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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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

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As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.