"Effective August 28, 2017, we are pulling off (air) our programme, 'Pehredaar Piya Ki' from television (Sony). While we understand that the decision to end this serial will be disappointing to those whose creative energies are vested in it, namely, crew and cast, we, as a channel are convinced that we will be better served by focusing instead on developing viewer interest in our upcoming, new shows. We are grateful to all the artistes, producers and fans of our shows and request you to graciously support the viewership of our newer ventures," reads the official statement issued by Sony Pictures Networks India's flagship channel Sony, confirming the end of the controversial daily soap.
Produced by Shashi-Sumeet Productions, 'Pehredaar Piya Ki' is - was, rather - the tale of an 18-year-old girl, who marries a 10-year-old boy, in order to safeguard him from impending danger. The girl (Diya), who was once saved by the boy's (Ratan) father, decides to fulfil the dying man's last wish by agreeing to be his son's 'pehredaar' (protector).
The concept of the show irked many and people expressed their views freely on social media. After a few episodes were aired, a lady named Mansi Jain started a petition on Change.org, urging the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to ban the show.
The petition reads: 'Pehredaar Piya Ki' - A show where a 10-year old impressionable little kid is seen caressing and stalking a lady twice his age and filling 'sindoor' in her 'maang' is being telecast on Sony at prime time. Imagine the kind of influence it will steadily and perpetually infuse in the viewers' mind-set. We want a ban on the serial. We do not want our kids to be influenced by such TV serials. Join us in signing the petition to ban this serial.
The petition, as of August 29, 2017, has 1,38,395 digital signatures. Change.org is a platform where every netizen has the opportunity to start a petition. Once a petition is created, the petitioner can share it across social media platforms via a URL. Anyone with the URL can then opt to sign it.
On August 16, 2017, the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) urged the channel to shift the show from the 8:30 PM time slot to 10:30 PM. Sony complied and the show, which premiered on July 17, 2017, was moved to 10:30 PM.
The primary concern raised in the petition was - the show was exposing kids to objectionable content like child marriage. Well, this is not the first TV show to do so; in 2008, Viacom18's general entertainment channel Colors started airing 'Balika Vadhu', a show created to take on the issue of child marriage. In this show, the central character Anandi was forced to drop out of school and live with her in-laws. Her husband (Jagya) was a little boy himself.
We reached out to the writer of 'Balika Vadhu' - Gajra Kottary. "It's not always about what you show on screen," she tells afaqs!, "what matters a lot is what you say between the lines. In 'Balika Vadhu', Anandi and Jagya were kids and they behaved like kids till they actually grew up..."
'Pehredaar Piya Ki' even made a 'suhaag raat'-related reference. Kottary (who recently published her fiction novel 'Girls don't cry') supports the movement against the show and argues in favour of regulatory intervention, "There is a feeling that 'TV pe kuch bhi chalega' and it is good to see that someone is monitoring the content that's going on air on television. I don't think this show should have stayed on air any longer."
Sumeet Mittal, the producer of 'Pehredaar Piya Ki', maintains that the channel and production house mutually decided to take the show off air. He says, "We made the show for the 8:30 PM slot, and airing it at 10:30 PM was not making any sense for us... hence, we decided to take it off. We have the channel's support and we are working together to come up with a new project."
But sources within the channel inform us that MIB has had an informal discussion with the channel after which the channel decided to take the show off air. During the press launch of Kaun Banega Crorepati, in Mumbai, on August 23, 2017, afaqs! asked Danish Khan, EVP and business head, Sony, about the show. At the time, taking it off air was nowhere in his scheme of things. He said, addressing a group of media professionals, "BCCC is an industry forum and we are a part of it, so when it asked us to move the show to 10:30 PM we did it happily. Is the move a good or a bad one? Only the ratings will tell."
Khan added, "A lot of people spoke about the show without actually watching it. In a country where it is presumed that a man will always protect a woman, isn't it a progressive thought that roles have been reversed? It's fiction and you cannot decide the moral of the story based on one episode... the moral emerges through the drama, after it has run its course. We believe it's very good content. Over a period of time people will understand the reason we have chosen (to air) this show. It has a strong message."
About the repercussions of discontinuing the show, Mittal says, "It will definitely be a short-term monetary loss, but our continued work with the channel will eventually lead to long-term gain."
Mittal feels the social media outburst against the show was a bit "irresponsible".
"Social media is open to all and people today express their opinion and comment aggressively. But sometimes they need to think, as it affects others massively. We have made shows in the past... this was a good show, which complied with all the norms and regulations. We did not expect an outburst like this," he adds.
Shashi-Sumeet Productions has successful titles like 'Diya Aur Baati Hum' (Star Plus), 'Punar Vivah' (Zee TV) in its portfolio. Their shows, typically, have a strong message attached. Mittal says, "This, too, was a strong show with a very strong message embedded in it..."
Too bad we never saw the last of it.