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Have our TV channels found a social conscience?

There’s more action right now in the television industry than in all the TV soaps put together. First of all, as mentioned last week, we’ve just seen the launch of a new entertainment channel, Real.

tv Updated: Mar 13, 2009 23:37 IST
Poonam Saxena
Poonam Saxena
Hindustan Times

There’s more action right now in the television industry than in all the TV soaps put together. First of all, as mentioned last week, we’ve just seen the launch of a new entertainment channel, Real. The opening viewership figures are so low you’d think the channel had launched in half a city instead of all over India.

Low numbers for a new channel usually mean problems with distribution and content. The former can be fixed relatively easily if you have enough money; the latter is far trickier. I mean, I haven’t exactly been hot-footing it to the TV in a state of uncontained excitement, desperate to find out what is happening to the bunch of ‘fightercocks’ (as we would say in school) in Sarkar Ki Duniya. Are they still furiously digging wells and agitatedly making aloo gobhi? (But as industry
watchers never tire of saying — it’s early days yet. One week is not enough to pass judgment on any channel).

Secondly (this is a behind-the-screen development), there’s been a mass exodus from Sony, starting with the top boss. But on the small screen it’s business as usual. Indeed, better than usual. Sony has just started season three of Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, one of the better dance reality shows (of which there are at least 99 and still counting till now). There’s a trio of women judges — Juhi Chawla, Vaibhavi Merchant and Saroj Khan -— of whom the most charming and appealing (no contest) is Juhi. The participants range from former cricketer Mohinder Amarnath to forgotten actress Bhagyashree (where did they pull her out of? Last heard she was Himalaya ki god mein). So far, the show is quite enjoyable.

Sony has also started Specials@10, where well known Bollywood directors like Anurag Kashyap and Madhur Bhandrakar are presenting original stories. I saw Vikram Bhatt’s Shauhrat Nafrat Aur Showbiz, about the turbulence and heartbreak behind an actress’s rise to stardom and it was not bad at all. Compared to what currently passes off as entertainment on TV (I refer to the soaps and serials), it was akin to an award-winning masterpiece.

All the entertainment channels have suddenly discovered the girl child. Colors has two serials around the same theme. In the first one, Mere Ghar Aayi Ek Nanhi Pari, the entire family, led by the patriarch Kulbhushan Kharbanda, is besotted by the infant girl who’s just been born in the family. The second one, Na Aana Is Des Lado, is set in some sort of Haryanvi milieu where the village is controlled by a matriarch called Ammaji who seems more like Dawood’s aunty than a rural notable. As the serial opens, we learn that she is guilty of female foeticide.

Star Plus has also started a serial called Ghar Ki Ladli, where the family is keenly awaiting the birth of a girl child (actor Kanwaljeet is back on TV after a long time). I believe Zee too has started something on the girl child.

I repeat the question I asked a while back in this column: have our TV channels suddenly found a social conscience? I’m not so sure. I have serious reservations about Ballika Vadhu (which has now gone into the realm of the plight of widows.Which time zone is the serial exactly set in? The early 19th century? It would certainly appear so, given the archaic nature of the story.). I wouldn’t be in any hurry to applaud our general entertainment channels for having overnight turned into social reformers.

Meanwhile the news channels have been in a Pakistan frenzy. Perhaps for the first time in his life Nawaz Sharif saw his speech at a rally in Abbotabad carried live on every Indian news channel. Nobody cared what Nawaz had to say. They were just hoping he would be arrested before the speech was over.

Unfortunately for the channels, Sharif continued to be no more than the Hair Apparent (post-transplant) to Asif Zardari, whose position looks shakier by the minute. Nobody arrested the newly hirsute former Prime Minister and he bored us to death with talk of his long march.

No sooner had Sharif gone off the air, than Ayaz Amir began his own long march from one TV channel to the other. First he appeared on CNN-IBN to tell us what a bad man Zardari was and how poor Amir was now ‘underground.’ (Or as underground as it is possible to be when you’re live on TV.) Then he went to Times Now to announce once again that he was ‘underground.’

Next he turned up on NDTV and said that Zardari was a bad sort and that — you guessed it! — he was ‘underground.’ Not content with all this, he then chatted to the anchor on Headlines Today and said he was — here we go again — ‘underground.’ I stopped watching but no doubt he tried NewsX next.

First Published: Mar 13, 2009 23:35 IST