INTERVIEW

TV show ‘Pehredaar Piya Ki’ is not about child marriage but ‘a rare bonding’, says producer

Sumeet Mittal says the show’s theme ‘gave us a good feeling that it would run for a long time’.

According to Indian law, a man below the age of 21 cannot marry, neither can a woman below the age of 18. Yet, the new Sony Pictures Television show Pehredaar Piya Ki centres on a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and an 18-year-old woman in Rajasthan, which culminates in a wedding.

Diya (Tejaswi Prakash) is engaged to the wealthy Ratan Singh (Afaan Khan) in order to protect the Rajput scion from his property-minded relatives. A sequence in an early episode, in which Ratan stalks Diya with his camera and then catches her as she loses her balance, has proved to be especially contentious. Actor Karan Wahi was among the few television personalities to voice his anger in a Facebook post. Wahi wrote, “Dear producer and channel… plz dont sell me stupidity in the name of content whch gives trp because honestly noone is watching this…. Not to sound arrogant but we can be better than this.”

Pehredaar Piya Ki has been running with a disclaimer that it does not promote child marriage even though events have been built up to ensure a marital union between Diya and Ratan in the fifth episode. The show has been produced by Shashi Mittal and Sumeet Mittal, whose company Shashi Sumeet Productions is also behind Diya Aur Baati Hum, Dil Se Dil Tak, and Punar Vivah. Shashi Mittal is credited with the concept development of Pehredar Piya Ki. In an interview with Scroll.in, Sumeet Mittal defended the show’s premise, stating that the objective was to explore “a rare friendship between a little boy and a woman”.

What motivated you to make ‘Pehredar Piya Ki’?
It is our foremost passion and interest to create different kinds of stories that engage audiences. That was constantly on our minds when we were brainstorming for the show. This is how the idea got generated. When Shashi narrated the idea, we all fell in love with the script. It gave us a good feeling that it would run for a long time.

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Pehredaar Piya Ki: Episode 1.

What explains the marriage of a 10-year-old boy with an 18-year-old woman?
The best part we all love about the show is the freedom of Diya’s character. She is not forced to take the decision. It is her own choice to marry the boy.

In today’s generation, we see a young girl marrying a 40-year-old person and it is taken as a vow and her choice. The same way, Diya has made this choice out of certain circumstances, where she marries to protect the boy. That is very brave.

Was marriage the only way Diya could have protected Ratan?
The circumstances that Ratan goes through in the show is such that only a person close to him can protect him. Even a friend or a well-wisher cannot be a shadow to a 10-year-old boy. That is why she decides to become the wife. We have definitely worked out the story in a manner that it doesn’t look like we wanted both the characters to get married. It is a need-based decision and the brave effort of a young girl.

Couldn’t Ratan’s parents have protected him without bringing in the element of marriage?
It will become clear in the upcoming episodes as to why that cannot happen.

The controversial stalking scene. Image courtesy: Sony.
The controversial stalking scene. Image courtesy: Sony.

Don’t you think the show legitimises child marriage?
It is nothing related to marriage. Boys at that age talk about fairy tales. It is a very innocent fascination, which has nothing to do with marriage or romance. A 10-year-old boy cannot understand the meaning of marriage.

The show has been facing backlash since it was aired. What is your reaction?
We have never experienced this kind of backlash. While in a way it is good publicity for the show, a 30-second glance is generating the controversy. It is very easy to pass judgement by just looking at the promos without knowing the base of the story or the concept.

I don’t think it is wrong on people’s part to react this way. But they will definitely change their view once they watch the story unfold. I am very confident about that. We don’t make content that is not good for society.

The early episodes show an element of romance between Ratan and Diya when they meet.
The first dialogue that Ratan says after catching Diya fall is, “Aap bahut bhaari hain” (You are heavy). No boy with a romantic thought will say that to anybody. He will say, fall on me, rather than saying “Get off, you are very heavy”. There is no element of romance in the show.

So you don’t feel that the show is a love story?
Of course not. It is the story of a rare bonding and a friendship. Even after their marriage, it is a story of an innocent bond.

The YouTube description says, ‘Will Diya and Ratan rewrite the pages of history with their love story? Is age only a number when it comes to finding true love?’
Love has no particular definition. We love our parents and kids and that is love. We love our friends and that also is love. And bonding is again love. The boy is in love with the girl only because she is his protector. I don’t know why love is restricted only to a man and a woman. It is a weird thought.

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Pehredaar Piya Ki: Episode 5.
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