Indian Soaps Fall to Islamic Censorship in Afghanistan

Indian Soaps Fall to Islamic Censorship in Afghanistan

Ask anyone in Kabul who Tulsi is and you're sure to see eyes light up. "Tulsi? Of course! She's the victim. Her daughter-in-law hates her and her two-timing husband has a younger woman. She was right to leave home with her three kids," people will tell you with a huge grin of satisfaction. Then passersby will get dragged in as the discussion shifts to the latest episodes of Afghanistan's best-loved TV serial.

The title is a tad tortuous, but it translates roughly as: "Because the Mother-in-law Was Once a Daughter-in-law Too." It's the latest trend in Afghan popular culture: Indian serials dubbed into Dari with Pashto subtitles. This is one of the most direct consequences of globalization, Kabul's liberation from the oppressive Taliban regime, and the rise of private television stations.

The best-known of the latter is Tolo TV, which controls about half of the market and has three soap operas running. Its flagship is Tulsi's epic tear-jerker, starring an attractive Hindu actress from Mumbai who mesmerizes Afghan viewers with her curve-enhancing costumes and babyish complexion. Close behind, and in a similar vein, are "The Story of Every House" and "The Trial of Life." The storylines are a classic mix of star-crossed lovers, betrayals and running away from home, garnished with kisses, tears, silicone-enhanced figures and song-and-dance routines. In the land of burqas, child slavery, captive women, furtive sex with adolescents, and high-walled homes as impenetrable as medieval manors, Tulsi is revolutionary.

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