Recently during a trip at the city’s New Market ahead of Eid, a shopkeeper at Chandichawk market in the capital was luring customers by saying, ‘Kironmala, Pakhi, Anarkali; what else do you want? We offer all these here…’ Clearly everyone knew from where the names had derived from. This year, the calls were replaced with one trending dress – Sophia’s dress, named after the humanoid robot which had visited Bangladesh late last year.
Except for Sophia, the names are of particularly popular characters from Indian drama serials which are avidly watched by Bangladeshis on the satellite channels.
This year, one could also find dresses named after Jhinukmala, Jhilik, Tapur Tupur, Mon Mane Na, Love Story, Bojhe Na Se Bojhena and so on.
Interestingly, during last year’s Eid, Jhilik, a character of an Indian soap opera called Maa, was one of the most popular dresses and this year the dress has been introduced with its sequel Jhilik-2.
Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of the Indian serials with the Bangladeshi audience, many traders across the country have been introducing dresses naming them after such characters.
The practice is a mere exploitation of the customers, especially young women and girls, who are avid watchers of these serials. It has been found that these dresses, which are manufactured in India, Pakistan and at times within Bangladesh, are not initially named in such manner. Rather, the shop-owners stick the names to the dresses before they are put on display in their stores.
Selina Ahmed from Jatrabari came to Chadnichawk market to buy her daughter a Kironmala dress. Kironmala is a soap opera aired on Star Jalsa channel in India. ‘As a regular viewer of the serial, my daughter has become a fan of the character and she wants the dress that Kironmala wears on screen,’ Selina Rahman shares. Abdus Samad, a shopkeeper at the market, informs that this year Kironmala is in high demand and thus the price for a Kironmala dress ranges from Tk 3000-4000.
While Samad was describing the Kironmala dress, another customer came and asked him whether he had ‘Ayesha Takia’. It may sound a bit awkward given the fact that the name belongs to a Bollywood actress. Soon Samad clarifies that this is also the name of a dress that is extremely popular with the young consumers.
Besides Ayesha Takia, he also shows Deepika, Alia Bhatt, Agni Konna, Sharara and Aashiqui 2 (of all the names!) – all dresses for females. Samad informs that these dresses are priced between Tk 2,000-15,000.
As I came out of the market and walked along the footpath, I discovered that Pakhi was not confined only to dresses. The name was also attached to other items such as shoes, hair ribbon, bangles, ornaments and so on. To lure the customers, the vendors have adopted this practice.
The excitement for such dresses is not new for this year. Every year, markets across the country are flooded with Indian imports especially during big festivals when people from all walks of life want to purchase new outfits to celebrate the occasions.
Last year, the frenzy for Pakhi dress led to three suicides and a divorce. Three young girls who were ardent viewers of the serial committed suicides as their parents denied buying them the dress. In another instance, a wife preferred to break down a bond of marriage because her husband was not in a financial position to meet her demands.
The soap operas of some Indian television channels such as Star Jalsa, Zee Bangla, Star Plus, Sony are popular with the Bangladeshi audience. ‘Especially females and teenagers are extremely fond of these serials as these are full of family sentiments,’ observes Prof ASM Amanullah, Professor of Sociology at Dhaka University.
The central characters are role models for thousands of young viewers and they tend to imitate them by wearing the clothing the characters wear on the screen, Islam says. In many instances, such trend is inviting family disputes when the parents deny their children these dresses or husbands fail to afford money for such dresses for their wives. ‘The disagreement sometimes results in untoward situation like suicide and divorce,’ he says.
Social psychologists say this is turning out to be a social problem as some viewers do not hesitate to take their lives just for a dress. Viewers of the serials especially the teenagers cannot distinguish between the screen world and practical life. Their minds are instilled by the characters so pervasively that they find happiness only by owning the dresses, says SM Abul Kalam Azad, faculty of clinical psychology department at the University of Dhaka. To get rid of this situation people need to be aware about the disadvantages of the serials, he says.
As children do not have the ability to distinguish between the virtual world and practical, the parents should take extra care of their children in order to avoid any untoward situation, experts say.