First of all, Colors TV must be pleased to know so many of you watch Ballika Vadhu. And jumped up to defend it.
I believe it is one of the channel's highest rated shows.
I watched another episode and I stand by what I wrote. It may well be a true story and end on an inspirational note. It may be sponsored by the Ministry of Women & Child Welfare. It may carry some kind of disclaimer.
As a casual viewer none of this came across.
The trademark Balaji sound effects and multiple camera angles are missing. But it seems like a bahu pe atyachaar kind of story, the novel part being the fact that she is a kid. And that sasuma is on her side, while dadi is the villain.
Can soaps entertain as well as educate at the same time? Sure! The most famous examples of this genre in India are Hum Log (aired in the '80s) and Humraahi (early '90s).
An edutainment soap is conceived and presented in a special way. The team which produced Humraahi actually went to Mexico and received training from Miguel Sabido, a pioneer in the use of producing serialised drama on radio and TV while imparting social values.
An important element of such show is the use of an epilogue to reiterate the main messages of the program and link these to viewer's lives. Ashok Kumar delivered these epilogues on Hum Log with great style (and they were as popular as the show itself!).
Tanuja did the honours for Humraahi and this time the show even set up a system to respond to all the mail it received from viewers, referring them to agencies in their localities that offered relevant services.
If Ballika Vadhu is really serious about 'educating' viewers on the evils of child marriage, they should set up a helpline. Or the Ministry supporting the show can take up the mantle.
A 10 second disclaimer at the beginning or end of the show is not enough. Except to absolve the makers from all responsibility for propogating something completely unacceptable in the India of 2008.
And I am no fan of the other soaps on air. Or the ideas they propogate. But while extra marital affairs may be 'illegal', they take place in the world of consenting adults. In the case of child marriage, it's adults committing a crime against someone who is helpless and has no say in the matter.
And that is why the subject needs to be handled with a LOT more care.