TVF is the master of getting the message across without being preachy, and they hit the nail on the head with “Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt. Ltd.” While on the face of it, the show looks like a story about a woman finding her own path in life, it goes beyond that. It is a story of women standing with each other, of the friendship and understanding that transcends the rulebook of relations written by society. The story unfolds at a steady pace, and there is not one moment that you can consider dull or repetitive, with characters you love as much as frustrated you. A striking thing that “Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt. Ltd.” has managed to depict with great sensitivity is that the man enforcing the patriarchy was not a villain. And neither were the women taking advantage of it. This is a nuance that is often lost, but TVF brought this out most admirably.
Anup Soni, who plays Dilip, the man at the center of the reason for the story’s starting, is someone who can’t fathom exactly where he is going wrong. He has been taught by society that his role is that of a provider and protector. And he is unable to find himself in his relationships beyond that role. He doesn’t know how to handle his children without the rod, something that leads to disastrous consequences. On the other hand, you have Suman, our protagonist. Like most Indian women, the only thing she has ever known to do is take care of her family. When she is forced to think about herself, it’s an uncharted territory for her. There is a particular scene, one in which she confesses that she has always thought of her husband and children as her guiding stars in life. And now, she feels lost when she doesn’t have anyone to turn to. There is another scene where she suffers a huge setback in her business. And that affects her confidence in a major way. She is completely discouraged, but it is one of those rare moments on television where we see the depiction of hopeless courage, one that defies meaning and common sense and operates on nothing but a desire to just do something.
The ‘Saas’ is a more layered character, for sure. She is not just Suman’s ex-mother-in-law but is her friend and support system who is always there for her in her times of need with her street smarts and business savvy. A part of her blames Manisha for the current state of affairs in her house, but she acknowledges that she herself is a victim of circumstances, in her own way. Manisha, in this story, is someone with a strong moral compass, one which wouldn’t make sense to the diktats of society but doesn’t affect her clarity of thought. Dilip was never in love with Suman, and Manisha is the one who assures him that both of them starting a life together is not the wrong thing to do. And despite her love for him and his family, she does not coddle his anger but is capable of standing up for herself. Her relationship with her mother-in-law comes with its own stress. She feels that she is still thought of as a home breaker and has not fully been accepted by the family. Dadi does not deny this, but acknowledges and apologizes for her role in making her feel this way.
It is the interactions between the women, the way they don’t blame each other for the messes in their lives but recognize and accept the patriarchy that forces their hand, without glorifying any of it. When Suman had to separate from Dilip, she blamed the fact that she had never been taught to fend for herself more than she blamed Manisha for coming into her life. Technically, Suman and Dilip were in a loveless marriage, and it makes sense on paper for them to go their separate ways. It was just Dilip’s lack of emotional intelligence that ended up hurting the people in his life.
The cast did a beautiful job with their roles. Amruta Subhash, as Suman, who starts as a person unsure of herself and becomes a headstrong businesswoman, is extremely charming and believable in her conviction to the role. We are so used to Anup Soni just telling us to ‘Stay Alert’, his iconic line from his other show, that it was a surprise to see him execute a layered character with such ease. And Dadi was a delight and a half to watch. She was cute and gutsy and made us want someone like that in her life.
When one thinks of women’s centric content as a woman, there is always the thought as to why watch something that is based on our everyday reality. “Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt. Ltd.” answers that. Because it shows how much fun sisterhood actually is and the collective strength of women coming together. There is not a single skippable moment in the show, and that is a rare feat these days. It is binge-able and engaging and should be on everyone’s weekend watchlist.
“Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt. Ltd.” is streaming on Zee5.