The TV industry is making a gradual shift from its usual fare. Gone are the days when saas-bahu dramas and regressive weep-fests ruled the airwaves on TV; where the sati-savitri bahu would be everyone’s favourite punching bag.
Today’s shows are all about female empowerment, women’s emancipation, and the like. Whether said female is a bahu, a daughter or – hold your breath – a naagin or daayan, is another matter altogether. Yes, TV today brims with strong female characters who won’t let anyone ride roughshod over them; who aren’t afraid to face calamity head-on; who take the bull by the horns and bring about a change in their own lives – singlehandedly, without any condescending male for support.
Showcasing all these themes and more is the latest offering from Colors TV – a daily called Choti Sarrdaarni. Colours TV has long been the poster child for beaming shows that are markedly different from the usual run-of-the-mill stuff. And it doesn’t disappoint even now, with this new show on the block.
Choti Sarrdaarni, produced by Rajesh Ram Singh and Pradeep Kumar under their banners, Cockcrow Productions and Shaika Films, is a rousing tale about a simple, happy-go-lucky girl who transforms into a fiery rebel-cum-fighter to stand up for her rights and for the rights of her unborn child. The child in question has been conceived out of wedlock, which makes matters even more acrimonious for her in the traditional Punjab milieu. With no support from her authoritarian mother, the dice is loaded against her. But she soldiers on, succeeding against all odds to gain prominence in society, thereby earning the sobriquet, Choti Sarrdaarni.
Model-turned actress, Nirmit Kaur Ahluwalia, plays the titular role of Meher Kaur Dhillon, while Anita Raj plays her mother, Kulwant Kaur Dhillon. Kulwant Kaur is the sarpanch of her village Attari, in the district of Gurdaspur. Meher is the only sister among three brothers. The eldest brother, her Veerji, is played by Amal Sherawat, while Abhilasha Jhakad plays his wife, Meher’s Bhabhi and her comrade-in-arms. The entire family, including her cute-as-a-button nephew, dotes on her.
Kulwant Kaur has lofty ambitions. From being Sarpanch of a tiny village, she wants to become the MLA from Gurdaspur and then the CM of Punjab. She aims to use prominent do-gooder politician, Sarabjit Singh Gill (Avinesh Rekhi) as her conduit, and is ready to use Meher as a sacrificial lamb in her journey to the top. She plans to marry off Meher to Sarabjit, despite knowing that he is a widower with a kid.
But unbeknownst to the Dhillon family, Meher is in love with an orphan, Manav (Hitesh Bhardwaj), who runs Sharmaji Da Dhaba along with his adoptive father, Sharmaji (Pawan Mahendru). Manav is also an ace student, who has just attained a PhD in agriculture, and aims to be an IAS officer.
At present, the show focuses on Meher and Manav’s love story and Kulwant’s attempts to get Meher hitched with Sarabjit. It is set to take intriguing twists and turns in the future, as it narrates Meher’s transformation from a bubbly, cheerful girl to the tough-as-nails, influential Choti Sarrdaarni. The hows, whys and wherefores remain to be seen. We can only hope that this as-yet-different story doesn’t degenerate into a mediocre trope-fest as most shows do after several weeks on air.
The best thing about the show is its rustic village flavour and the use of colourful and colloquial Punjabi terms. The look and feel of the sets and settings is vibrant without being garish. The vivid images lend authenticity to the proceedings and the understated décor lends radiance to the imageries. The copious use of the many picturesque Gurdwaras dotting the Punjab countryside renders a certain soothing nuance to the goings-on.
This is the first time that a show has zeroed in on the vibrant Sikh community to focus its narrative upon, and we must say, we like! The great Punjab and its distinct culture seem to be the current flavour of the TV industry, which is great news for diversity. At last, we are spared the OTT sagas of assorted Gujarati and Marwari industrialists, which were standard TV-land fare until a couple of years ago. And we are mighty thankful for it too!
All the actors have put in a tremendous effort to portray their respective characters precisely as envisaged by the writers. Anita Raj comes across as powerful and stubbornly adamant on having her way, without an ounce of contrived emotions in her portrayal. Her body language is spot on. She deserves credit for putting in a measured performance in a role that could very well have been reduced to an over-the-top, screechy, shrew-like caricature.
Nimrit Kaur Ahluwalia is a good find. She has a passing resemblance to Shivangi Joshi of Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai fame, especially her smile, which is uncannily similar to Shivangi’s; which must be a good thing for her. Maybe Shivangi’s success will rub off on her. That said, the newcomer is doing a terrific job as Meher. Her delivery of dialogue is particularly excellent, lending credence to her role of a Sardarni.
Avinesh Rekhi puts in a cool and calm performance as Sarabjit, though he could have infused a bit more vitality and verve into his role. His look as a Sardarji, the strong and silent type, along with his handsome visage, dimpled smile and light eyes, wins the day for him though. Hitesh Bhardwaj is cute as Manav. He conveys the perfect mix of the besotted lover and the determined upwardly mobile youngster.
A special mention must be made of Amal Sherawat and Abhilasha Jhakad, without which this review would be incomplete. The duo plays Veerji, meaning elder brother, and Bhabhi to Meher, and it is a brilliant piece of casting. The two are excellent in their respective roles.
One thing that stands out about Choti Sarrdaarni is its unabashed, unbridled focus on the power of a female. Despite the negative connotations to her character, Kulwant Kaur is a commanding female personality, the all-powerful lord of her manor. She holds her deceased army-man husband in disdain, revelling in the fact that she brought up her four kids and set up her flourishing transport business singlehandedly. It is a potent character with a dash of panache.
All said and done, Choti Sarrdaarni holds a lot of promise, both in narrative and in treatment. It is engaging and intriguing as of now, and we hope it is able to sustain the early potential it shows.
In the meanwhile, 3/5 is our rating for Choti Sarrdaarni.