Television shows with the usual tropes of kitchen politics and supernatural elements have been tried, tested, and surprisingly worked. Breaking out of the mould three years ago was a show that was initially discouraged, but it stood the test of time. The Rupali Ganguly-starrer Anupamaa recently completed 1,000 episodes. Producer Rajan Shahi credits his mother, Deepa Shahi, for the novel idea and for putting her mind and energy behind the daily soap at the age of 78.
Despite a background in psychology, Deepa chose to focus on her family.
“We didn’t give much importance to our professions initially; family was our priority. The experiences from different stages of my life led me to believe that I should be a part of Anupamaa to contribute my insight to the story. That is how Rajan got me involved,” shares Deepa, adding that everyone believed “no one would be interested in the story of a 50-year-old woman and her life’s challenges.”
Oddly enough, they were all proven wrong, as the show became an instant hit with not only women but also men.
“The idea resonated with me. I insisted that people become aware that women can achieve whatever they desire in life.” Deepa says that the show also holds a mirror up to the men watching it and educates them about gender equality. “[Men] have come to realize that women hold immense importance and should not be confined to domestic roles alone. Men should support them in fulfilling their ambitions [domestic or otherwise] and give them the space to thrive.”
While no producer hopes to change the world with a show, Deepa was pleasantly surprised to find people relating to and aspiring for Anupamaa’s life.
“I have observed that women [everywhere] are finding happiness with this show. Many of my friends have realized that regardless of their age or circumstances, they can achieve their dreams. A few have rekindled their passions,” shares the producer, who insisted that the show also talks about domestic violence and mental health. “With Paakhi’s [played by Muskan Bamne] character [facing an obsessive lover], we aimed to talk about paying attention to every aspect of a child’s emotional growth. In India, people tend to prioritize physical well-being over mental health. It is essential to understand that mental health [ultimately] impacts the physical state.”
Glad to cross the 1,000-episode mark, Deepa says,
“I’m glad to have been a part of this journey. Anupamaa still has challenges to overcome, but she will gradually draw strength from them and build resilience.”