operas and reality shows. The news channels air kite-flying contests in Najafgarh as ‘Breaking News’. The entertainment ones have been recycling and repackaging one story for over a decade now.
Many of us would remember a promising phase of Indian television before it entered its current commercialised and hyper-conservative state. Here’s a list of things on Indian TV that makes us want to throw flowerpots at the screen:
1. Shitcoms: As a recent survey showed, Indians don’t have a sense of humour. That can partly explain why we don’t have a half-decent sitcom amid 500-odd TV shows on air. It’s time producers stopped trying to pass off C-grade shows with garish clothes and exaggerated acting as ‘comedy’. They need to be told that Gujarati accents are not funny and ding-dong background music is not a substitute for punch lines.
2. More Crime Smoothies: Where are the slick crime thrillers with smart cops and smooth criminals? Unfortunately, what we get instead are ‘crime awareness’ programmes like Crime Patrol and Saavdhaan India.
3. Ruse News: With news channels multiplying like rabbits, most have forgotten what listening to actual news was like. Arnab Goswami’s nonstop Jabberwocky, continuous commercials and panel discussions on everything under the sun have brought real news items down to the ticker. We miss Prannoy Roy’s crisp The World This Week on Doordarshan.
4. Where’s The Music? This may sound strange to the misguided blokes at Channel V (who’ve recently converted to a full time “entertainment channel”), but we have more soaps and reality shows than we can handle. What we’d like more of is some good non-Bollywood music. Dear music channels, refer to Coke Studio Pakistan and The Dewarists for guidance.
5. Family-ar Story: Our TV entertainment, it appears, just cannot move beyond the family drama. A show may promise to be ‘different’ – office drama, doctors’ lives – but give them three weeks and our writers will find a way of turning Star Trek into a family drama.
6. We Want To Educate the (M)asses: Suddenly all TV shows come with an agenda: to address ‘social evils’. They seek to do that by living up to the 19th century standards of morality where the good wife must prove her worth by enduring violence meted out to her by the in-laws. What these shows exactly mean by ‘social evils’ may be a question worth asking.
7. Fantasy Fiction: Who are these people whose lives are chronicled in our TV shows? We don’t want documentaries, but a semblance of reality would be appreciated. Everybody is Scrooge McDuck-rich, yet what they do for a living is a mystery. Girls go to college wearing ornate chiffon anarkalis. I wonder if the writers have ever stepped onto a campus…
8. Time Machine I: Characters speak at the rate of one word per minute, while the camera captures every movement of the muscle of every character. An hour may pass in real time, but the moment holds still in TV time. And if it’s a wedding or a festival, Hallelujah! You may get to see the wedding in your lifetime, if you’re lucky.
9. Time Machine II: Our soaps don’t have scripted endings. Once all possible angles are exhausted, they fast-forward by 20 years where the same stories are reworked with a bunch of new characters. Curiously enough, nothing really changes in all this time. Except that they have arrived in year 2044!
10. Act. Now: On what grounds are these ‘actors’ selected? Are they asked to show if they can weep without distorting a deadpan expression? Or perhaps, for how long they can speak in a monotone? The motto of our TV industry – why bother to act, when thunder and lightning have the same impact?
Know the Writer
Name: Mitia Nath, 24
Occupation: A former teacher of English at Delhi University
Favourite Brunch piece... Small-Budget Films (Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar), Making It Big, The Annoying Habits of Our NRI Cousins
I wanted to write because... I like Brunch. I also wanted to see my name in the magazine
If you were to write a column: I would call it, Cinematic (on film appreciation)
One quirk: Talks to dogs in Bengali
From HT Brunch, February 3
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