Rupali Ganguly should take advise from her TV character 'Anupamaa'

'I hope Rupali will carry some Anu-ness into the next phase of her life'

I have been a fan of the television drama series, Anupamaa, right from the very start. The number one Hindi TV serial in the country for almost four years now, it tells the story of simple Ahmedabad housewife, Anupamaa, who loved her husband, children, and in-laws, and found her happiness exclusively in theirs. Till the day she found out her husband has been cheating on her, and has nothing but contempt for her as she is uneducated, uncool, overweight, a pushover, with hands that “stink of masalas”. And so begins Anupamaa’s second innings, in which she re-discovers herself, with her own hopes and dreams, divorces the cheater who did not value either her love or her stellar qualities, starts her own business, retains the love of her children and in-laws, marries a handsome, supportive tycoon who adores her, and proceeds to have an awesome new life (marred, of course, with all sorts of minor vicissitudes to keep the TRPs coming.)

The fact that the show airs on prime time Star Plus makes it a far more effective tool to battle patriarchy than any number of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaanis, Thappads or Laapataa Ladies. There’s a lot of Matarani and Jai Shri Krishna in Anupamaa, but don’t be fooled by the sanskaari trappings. The show is subversive from beginning to end, pretty much starting where Sridevi’s English-Vinglish left-off. Anupamaa is an excellent home-maker and cook, but also fiery and fearless. She never hesitates to tell off family, friends and society. She is sympathetic, progressive, intelligent, independent, outspoken and thinks for herself. Which is why I wonder how Rupali Ganguly, the actor who plays Anupamaa, and has a fan following which has been compared with that of Smriti Irani’s in the early 2000s, will fare in the BJP.

Rupali Ganguly in a still from Anupamaa; (right) Gangulywith BJP president J.P. Nadda. Rupali Ganguly in a still from Anupamaa; (right) Gangulywith BJP president J.P. Nadda.

I suppose the entry in politics seemed like the next logical step to the actor—Irani’s example is there before her, as is Arun Govil’s. After all, no matter how popular a show is, it cannot run forever, and one must be pragmatic and plan ahead.

But what would Anu (from the show) whisper into the ear of Rupali (the actor)? She would be happy and reassured that Narendra Modi has declared ‘zero tolerance’ for people such as Prajwal Revanna, and added that ‘they should not be spared’. But surely she would want to know why a government that came to power in the wake of the nation’s anger at the rape of Nirbhaya has proved itself, time and again, to be absolutely callous to crimes against women, unless they belong to a tiny and specific sub-section of atrocities committed on Hindu women by Muslim men? Or why Modi remains silent on horrific crimes against women in Unnao, Hathras, Kathua, Manipur? Or why Bilkis Bano’s rapists were garlanded, and why Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s son was given a ticket, and why dastardly dynast Revanna was fielded, even after the BJP was warned by its member that the man was poison. I suppose Rupali will have to explain to Anu that even though this is the real world, in which Rupali is still just an actor, with a whole lot of new lines to learn and a new role to play in a long-running super-hit reality show hoping to be renewed for its third season.

Still, I am hoping that after playing Anu for so many years, Rupali has imbibed a little bit of the character’s strength and sensibility. And that she will carry some Anu-ness into this next phase of her life. And even if she doesn’t, she isn’t the only Anupamaa. We are all Anupamaa. And we all have a vote.