sara Khan. Seeing the supernatural impact on the ratings, other producers also took the reptilian route.

The first one to hit the screen was Naagin, which is undoubtedly one of the best-publicized shows of recent times. We had a handsome hero in Arjun Bijlani, a sexy Icchadhari naagin with a sculpted body in Mouni Roy and a rather fiery one with red highlights in Adaa Khan aka Shesha. The trio aided by a combination of a quirky cast, lavish production values, romance and mythological backdrop (I am yet to figure out the origin of the Icchadhari Nevla though) have kept a grasp as tight as that of an Anaconda on the No.1 slot. It is a known fact that show is lapped up by elders and children in smaller towns and rural areas but I know people in metros who watch it as well.

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Two weeks post Naagin, we had Adhuri Kahaani Hamari on &TV. It is not the channel topper but garners steady numbers. It tells a story of the reincarnation of a royal prince, his beloved and a vicious Icchadhari Naagin. The three take rebirth in present era to relive what happened in their past. It stars Laksh Lalwani, Mahima Makwana and Suhani Dhanki in lead roles. Well-known actress Rashami Desai has also joined the cast recently. Icchadhari Nag and Naagin as a concept are pretty much believable to many people in India’s smaller towns or villages. What else explains the crowd trouble at the marriage of a naag – naagin in Benaras earlier this year? There are many who swear that naagins exist even today. Their tales are present in the folklore of every state, which is why they are highly relatable. Naagin enjoys a good viewership down South as well.

It is, perhaps this success, which has prompted Peninsula Pictures to launch Vishkanya on Zee TV. The promo is intriguing, rather beautifully shot, and talks about the misfortune of a girl, who cannot get her man as she is a Naagin. Now, if there is one thing I dislike, it’s the patriarchal flavour in these shows. Snake-woman seeking revenge for partner’s murder, struggling to find true love, taking rebirth to reunite with their man – see, love and marriage are not the woes of normal women alone. Thank God…we don’t see naagins battling kitchen politics. I remember asking Arjun Bijlani at launch, do you believe in the form-changing snake, he retorted, “Now, if an Icchadhari Naagin is standing beside you, she won’t disclose her true identity to you.” Point noted.

While some might scoff at Arjun’s logic, let tell you about India’s real naagins or snake maidens. There are Santhali women who carry poison with them to attack intruders. The venom is fatal enough to kill a man in seconds. These adivasi women use only this as a protection in the woods where they spend hours collecting firewood. In a country, where women are left at their own mercy…a Naagin is perhaps the most fantastical escape that comes at the click of a button. The men too, don’t mind this, as a mythical snake-woman is far better than an independent, individualistic and ballsy female any day!

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