Let me state the obvious one more time: no one can get away from Bollywood, least of all television. Take a look at what’s happening right now. Shah Rukh Khan is already doing
Kya Aaap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain
for Star Plus. We will soon see Salman Khan in
Dus Ka Dum
on Sony Entertainment Television or, as Salman calls it, “Sony Innertainmen Television.” How any of us will understand a word of what he’s saying I don’t know - if he persists in speaking with that bizarre accent. Which of course he will, because he always does when he’s speaking in English. Maybe the channel will provide sub-titles. (Hint, hint. Or more accurately: Help!).
But I think it’s actually quite an amazing breakthrough in television terms to choose as host for a game show a man whom you are sure knows none of the answers and can take lessons from even the most ignorant viewer. Think about it. If it works, then this could start a global trend in shows where participants were encouraged by the knowledge that no matter how badly they did, the anchor would do even worse.
The third big star coming soon on TV is Akshay Kumar, who will be hosting the Indian version of Fear Factor for the new Viacom entertainment channel. Thankfully, what Akshay needs to display on this show are not his intellectual skills. Salman on the other hand is the true trend setter with the Indianised Power of Ten.
At the local level, the possibilities are endless. Given Star News’s obsession with the great Khali, perhaps its sister channel Star Plus could get Khali to host a quiz show. First question would be asked to a contestant. If he got it wrong, then it would be asked to Khali. When he got it wrong, he would body slam the contestant, give him an aeroplane spin, immobilize him with a Boston Crab and then get disqualified for breaking rules.
And finally. Sometimes, the best ideas can go wrong. When I first heard that Manish Arora was going to anchor a programme on Discovery Travel & Living, I thought it was a brilliant idea. There’s lots to be said about Indian fashion and Arora seems to have the mad, unselfconscious energy required to make such a programme work.
Then I saw the show. And I have to confess, I was underwhelmed. Partly it’s the production. Whoever made the series should sit down and watch the foreign programmes on Travel & Living. This show is poorly scripted and frankly, rather dull. Partly it’s Arora himself. Television is a strange medium. People you think are annoying in real life seem energetic and charismatic on TV. And people you think are fun end up looking boring. I think it is safe to say that whatever Arora’s skills as a designer, television is not his medium. Nor is the camera his friend.
But if Travel & Living gets it wrong, then at least the mother channel gets it right. I’ve been really enjoying The Story of India on Discovery. Michael Wood who made the series – for British TV to mark 60 years of Indian independence – is one of the masters of that relatively new TV genre in which an academic (such as Simon Schama whose shows are often on BBC World) takes on a theme that is rich in ideas and fills it out by making a film that’s a cross between a documentary and a personal report, full of views, insights and information.
The episode I saw traced immigration into India 70,000 years ago, and actually tracked down people in south India with the same DNA; and told us about priests in Kerala who chant in a ‘language’ (or maybe it’s just bird sounds) not known to anyone today, it’s that ancient. Really fascinating stuff.