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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.

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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.

Sony

Outrage that was totally fair, since all its pre-publicity seemed to romanticise this "marriage" in many creepy ways.

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.

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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?

Balaji

The bigger question here is: do we want to set a precedent of a few people's discomfort and assumptions leading to censorship or banning of a piece of pop culture? (Because that's exactly what a certain Mr. Nihalani does routinely, and it's not chill.) Or do we want to petition for disclaimers, adult certification, maybe a non-primetime slot?

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.

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It has to be said, a lot of smart people (people admittedly smarter than I am) have called for action against the show. You can read some of the arguments here and here.

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.)

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.

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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.

Sony

At one point, Prince Snotnose tells her he wants to marry her, but she promptly shuts that shit down. One – because she's already engaged to someone else, and two – you know, because he's basically a sperm cell.

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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.

Sony

And, thus, she becomes the titular Pehredaar Piya Ki (Caretaker Of The Beloved).

(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.

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Anyway, coming back. Not one of the characters treats the "marriage" as anything but a front. Not Diya, not her dad, not even the evil fam. The only person who does is the 9-year-old, and even he treats it with all the seriousness of playing "Doctor Doctor".

Sony

There's no denying that the show glorifies marriage as a concept, mind you. Almost to a fault. Child marriage, though – not so much.

So, while Diya does dutifully honour all the traditions and responsibilities of being the new princess, the child marriage angle is nothing but a cheap marketing gimmick.

So was all the anger misplaced? Well, yes and no. There's no doubt that Prince Ratan was stalking her in the opening episode, and she laughs it off as a cutesy thing.

Is it appalling enough to ban, though? Not in my opinion. At no point does any character encourage his behaviour. In fact, almost every episode has a scene where someone explicitly mentions that he is a child with no concept of adult relationships.

So what was the "honeymoon episode", you ask? Just another laughably dumb evil in-law prank. They set up the royal bedroom like the honeymoon suite, in an effort to embarrass and humiliate Diya about her situation.

Sony

To the show's credit, Diya calls out the inappropriateness of the joke, and it is portrayed as nothing but pure crudeness.

The most problematic aspects of the show, in fact, are the casually regressive and misogynistic throwaway scenes that plague all Indian TV shows. Like when the prince asks Diya not to drink tea because she'll become dark-skinned.

Sony

Diya does drink the tea anyway. But instead of clearing up his bogus superstition, she chooses to indulge him and just lies about not drinking it.

Having said all that, I do think that child marriage is not a subject that should be on air at 8:30 p.m, even as casually and lazily written as it is here. A later time slot, stronger disclaimers, and firing the entire marketing team should be given some serious consideration.

But hey, that's just like my opinion, man. All I'm saying is, before you go asking for something to be banned, the least you can do is watch it yourself. (But don't. It's a godawful show.)

If you believe action should be taken against the show, you can find petitions here and here.

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I Watched Every Episode Of "Pehredaar Piya Ki": Yes, It's Awful But No, It Shouldn't Be Banned

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