In the suffocating space of Indian television’s daily soaps, with male chauvinism, Saas-Bahu fights and patriarchal cultures of Indian families; Sony TV gave us a small breeze of fresh air with its new show “Dhadkan Zindagi kii”.
With IMDB describing the series as set “in a world where rules are set by men, Dr Deepika Sinha, a surgeon, enters FMS hospital. But for her to live her dream, she must struggle against gender bias, judgment, as well as her past.” The medical drama is a limited series show.
The protagonist, Dr Deepika, prevails amid a world that runs on the whims of powerful men. She belongs to a traditional Bihari family. She breaks her engagement with her fiancé (Dr Vikrant Saxena) days before the marriage because she was being forced to give up on her dream of becoming a surgeon. “MBBS is enough for a female doctor. How will you handle surgeries while being a wife and a daughter in law?” asks her fiancé. Corresponding to the fact that women, on all stages in their life are forced with a choice of prioritising their life as a wife, daughter in law, mother and her individual dreams.
This is only one of the many struggles that she faces. But she also fights tremendously against all challenges thrown to her by society. Her family breaks all ties with her, which is not shocking for many! How many families in India would maintain relations with a daughter who chooses her career above her marriage? Her father’s funeral takes place without her, her mother refuses to speak to her and she moves out of her house. From a clip in the trailer, the head nurse asks her why she did not “adjust” with her fiancé. She responds “a man can also adjust”. The dialogue itself speaks volume to the audience.
In another episode, the board group members of the hospital (all men, of course) debate on who should be the head of the ER (emergency department). The debate takes us back to the foundations of our patriarchal society where everyone is afraid of being led by a woman, many doubt the decision-making abilities of women and come with the belief that they cannot work effectively because their mood and abilities may differ when they menstruate once a month!
The dialogue is inescapable for the viewers. We, as the audience, must take a pause and reflect; do we also carry this perception? Are we also not able to find women surgeons in hospitals? Especially the head surgeons? and can this be the reason behind it? Do a group of male doctors decide the fate of female doctors in their hospital without taking on their point of view?
Well, studies suggest the same. In March 2016, the Times of India reported that women surgeons were a “vanishing tribe” in Hyderabad. Records from corporate hospitals across the city showed that only 10% of their surgeons were women and almost all of these were restricted to gynaecology and obstetrics departments. Dr Sushma Sagar from the Association of Women Surgeons, India wrote in her blog “it was projected that for 25,000 surgeons there are only 700 women surgeons and of 12,700 members only 300 women are members of this society, a number too small to be reckoned at any forum.”
When the character, Dr Sinha chose her dream of becoming a surgeon, she lost her family and her fiancée who were not ready to accept her choice. However, later in the episodes, they all come to respect her when they see her saving lives for a living!
It will not be wrong to say that the show gives the viewers a fresh female gaze that we find extremely missing from the daily soaps on Indian television. It telecasts Muslim characters without showing them speaking heavy Urdu words, wearing loads of Surma/kajal in their eyes and a checked black and white scarf around their necks. They, like everyone else, have a surgeon’s life beyond their religion. It shows a group of junior residents who are being headed by a female surgeon who drives in her Mahindra Thar. It shows a senior male surgeon believing in the capabilities of the female surgeon who can lead the ER!
Those who love Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor, would find this show amusing with a female gaze for the Indian audience. It can be viewed on the Sony Entertainment channel and MX player.