top of page

"Rasode mein kaun tha?" The narrow ideals of femininity in the classic portrayal of 'Gopi Bahu'



Indian television has long been a powerful medium that reflects and reinforces societal norms and values. "Sath Nibhana Sathiya" is a popular Indian television drama series that aired from 2010 to 2017. It was produced by Rashmi Sharma Telefilms and aired on Star Plus channel in India. The show gained significant popularity and became one of the longest-running and most successful series on Indian television.


The show follows the story of two cousins, Gopi and Rashi, who are married into the Modi family. The drama series revolves around their journey as they navigate through various family dynamics, relationships, and social issues. The show combines elements of drama, romance, and comedy, and often highlights social and cultural themes prevalent in Indian households. While the show may have captured the hearts of many viewers, it is crucial to critically examine the representation of women through a gendered lens. This article aims to shed light on the fragile and delicate portrayal of 'Gopi Bahu' and how it perpetuates conservative depictions of women in Indian households. The further complexities of other prominent female characters in the show are also touched upon.


Reinforcing Traditional Gender Roles:



Gopi Bahu is portrayed as a delicate and innocent woman, constantly facing hardships and relying on others for guidance and support. While it is essential to acknowledge the diversity of women's experiences, the overemphasis on Gopi Bahu's fragility diminishes the agency and resilience of women in real-life scenarios. By consistently portraying her as easily-manipulated and grieving in solitude, the show reinforces the notion that women need constant protection and cannot navigate life's challenges independently.


The portrayal of Gopi Bahu aligns with traditional gender roles prevalent in Indian households. She is depicted as a dutiful daughter-in-law, a submissive wife, and a devoted mother, often sacrificing her desires and ambitions for the sake of others. Such portrayals reinforce the societal expectations placed upon women to prioritize family over personal growth. This perpetuation of traditional gender roles hinders progress towards gender equality and restricts women's aspirations and opportunities.


Rashi: The Ambitious and Manipulative Daughter-in-Law:


The character of Rashi challenges the traditional image of a virtuous and submissive daughter-in-law. She is portrayed as ambitious, cunning, and manipulative, often using her wit to get what she wants. While Rashi's character adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, it is important to analyze how her portrayal may perpetuate stereotypes of women as conniving or opportunistic. It is essential to avoid reducing female characters to simplistic labels and explore their multidimensional aspects to foster a more nuanced understanding.


Kokila Modi: The Matriarch and Enforcer of Traditional Values:


Kokila Modi, the authoritative and dominant figure in the show, represents the traditional matriarchal role in Indian households. As the head of the family, she enforces strict adherence to traditional values and societal norms. While Kokila's character showcases strength and leadership, her unwavering commitment to conservatism limits progressive discussions and alternative viewpoints. It is important to recognize that matriarchal figures can play diverse roles and need not always adhere to strict traditionalism.


The Need for Progressive Representation:


Television serials have a significant influence on Indian households, shaping perceptions and attitudes towards gender roles. By glorifying the fragile and submissive portrayal of 'Gopi Bahu,' 'Sath Nibhana Saathiya' inadvertently perpetuates conservative beliefs about women's place in society. This can have a lasting impact on viewers, particularly those in more traditional households, reinforcing the idea that women should conform to prescribed gender norms, limiting their aspirations and potential. As viewers, we should encourage and support television shows that break away from these stereotypes, promoting a more inclusive and empowering portrayal of women that reflects the diversity and strength of real-life women in India.


65 views9 comments

9 Comments


In traditional Pakistani media, women who engage in partying or alcohol consumption are often depicted negatively, serving as a means to portray them as morally flawed or "bad" characters. These portrayals reinforce societal judgments and stigmatization around certain behaviors. However, Jugnu's character in "Churails" breaks away from these stereotypes by presenting a woman who is unapologetically herself and defies the traditional expectations placed on her. This is very important because there needs to be narratives and characters that challenge stereotypes and provide a more realistic and inclusive portrayal of women.

Like

Loved reading this! I think it's so disappointing to be seeing these roles being portrayed again and again. The effect this has on younger girls is also so disturbing because they're then made to believe that they either have to choose to be the 'innocent girl' that is appreciated and loved by all, or to be the 'evil conniving woman' that holds authority and gets whatever she wants. This in turn, effects how relationship-dynamics continue to be stuck in the same place as they were 20 years ago because every mother in law believes she needs to hate her daughter in law, and every woman starts to believe she needs to be manipulative in order to get the man she…

Like
Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
Jun 22, 2023
Replying to

Agreed! The bahu is expected to embody traditional feminine virtues such as selflessness, patience, humility, and unwavering devotion to her husband and in-laws. She is often depicted as sacrificing her personal aspirations and desires for the sake of the family's happiness. Her sole purpose in life is seen as serving her husband and fulfilling her duties as a wife and daughter-in-law.


These portrayals perpetuate the notion that a woman's worth is determined solely by her ability to conform to societal expectations and fulfill prescribed gender roles. They reinforce the belief that a woman's happiness and fulfillment lie in her ability to please and serve others, rather than pursuing her own dreams and aspirations. These dramas often depict these narrow ideals…

Like

Such an important read! For most of us, we've seen at least part and bits of Indian TV dramas and have learnt a thing or two from them. The first thing that I noticed in your article was your analyzation of the three women within the show. And it made me think that male characters usually have very less roles compared to women and it in some ways perpetuates this idea of "aurat hi aurat ki dushman." Even within the film Lajja I remember this dialogue that says, "tum aurat zaat khud apni dushman ho." And I think in many ways such drama series have put forward this idea that women are always conniving and working against each other. In…

Like
Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
Jun 22, 2023
Replying to

Your part about the male characters in these shows is true. In this particular drama, played by actor Mohammad Nazim, Ahem exemplifies several traits and behaviors that contribute to the toxic portrayal of masculinity. Ahem is initially introduced as a stern, authoritative, and controlling individual. He exerts dominance over his wife, Gopi, and expects her to conform to traditional gender roles and societal expectations. Ahem's belief in male superiority is evident in his constant need to assert his dominance and make decisions on behalf of his wife and family, without considering their wishes or desires.


One of the most striking aspects of Ahem's character is his lack of emotional expression. He rarely shows vulnerability or empathy, suppressing his emotions and…

Like

Really interesting read. The entire time I was constantly thinking of characters present in our hum dramas that are so similar to the characters present in this show and its honestly just so sad that our film industry has the potential to produce brilliant masterpieces like joyland but we end up churning out that almost seem like they look at the most problematic elements of Gopi Bahu for inspiration. Worse yet is that the few drama serials with great potential fall victim to these tropes somewhere down the line. I truly hope there can be a revolutionary shift in our cinema and even if we still choose to be inspired by bollywood then at least our industry chooses the shows…

Like
Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
Jun 22, 2023
Replying to

There exist a plethora of Indian media products that could be considered for adequate grounds of inspiration for our showbiz industry. One such example that comes to mind is the Bollywood movie 'Queen', as discussed in our class. Through her journey of self-discovery and empowerment, the character of Rani transforms from a naive and dependent woman to a confident and fearless individual. "Queen" beautifully portrays Rani's evolution as she navigates new cultures, forms unexpected friendships, and ultimately realizes her worth as an independent woman.


Another notable film is "Pink", directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. The story confronts societal prejudices and challenges the notion of victim-blaming. The film emphasizes the importance of consent and women's agency. By highlighting the strength and…


Like

Loved how you chose this topic of the viral rasode may kaun tha. I was always very curious to know about the show after that. i liked how you went beyond the geographical boundaries of Pakistan and how it really goes on to show the similarities between our cultures and even dramas and shows. Besides the naive representation of Gopi, that is shown in a good light, and Rashi, the ambitious one, in a negative light, what i noticed for the longest time in both indian and pakistani dramas is how adorned all the bahus are no matter what the circumstances are. that itself is problematic because it sets an impractical expectation of another quality of the ideal bahu... to…


Like
Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
Jun 15, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your insight! The part about the expectations from bahus to be 'presentable' and maintain their 'dulhan' image is really important to speak about given we observe these stereotypical depictions in today's dramas as well. About the last part where you mentioned that these type of shows have become outdated due to decreased relatability, is somewhat unfitting, since Star Plus still manages to produce and maintain these depictions only with minor changes in their setting. In fact, they announced 'Sath Nibhana Sathiya' season 2 (late 2020), right after this meme gained popularity and not just the storylines were similar but they casted the same actors to play Kokila and Gopi. It's funny how they have managed to do…

Like
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page