Photo: Indian Express

‘Bathuku Jataka Bandi’ is a talk show on Zee Telugu where the host acts as a counselor to families and resolves their conflicts. On episode 348, which was aired on October 31, 2016, actress Geeta, who is the current host of the show, introduced her audiences to a trans-man and a lesbian woman who want to live together. The 20-year-old girl named Sirisha  fell in love with Sindhu when he was still a girl. They are in love but their families do not approve of their relationship. To solve their ‘problem’, they sought help from the host of the show. After Sirisha and Sindhu share their story, Geeta starts giving a moral lecture. Her first comment is, “Aren’t you two ashamed of yourselves?”. She goes on to talk about the greatness of “Indian culture” where “shameful” things like homosexuality or transgenders are not existent. What’s shocking is that Geeta, on several occasions, says that she will hit the lovers with slippers and threatens to break their legs! Yes, you read that right! She urges the parents of the lovers to get them married to men and advises them to “tie up their girls”! She pronounces her verdict: A woman cannot feel like a man (or vice versa) because God has fixed people’s gender for a reason. A woman cannot love a woman (and a man cannot love a man) because God only approves heterosexual relationships. She calls homosexuals and transgenders ‘disgusting’. She wants Sirisha and Sindhu to be ashamed of themselves and bullies them to feel grateful for what their parents have done for them. She is not a counselor; she is a manipulative bully.

As a Telugu-speaking person, I am ashamed and disgusted to see such a show on television. If you are not from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the host’s tone might shock you. But her bullying tactics and her tone seem familiar to me because the Telugu speaking elders that I know talk *exactly* like her! I’m wondering if this is a cultural thing!
Like I said in one of my earlier blog posts, content from mainstream Telugu cinema and television refuses to change with times. Bollywood, despite all its flaws, has atleast started treating homosexuality in a dignified manner but the Telugu mainstream content keeps getting worse. I couldn’t help but notice the difference between this shitty show and ‘Satyamev Jayate’ which helped and supported LGBTQ people.
Zee Telugu has taken down the episode from YouTube (you can still watch the episode here) and I hope the I& B ministry takes strict action against the host and the makers of the show.

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