I Watched Every Episode Of "Pehredaar Piya Ki": Yes, It's Awful But No, It Shouldn't Be Banned
Earlier this week, I almost signed a petition asking to ban this show. But what kind of precedent does that set in a country where bans and censorship have become all-too-common, when disclaimers and certification changes could do as well? Read this summary to decide for yourself.
Let's start at the very beginning. On July 17, Sony began airing Pehredaar Piya Ki – a show that incited massive outrage because of its storyline that revolved around a 9-year-old boy marrying an 18-year-old woman.
A week into the show's debut, the anger shifted to a particular plot point that showed the child becoming an obsessive stalker after he first meets her.
And then there was the latest PPK outrage cycle, which revolved around a creepy "honeymoon episode". Again, anger that seemed totally justified based on the evidence from the promos.
We're now a month and almost 20 episodes into the show, and people are legit asking for it to be taken off air. There are over 1,00,000 signatures on this single Change.org petition alone:
Now, here's the thing. As long as a cause claims to be fighting against something regressive, I'll retweet, share, and sign any petition you send my way – no questions asked, no research done.
But having recently raged against the people who vandalised Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavati sets because they felt the movie will be offensive (without having even watched it), this petition just didn't sit right.
Like, how can I in good conscience claim "freedom of speech and expression" the next time a Lipstick Under My Burkha is fighting the censor board, if I ask for a primetime soap to be banned without watching a single episode?
And that, kids, is why my YouTube history can now attest that I've watched Sony's entire playlist of every Pehredaar Piya Ki episode that has aired to date.
So, having read all the outrage, followed all the tweets, and watched all the episodes, here's a short summary of how I now feel:
• Yes, Pehredaar Piya Ki is, without a doubt, an awful show.
• Yes, it is regressive (in the same misogynistic ways all Indian soaps are regressive).
• Yes, its plot pivots around a 9-year-old kid married to an adult woman, which is weird, and stupid, and totally unnecessary to the story tbh.
• Yes, the child does have a weird and completely inappropriate crush on her, and that should come with a disclaimer for any parents or kids watching the show.
• No, I don't think the show glorifies child marriage or depicts a romantic or sexual relationship between an adult and a child.
• No, I don't think it should be banned.
(I would like to say that context is everything, and if the show goes anywhere inappropriate in the future, I'm willing to take back everything I've said here. I just don't think it has yet.)
But hey, you should get to decide your nuanced take on this for yourself, so let me break the show down for you:
These two are the queen and king of a Rajput palace that also doubles up as a very successful luxury hotel. The other family members wanna kill them and take over the business.
This li'l creep is their son, Prince Ratan. Annoying AF, but he's barely in the show.
The star of this jam is Diya. She's the daughter of the king's BFF. Prince Ratan fawns over her in the same way that any 9-year-old fawns over a new toy.
Diya is fond of him too, but she only cares for him in a big sister-nanny kinda way. Not ONCE does the show actually romanticise her feelings for him.
In episode three, Diya puts her own life at risk to save Ratan from imminent death, after he stupidly falls over a ledge.
Also in episode three, the royal SUV is bombed (presumably by the evil family) in this ultra hilarious action set piece. The queen dies, and the king gets fatally wounded.
Seeing as to how Diya laid everything on the line to save Prince Ratan, the king asks his BFF for an impossible favour to protect his son's inheritance from said evil fam – for Diya to marry Ratan, become the royal princess, and shield him till he can look out for himself.
Her dad obviously refuses, but Diya is an easily guilted soul. She breaks off her engagement to the guy she likes, and agrees to marry and look out for the newly orphaned child prince.
The next dozen or so episodes deal with Diya moving into the royal palace and, in true Indian soap opera fashion, being emotionally tortured by her in-laws.
(A special mention, at this point, to my personal favourite of these torture tactics – when Diya's dad gets invited to stay at the royal palace for a function, and is sent a bill for ₹1,00,000 as room charges the following morning.)
Passive aggressive goals.