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Working Women: Better Off on Telly?

Lawyers, Doctors, Policewomen- why are all the working women on TV?

Three American shows about smart independent women that would make excellent Indian adaptations in the right hands.

At the other side of thirty, I know I am too old for just two things- winning a Grand Slam and taking over Bollywood.

Luckily, Indian television has place for me. Here I don’t just need to play Alia Bhat’s grandmother, or Amir Khan’s wizened college professor, but can play a woman with a career, who is occasionally even romanced by a younger man.  For all the drawing room bashing of Ekta Kapoor and her ilk – television affords its women protagonists better fleshed out characters, a chance to age and still be sexually attractive, to hold down interesting  jobs and occasionally even be the chief bread winner. Yes, I will need to be careful of that one member from the in-laws family who has designer bindis and designs on my husband, but that’s a small price to pay for belonging to a world where it is the men who are selected for their bodies and the women for their relative acting talent.

It is a medium which routinely builds shows around its popular slightly older-actresses like Mona Singh, Sakshi Tanwar and Sangeeta Ghosh, and where the Number 1 show for the last 2 years has been about a girl from a small town who wants to become a police officer. (Yes, the story takes too many convoluted turns along the way, but baby steps folks, baby steps. The Number 1 Bollywood film had the actress play ‘liquid electricity’.)

What we are trying to say here is that if you want to see smart, confident working women in pop-culture – you may be better off looking for them on television than on the silver screen.

Emboldened by the middling success of 24, here are three more shows that Indian Television can adapt to entertain us with successful career women of a particular age.

The Good Wife

In the original, Julianna Margulies plays a stay-at-home mother and politician’s wife, who- shocked by the news of her husband’s affair with a prostitute- is forced to rejoin the workforce as a lawyer.  The series is full of soapy goodness in the form of her crazy chemistry with her boss, but also touches on the challenges women face at the workplace. Alicia- the titular good wife- struggles to balance being a single mom with being a dedicated professional, competes against and eventually befriends a younger and cannier Harvard graduate , and makes her first new woman friend in years -Kalinda, the firm’s investigator. Plus, there’s a case-of-the-week to keep the wheels churning for seasons on end.

We’d love to see an Indian version because there are so many good roles for women actors here, and while we are undecided as to who should play the lead (rumour has it Ms. Madhuri Dikshit-Nene was attached to the role for a while, although we like the idea of Tabu taking this on instead of wasting her talents playing hero’s sister!), only Deepti Naval comes in mind when we think of the pragmatic, idealistic and ruthlessly ambitious partner of the law firm- Diane Lockhart.

On another note, Alicia shares a tetchy dynamic with her mother-in-law in the show, which our desi version can explore in much detail if the TRPs are flailing!!

The Mindy Project

Mindy is not too different from the women populating our movies in the way she believes in the power of romance, her fondness for fashion and food, and her ability to fall in love with the wrong guy every single time. But she’s also a successful doctor, often struggling to get her voice (and viewpoint) heard in an overwhelmingly male workplace. It is never questioned that she is any way less competent than her male colleagues, or less capable of having a good time around the town! And no one judges her for having a new love interest every week just like George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld.

Some of the best episodes show her negotiating office politics with her sass and wiles in equal measure- and Season 2 begins with her breaking up with a boyfriend because she can’t bear to leave her single life in New York City for good!

Instead of wasting your time on drivel like Ishqk in Paris, could the original boss-woman Preity Zinta please adapt this for herself?

She would excel at the physical comedy bits, bring just the right touch of filmy spice to the will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Mindy and one of the other doctors, and hopefully also Indianize Mindy Lahiri’s highly idiosyncratic but covetable work wardrobe as a lucrative side business!!


This one should be produced by the grand dame Ekta Kapoor herself. Olivia Pope is a political ‘fixer’ – a crisis manager/strategist extraordinaire, who is co-incidentally also  involved in a tempestuous steamy affair with the married President of the United States. Quelle Scandale! But it’s not the romantic angle that we are fascinated by (except in how it seems to make the President weepy and Olivia even more determined). It is the way Olivia has built a team around her – the Gladiators- all broken individuals like her that she’s nurtured and ‘managed’ into shape, and that between them can solve any problem of the free world.

In our version of the show, the first episode can revolve around the team helping a Rahul Gandhi-stand-in rehabilitate his image after an interview gone disastrously wrong. In another they can help a Kejriwal stand-in recover from a couple of exorbitant election promises made in good intention. In a third, they can stop a superstar actor from going to jail after accidentally running over someone in the dead of the night. All the producers need to do is read the newspaper, and the stories just write themselves!

And even though her penchant for white makes Olivia Pope Simi Grewal’s soul sister, we think this may just be the kind of comeback Sushmita Sen has been holding out for!

Who would you like to see on your television playing powerful career women? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!


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