Portraits of A Dutiful Wife: How The New ALTBalaji Show "The Married Woman" Makes Us Rethink This Stereotype

For the Indian audience, there is nothing new about a family drama. The story of the dutiful wife is a tale that the Indian television industry has told and retold countless times. The emergence of new and progressive online streaming services, along with the younger generation’s indifference to family dramas, have inspired new, realistic shows.

The new ALTBalaji series “The Married Woman” is an example of how creators are breaking ranks to bring better shows to the screen. “The Married Woman” is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel by Manju Kapur. Although it deals with common subjects like family, marriage, and relationships, it is expected to break away from unrealistic and sanitized portrayals of marriage in Indian society.

Unlike the light-heartedness of most television programs, “The Married Woman” is set against the tense backdrop of 1992. The story takes us through two contrasting characters, Astha and Peeplika, who find love and solace in each other despite their differences. The show also discusses the unfair restrictions that are put on women, especially after marriage. This “Lakshman Rekha”, akin to the glass ceiling, is real and takes away women’s liberty and voice on the domestic front.

The Story Of Astha

In many Indian homes, silence and subservience are expected of women. Astha Kalra, the protagonist of the show, is an educated, middle-class woman brought up in Delhi by overprotective parents. Astha is the quintessential middle-class working woman. She is the uncomplaining daughter-in-law, wife, and mother who puts her family before herself. Despite being an individual with opinions and talents of her own, Astha is without a voice in her own home. At work, she meets Aijaz, a charming theatre artist who likes to challenge norms and conventions. She is a woman who has lived her adult life and 11 years of marriage without questioning the beliefs that had been instilled in her. Naturally, she finds the presence of a nonconformist like Aijaz rattling. The surprise gradually gives way to curiosity and infatuation.

This new chapter in her life comes to an abrupt end when Aijaz is killed in a blast. Astha finds herself struck by grief that she cannot express or share with others. To her surprise, she develops a rapport and relationship with his widow, Peeplika Khan.

Exploring The Unconventional

Unlike everyone else, Peeplika looks past the veneer and sees Astha for what she is. Peeplika isn’t afraid to question Astha’s loyalty towards a listless marriage with Hemant. Finally, Astha’s need to be seen as an individual and not just as someone’s wife, mother, or daughter, is what gives her the courage to pursue a meaningful and more satisfying relationship with Peeplika. As the story progresses, we see Astha unravel, only to truly find herself.

Through Astha’s experiences, the show highlights the double standards that may be invisible to the untrained eye. Like many Indian women, Astha has been kept on a tight leash her entire life. The reins have only been passed hands from her controlling mother to her condescending husband. Her family watches on in dismay as she slowly gains the courage to voice her disappointments and stand up for herself.

Women are often told that sacrifice is what makes a good wife or a good mother. “The Married Woman” is an interesting watch that challenges the regressive mold of the dutiful, long-suffering wife. The show features a stellar cast, including Ridhi Dogra, Imaad Shah, Monica Dogra, and Suhaas Ahuja in leading roles.

Catch the series “The Married Woman” on ALTBalaji starting this Women’s Day. What do you think about marriage and the status of women in India? Let us know in the comments below.

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