From Abhalmaya To Agga Bai Sasubai- Tracing The Evolution Of Women In Zee Marathi TV Shows

From a woman accepting her husband's love child, to one seeking revenge from her murderous partner, actresses in Marathi TV today are bold, daring.

2000- 2019: The era of women

A Still Representing The Evolution Of Women In Marathi TV
Source: ZEE5

I’m a half Maharashtrian by descent and one of the millions, whose house is abuzz with Zee Marathi shows playing on the TV set. My grandmother is an ardent follower of the channel and up-to-date with the latest happenings on her favourite shows. Since I cover this channel as a writer, her knowledge on what Abhijeet Raje did to woo Asawari in Agga Bai Sasubai to how Radhika won over Shanaya in Mazhya Navryachi Bayko, really comes in handy!

Watch the latest episode of Agga Bai Sasubai here.

Having established that, let’s come to the current shows being aired on Zee Marathi. If you sit back and take a hard look at them, you will notice a pattern- the front runners are women, essaying daring, bold and versatile characters. Gayatri Datar’s character as Isha, single-handedly takes on her murderous husband Vikrant (played by Subodh Bhave) in Tula Pahate Re. Apurva Nemlekar’s character Shevanta is a seductress, involved in an extra-marital affair. Isha Keskar as Shanaya, is the calculating and manipulative ‘other woman’ in Gurunath’s life in Mazhya Navryachi Bayko. The list can go on.

But if you are of the opinion that we are getting to see women in such different roles only in 2019, it’s time to trace back the steps. We list down some prominent shows where actresses proved to be game changers with their gutsy and powerful roles. We also shed light on how the current Marathi actresses are contributing to the legacy.

1. Abhalmaya

A Still From Abhalmaya
Source: ZEE5

This Zee Marathi show began in early 2000 and ran for almost 3 years. Starring Sukanya Mone, Sanjay Mone, Harshada Kanvilkar among others, Abhalmaya was one of the first Marathi serials to enter the ‘superhit’ club. The serial told the story of female protagonist Sudha (Sukanya), who discovers that her husband Sharad, is cheating on her. After battling a troubled marriage and events that turn her world upside down, Sudha proves to be a courageous and selfless woman, when she accepts Sharad’s love child and loves him as her own.

It’s safe to say that Abhalmaya was way ahead of its time. By shedding light on Sudha’s sacrifices and maturity for the well-being of her family, the show highlights the emotional strength that women possess overall.

2. Lajja

A Still From Lajja
Source: YouTube

This show featuring Girija Oak, told the story of a young small-town girl Manu, who moves to a big city and starts life afresh. She is exposed to the progressive mindset of city-dwellers regarding choices such as what women can wear, whom they can spend their time with etc. Manu invites this change and adapts to her new lifestyle. However, she struggles to cope with her family’s regressive thinking back home. They constantly taunt her about how she is forgetting her traditions and becoming more of a ‘city girl.’

Manu doesn’t give up and inspires youngsters to have a more open-minded view of things. Girija’s character was path-breaking as it proved to a beacon of hope for young girls, who become victims of orthodox thinking and give up their freedom.

3. Ase He Kanyadan

A Still From Ase Hi Kanyadaan
Source: ZEE5

This Zee Marathi show shed light on a strong bond shared between Gayatri (Madhura Deshpande) and her father Sadashiv (Sharad Ponkse). Gayatri is an obedient child and follows her father’s strict rules, without hesitation. All is hunky dory until she falls in love with Kartik (Prasad Jawade). There’s a crack in her relationship with Sadashiv when she discovers that Kartik is the complete opposite of what her father desires his daughter’s partner to be.

Gayatri struggles to find a mid-ground between the two most important men in her life. This character played by Madhura was inspiring on many levels. Viewers got to see Gayatri’s transformation from a coy, rule-abiding girl to a woman, fighting for a man she loves. Her character was also a reminder-especially for women struggling to fight for freedom- that it’s okay to ask for what you deserve, even if it means going against your loved ones sometimes.

4. Agga Bai Sasubai

A Still Of Agga Bai Sasubai
Source: ZEE5

Now that we have looked at examples from the early 2000s, let’s move on to the current Zee Marathi shows. The channel’s latest serial Agga Bai Sasubai, is being appreciated for its progressive and refreshing content. Starring Nivedita Saraf (as Asawari), Tejashri Pradhan (as Shubhra) and Girish Oak (as Abhijeet Raje), the show tells the story of a widow Asawari, finding love again in celebrity chef Abhijeet.

Asawari is the glue that holds the Kulkarni household together. From working tirelessly in the kitchen to taking care of her father-in-law and son, Asawari spends her time living for others. She is a cooking enthusiast and follows recipes by her favourite chef Abhjijeet Raje. It’s only after meeting him that she starts to value herself. Asawari is hesitant to build a relationship with him, but is helped by her supportive and kind daughter-in-law Shubhra. The two share a solid relationship and are each other’s backbones.

Not only does ABS encourage widows to explore a second chance at love, but it also reaffirms that mother and daughter-in-laws can exist without attempted murder. The show is a breath of fresh air among serials that show age-old, unnecessary rivalry between saas‘ and bahus. It’s time to move on guys!

5. Tula Pahate Re

Scene from Tula Pahate Re
Scene from Tula Pahate Re.

This serial starring Gayatri Datar and Subodh Bhave hijacked the no. 1 spot on charts, throughout it’s one- year span. It told the story of Isha, a young girl married to business honcho and widower, Vikrant Saranjame. Vikrant marries Isha, after losing his first wife Rajanandini. The two lead a happy, trouble-free until Isha gets a closer look at Vikrant’s world and discovers skeletons in his closet.

She learns that not only is Vikrant a liar, but also a murderer, who put got rid of his first wife and father-in-law. Isha then sets on a journey of finding Vikrant’s truth and exposing him in front of his family. TPR was a massive hit due owing to its thrilling content and the way it presented powerful female characters. Though Isha initially is smitten by Vikrant’s love and trusts him blindly, she transforms into a revenge-seeking woman, after learning about his past. This switch in Isha, is a pleasure to watch.

5. Mazhya Navryachi Bayko

Scene from Mazhya Navryachi Bayko.
Scene from Mazhya Navryachi Bayko.

This leading show on Zee Marathi, sheds light on the concept of extra-marital affair. Gurunath (Abhijeet Khandkekar) is married to Radhika (Anita Date), a sincere and simple woman. Their marriage is content until Abhijeet falls for the feisty, attractive Shanaya (Isha Keskar) and leaves Radhika for her. The show focuses on how the latter builds her own life and grows into becoming a strong, independent woman.

In many ways, Radhika is an example of the notion of an ‘ideal woman.’ She is successful in her business, she is a an efficient homemaker, she is a social worker, she is kind, compassionate, and ethical. Radhika is almost too good to be true and if you sit down to find faults in her, you probably won’t be able to.

And then on the other hand there’s Shanaya. She definitely lacks a conscience, given how selfish, shrewd and manipulative she is. She is poles apart from Radhika and the two are two sides of the same coin- the coin being Gurunath here.

MNB entertains its audiences with firstly, the daring concept of an extra-marital affair, and secondly by presenting such varied female characters. Playing the other woman is definitely a bold step in Marathi television and Isha has carried off the character perfectly through the years. And just when you get bogged down by Shanaya’s negativity, there’s Radhika’s positivity to turn to for some inspiration.

6. Ratris Khel Chale 2

Apurva Nemlekar as Shevanta in Ratris Khel Chale 2.
Apurva Nemlekar as Shevanta in Ratris Khel Chale 2.

With her light- eyes, voluptuous body and charming ways, Shevanta always manages to make Anna go weak in the knees, in Zee Marathi’s Ratris Khel Chale 2. The character-played by Apurva Nemlekar- is a seductress, involved in an extra marital affair with the head of the Naik family, residing in a small village of Konkan. Apurva’s character is undoubtedly daring in many ways- the look and mannerisms of her are bold, and not commonly seen in Marathi television.

Another factor is that RKC2 is fairly rustic in its appeal and hence to present a seductress as a part of the narrative is a gutsy call by the makers. Shevanta’s sexuality is captivating and makes the character one of the most popular ones on Marathi TV today.

Which of these female characters do you find the most inspiring? Tell us in the comments section below! Check out ZEE5’s collection of Zee Marathi TV shows here.