The sartorial rage this Eid, according to many sellers of women’s dresses, was the Pakhi dress as shown in the Star Jalsha serial Bojhena se Bojhena. So much has been the craze surrounding this style that for everyone, from young children to adults, “Pakhi” was at top of the list.
It’s all good, but there is a dark side to this fashion obsession which has reportedly resulted in at least three deaths and one divorce. As per newspaper reports, the youngest victim of this fashion mania was a class II girl who took her own life as her father did not, or possibly could not afford to buy a Pakhi costume for her.
The other deaths occurred for the same reason while the breakdown of the marriage was because the wife felt that since her husband was not in a financial position to meet her demands, it’s better to end the union for good.
First, let’s concentrate on the suicides, especially by young girls who were obviously ardent fans of the Indian serial: There is nothing wrong in preferring one show above others, and there have been plenty of instances, here in Bangladesh too, when plots shown on TV broke the barrier dividing fantasy from reality.
Going back in time, we remember Kothao Keu Nei, a Humayun Ahmed TV drama, where in the last episode a central character called Baker bhai was to be sent to the gallows after being found guilty of murder.
Before the final episode, people around town brought out vocal processions demanding that Baker Bhai be spared by special amnesty in the end. However, tragedies always have lasting impact, and therefore, the writer did not alter his story.
People mourned the death, albeit on a TV show – proof that often dramas can touch a very human chord. In retrospect, the ending in that plot where Baker bhai is hanged could have been changed because the case against him, as framed in the plot, was not strong enough to justify the death sentence.
In any case, the evaporation of the line between fiction and fact is not uncommon, though when the results are loss of lives, the entire culture of TV entertainment needs to be re-evaluated.
Sometimes, escapism into a make-believe world does wonders for human resilience. The problem starts when the dividing line disappears. It’s only natural that style will emerge from popular outlets of entertainment. There will be blind following too.
Now, with some heartbreaking consequences, instead of just dismissing these deaths as mere accidents, society has to carefully deconstruct the impact of shows, mainly those that are not even made in Bangladesh.
Wanting the Pakhi dress is totally normal. For decades, dresses worn by Indian actresses have influenced fashion in our country. What is disturbing, and possibly not noticed immediately, is that along with showering us with unnatural bevahioural patterns, these serials insidiously inject a high degree of irrational emotion into our lives.
The suicides would not have happened if the victims were not obsessed with the dress to the point where without it, life seemed meaningless. Talk about consumerism taken over the edge of reason.
Coming to the separation of the husband and wife, where the latter allegedly decided to end the marriage, it sounds downright silly. Perhaps countless marital discords have also happened over the Pakhi costume of which we have no further details.
The bottom line here is that we are allowing TV culture to break into the real world to wreak havoc.
Neutrally speaking, most of the serials are highly dramatic, featuring convoluted plots and certain characters that are beyond reproach. In heavy make-up which transforms a person’s real face, actors come in to deliver their intense dialogues.
Adults, mostly women and, sorry to say, a lot of men, sit transfixed in front of the TV, with children soon joining in. So much is the impact of the serials that in general family situations, reference to characters on TV are made regularly.
Even major social occasions are now avid real-life enactments of customs portrayed on TV. Imagine young children, from the tender age of five, being indoctrinated by Machiavellian machinations of family life. From another perspective, Indian soap operas have gotten a large number of TV viewers under a hypnotic spell.
On the other hand, our dramas and shows are not allowed in India. So, this is one-way traffic or what many people call “cultural aggression.” While many of our shows are copies of Indian programs, there are quite a few that still retain originality.
Time to admit, harm has been done because under the relentless bombardment of contrived plots, we have started to make our productions equally kitschy. It’s disconcerting that the adults in our society are not detecting the adverse impacts of dramas that sow seeds of unreal sentiments in our young. Nor is the authority slightly concerned.
When the satellite culture began, we opened our skies to the world allowing in a plethora of entertainment. After decades of monotonous TV shows, this sudden change left us overwhelmed. A myriad of cultural material was absorbed in a short time, leaving us somewhat bewildered.
The young girls took their lives because they were the helpless victims of this whirlpool of conflicting cultural practices. In their distorted understanding of life, acquisition of the Pakhi dress seemed the ultimate goal.
Regrettably, parents and guardians cannot avoid taking responsibility for the deaths and the divorce because their inactivity is also to blame. Firstly, they did not demarcate a line between the real and the unreal worlds. Secondly, despite knowing that our programs are not aired in India, they blithely carried on watching foreign programs. One is puzzled as to how the “Bangladeshi” identity can be held firm when our character is so feeble.