Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TV programs during Indian festivals: An insult to human intellect

The reader is asked to go through the following sequence of events and identify the common thread running in them.

  • You are greeted by a traditional musical performance early in the morning, either a vocal rendition or an instrumental performance.
  • This is usually followed by a tete-a-tete with the latest entrant in the page 3 circuit, who attempts to burst into at the snap of a finger and, on an average, tries adjusting his/her's hairdo at a minimal rate of 45 times per minute.
  • A news bulletin is usually our next item on the itinerary that focuses on the murders committed in the past three decades, the patterns that are being followed in doing so, the expressions on the visages of the deceased, prior to their autopsies, presenting a strong argument for exterminating the news anchor.
  • This is followed by an interaction with women in bright saris and garish make-up, who offer predictions for the year/month/day ahead (take your pick!). My mom used to scare me in my childhood that my eyes would go blind if I ever uttered a lie. Are these television presenters some Arnie-like Terminator clones, who replace their eyes after every telecast? Must make a mental note and enquire about this with James Cameron. I'll be back with that later!
  • The subsequent program on our list is a mind-blowing coverage (I'd assure you that you would exclaim that "Aren't I out of my mind?") of the latest releases in the box-office, usually in the form of a 'Top-10 countdown', with inputs from hysterical crew members, morose technicians (purely understandable!) and Janus-faced box-office analysts, who gloss over glaring omissions in the movie with a supposed air of superiority (readers are asked not to exhibit any emotion when these critics utter sentences similar to, "When examined closely, this film uses picturisation techniques that were also used in the Academy-award winning movie, Grovelling in the garbage...").
  • Since we have been talking about movie-exclusives, how can we ever miss out on the screening of a movie? Usually captioned as the movie that is being screened on the telly for the "First time in the history of Indian television", a recent blockbuster, whose plot includes at least five songs, a dozen fight sequences, a romantic triangle, in addition to an item number, is screened in the midst of a hailstorm of advertisements, that could make even the staunchest couch potato fish out his almost forgotten ‘new year resolution’ diary to make a detailed entry to give up watching the idiot-box forever!


If you identify the event/ occasion in question as the Cannes film festival or much closer home, as the IIFA film festival, think again, for the answer is much simpler. Cutting the agony short, the schedule mentioned above would fit the description of the ‘special-package’ TV listings of any of our multitudinous satellite channels on occasions of national significance such as Diwali, Makara Sankranti or even Independence Day! Restricting this discussion to Tamil satellite-TV channels (the same holds good for its other language counterparts), one can easily observe that the common link between the programs is cinema, movies, films or motion pictures (and its synonyms!).
A few may be inclined to scoff that life needs its share of glamour and that the 'traditional' mentality leaves no room for creativity or 'out-of-the-box' thinking, leaving one with opinionated, dull thinking. "Everything needs to move on and evolve," they may aver. Agreed, but isn’t there a limit? A proverb (or rather, its gist) says that even nectar must be consumed with moderation, which can be considered as a corollary to the term 'to be taken with a pinch of salt'. Where is the 'pinch' in this case? All we see are mountains and peaks of content that are either venerated or scorned by the public, with no room for the 'middle path'. What is even more regretting is the fact that such TV channels that claim to be the voice or pulse of the nation's population are, in fact, effecting a drastic change in the sensibilities of the public, by creating an identity that festivals are invariably synonymous with TV programs interlinked with Kollywood.

I am in no way advocating austerity; let media groups go ahead and make a killing with their astronomical air-time rates on such occasions, but can’t they make provisions for screening at least a single program that informs viewers about the significance of the festival in concern? The age of information has definitely benefited lives across the nation in a positive manner. It has led to an increase in the awareness levels of the common man, the aam-aadmi, definitely an encouraging sign for the nation. With the glut of information made available to us, it can be said with absolute certainty that we are goading the public to readily ingest such pabulum-inspired shows.

However, a situation where the average school-kid may guide you on F-1, proffer advice on the best bike to purchase and explain why Man-U's fortunes in the Premier League had largely to do with Wayne Rooney's performance, but draw a blank when questioned about the significance behind Indian festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi or Holi is not difficult to portend.
Given a choice, I'd rather opt for the state-controlled, mundane and utterly insipid DD-Pothigai over Sun-TV or Jaya-TV any day.