Interview of Ms. Poonam Muttreja with The Hans India
What was the idea behind starting this show apart from bringing social awareness?
The initiative was conceptualised based on a clear understanding that bringing about awareness on health issues was not enough. We needed to challenge deep-seated social prejudices and regressive norms that influence women’s status in society and impact the health and well-being of families. There is sufficient evidence globally, that entertainment education has been effectively used to shift social norms and influence health-seeking behaviour. The story of an empowered woman, who gets past the socio-cultural and gender barriers, was presented to demonstrate why social change is important, and not just for women, but also men.
What kind of research goes into each episode?
While MKBKSH maintains the entertainment quotient, it is firmly grounded in rigorous research based on real-life scenarios and social dynamics. Even though the narrative is fictional, the solutions that we show in the series are based on stories of ‘positive deviants’ – people who have made changes in their lives or found unique solutions when faced with patriarchy, discrimination and biases. This is what gives the series its granularity and true-to-life flavour.
Talk about some positive impact which was created by the show?
I consider the stories of change of our ‘real’ heroes as the real measure of the success of our programme. A girl from Nayagaon village in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district could convince her parents to send her to college and not marry her off after school; a young woman in Bihar has become a champion for birth spacing in her community; men from a village in Madhya Pradesh have transformed from wife-beaters with regressive social beliefs into champions of male participation in family planning. These and many more such stories strengthen our belief that the programme finds deep resonance with those who are underserved, and who need powerful stories to emerge as change-agents.
Tell us about the upcoming season of the show?
In Season 3, we want to reach out and engage with India’s youth population. Therefore, along with the television drama, there is a greater focus on social media in the upcoming season. In a first of its kind globally, Dr Sneha is also going to appear as a digital avatar in the form of an Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot to answer questions and share information with audiences. From a mass entertainment platform, we are now extending into the digital space with personalised messaging. The story, of course, is more entertaining than ever and the journey of Dr Sneha continues with its trials, tribulations and triumphs in changing the face of the nation. We will be covering issues of sanitation and hygiene in addition to health and gender issues.