Yank Tonk: Breaking the “Men Don’t Cry” Stereotypeby Opinion Express May 19, 2018 0 comments
Ramya Palisetty concludes that the true embodiment of patriarchy that poses a challenge to existing set-ups is Yash Tonk, an upcoming show on television.
“Men don’t cry.”
“Men are strong.”
“Men are the providers.”
“Boys don’t play with doll.”
There is a certain definition of masculinity that we have grown up with — and often it has proved to be toxic — which can have repercussions. With an aim to shatter these stereotypes prevalent in the society, Colors has introduced viewers to Roop —Mard Ka Naya Swaroop, a show where a young eight-year-old boy – Roop (played by Afaan Khan) questions the sensibilities of our patriarchal society that has certain norms of how men and women ought to behave.
Actor Yash Tonk plays Shamsher Singh Bhagela, an alpha male who is proud of his moustache and has a dominating persona. But the actor in real life is far removed from the character that he portrays on screen. He has two daughters who he adores and encourages them to be who they choose to be without any parental pressure.
Shamsher is the protagonist’s father. His character takes inspiration from our society and the orthodox male chauvinists that we often see around us. Alpha males believe that men run the world, the household and the society and their legacy will be carried on by their sons only. “I am playing a character with an orthodox mindset and a dominating personality. My 21st-century son, Roop keeps asking me sensitive questions when he sees the difference in the treatment of his sisters and him in the house.” Shamsher feels that girls need to study till a certain age as they would have to take care of the husband and the kids, later in life. From a very young age, the father urges his son to be a man, act like a fierce lion and tells him to play sports. But Roop is more interested in spending time with his sisters cooking and learning the art of stitching.
As the show progresses, Roop ponders over questions like why his sisters are not allowed to play sports and why are they always busy in household work and more. In a very subtle manner, the show is trying to reach out to the society and give them something to think about gender roles. The actor feels that times have changed and along with it, the thought process needs to change too. “Gender equality is an important aspect in today’s time. Everybody should feel equal and that is the message we are trying to convey with this show,” says Tonk.
To portray masculinity, the actor will be seen as someone who dominates his views and opinions on everybody in the household and treats the women in a negative manner. “My character is important as I am representing the society. It is actually a reflection of our society. Only if I am tough and rude with the child, will he raise questions about gender specific roles in the house. I somehow feel that a lot of individuals will identify with my character.”
Though, the role is exactly opposite of what the actor is in real-life but that was what made it exciting for him as he likes to challenge his boundaries. “When you have to evoke those traits which are not in your personality, it becomes a challenge. It gave me a chance to get out of my comfort zone, which is exciting and fun.”
The popular face of television feels that education is the only tool that would help in breaking the shackles of patriarchy. If we go to villages (and even some households in towns and cities), there are families who after the birth of seven or eight daughters are still awaiting a son. If by chance, they are blessed with a son, the daughters are just left to fend for themselves. “Every girl in every region of our country needs to be educated. Usually, on television, girls voice these questions but this time around, a boy is raising the questions which makes it unique.”
Television has always brought about a change. With Balika Vadhu, people became aware of the realities of child marriage in villages and their struggles of being a woman. And this show hopes to take the process further. “The show is not preaching women empowerment but a small child is putting forward questions in a gentle way. Women who have children in this generation will be more liberal as compared to their parents and that would help in bringing about a change with more independent and financially stable women.”
As an individual, the actor is very different with his own daughters. He is unlike his character and gives the freedom to choose their own paths in life. “I usually tell them that it is their life and whatever they are studying and the marks they attain are theirs alone. I have no involvement as a parent because an individual shapes their own destiny. Parents can guide them on the right path but they can’t walk the path for the children. Whatever my children choose to achieve, with hard work, they will achieve it,” he says.
In life, every individual has to make a choice. He doesn’t want to force his kids to do something which they are not interested in. Once a person grows up, they watch their surroundings and create their own perceptions. “I feel this generation is quite smart, in fact, much more than we are. The span for change to take place has become very short.”
The actor feels that working with child artists is always a refreshing experience as one learns a lot of new things. “Children have a lot of energy and it is important to generate that energy in the right direction while shooting. The moment that they are on the set, the whole thing turns magical as you see real emotions around kids because of their innocence.”
Tonk believes that any show that is aired on television should have a social message which is a comment on the way the society works so that individuals awaken to the reality. He says that he would be blissfully happy even if the show changes the perception of .5 percent of individuals. because it will be a huge accomplishment for the actor and the channel.
Writer: Ramya Palisetty
Courtesy: The Pioneer