Well, well, well, a blog after a really really long time. The last time I blogged was when I was in the US before my better half joined. After she joined, as is to be expected, I got no time to blog Then after we got back (finally an overseas journey together), days got really full, as is actually the case with most days in India. I can bet that one manages much more work in the same or less time abroad than in India for whatever strange reason. Maybe its the work culture or just the amount of time we spend on unproductive things like waiting in traffic just to get to office, whether its your car (self-driven or other-wise) or company provided transport or the amount of time we Indians break for tea in groups, the fact remains that productivity tends to be low.
Anyways, all this digression was to justify that I really did not find the time, so then how did I find the time today. Well, for a change I actually fell ill, with my body temperature hovering around the 102 F mark, it was pretty scary. But, what this meant was that I simply had to stay home and today that I am feeling much better, I thought its time to post something on my blog, which has remained static for a long long time.
Over the past 4 days, during periods that I was feeling relatively better, I tried to catch up on some reading. Finally finished “The Black Swan”, a truly amazing book about learning to expect the unexpected, but for once after a long time I became a true blue couch potato, flipping channels with a gusto, which if observed by a third party, could easily be coined as “surfomania”. I watched the Indian team lose in the most pathetic fashion in the World T20 Championship. But most of all, I took in a liberal dose of something that none of you would expect a person of my age to take in. I actually watched quite a few soap-operas with their boring daily episodes, made-up and bejewelled women in which, every alternate dialogue has to be interspersed with some kind of blaring music. So, after all this long prologue, I intend to devote this post to this topic of television serials.
It is truly amazing how much the idiot box has gripped the imagination of our nation. My parents generation nowadays, actually adjust their schedules according to the daily-soap time-table of various channels. My brother-in-law who happens to be in the the sales deparment of one of the vernacular channels, tells me that, soaps are actually tailored to the taste of the viewing public, since all that matters in the Channel rat-race is something called TRP. What this has resulted in is a proliferation of serials which are generally dumbed-down. Maharashatra and especially the Mumbai-Pune region is blessed with a huge history of drama. This region is thus blessed with a lot of very talented artists. It thus seems to be simply unfair to ask this talented bunch of artists to act in soaps whose story-line is not just thin, but at times so vague that one wonders what is the message that the director is trying to convey. Most of these soaps carry on for years on end. My parents were telling me the other day that there is a tele-serial that is running now for close to eight or nine years. My brother-in-law tells me that the channel guys actually hasten or slow down the pace of a serial depending on the instantaneous TRP. Kindly note that most of what I speak here is about the channels in my vernacular language, since I was able to watch only these (or was forced to watch these, since most of the times, the remote is not actually in my hand :-)).
So, you have a channel that shows some kind of reality show 4 days of a week. Two of these are devoted to a show on music, where the partcipants sing various songs. Now, there have been six schedules of this show and the same songs might have been sung ad nauseum, but the channel insists on having this show, which means either people like this show too much or the channnel is simply unable to produce better programming. The serials are extremely loud. There was a serial where people used to die and then for no strange reason become alive again. Talk of spreading superstition in a country that still has its educated population believe in things like horescopes. There was a serial that I recently followed very closely. The serial, thankfully lasted only about 2 years (thats short by Indian standards). The characters were very well developed and the script-writer had somehow managed to keep something hidden and mysterious from the audience till the very end, but the end was a total anti-climax. Apparenty, the protagonist in concern had to grow up away from his parents and siblings due to some vague state of his stars at the time of his birth. To me it was unfair on the part of the writer and the director to give this type of message after having the audience glued and rivetted to the idiot box for close to 2 years with his immensely talented cast and well-developed characters. To be very frank, this dabbling with the super-natural by means of various miracles or thru' characters that seem to forsee the future seems to a common thread in a quite a few serials irrespective of channel. I sometimes wish I could go back to my child-hood days when there was only one channel and we used to laugh heartily with a serial called “Yeh Jo hai Zindagi” and identify with the earthly characters of “Hum Log” and “Buniyaad”.
In my opinion, for a country like India, which even in this 21st Century of the internet, is still grappling with issues like “honor killings”, what is needed is a liberal dose of whole-some entertainment, with a decent sprinkling of programs that will inculcate people's scientific temper.
Otherwise, India will embrace technology like a fish takes to water (look at what cell-phones have done to the country), but will use it for devious purposes. Making a computerized horoscope, having language and caste-specific matrimonial web-sites are just some examples that come immediately to mind.
Television is an extremely powerful medium, and has unusually survived the onslaught of the Internet and will continue to play an important role in a country like India where the penetration of the internet is limited. I wish the channels self-censored themselves and give us more meaningful programs that will not just entertain us but also inculcate amongst the masses a sceintfiic temper that will help create a more rational India.