Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mindless Bollywood; Mindless Television

I think Indian television is going the Bollywood way. I mean, it’s becoming more and more meaningless. Ho hum, by meaningless I mean, staid crappy entertainment, which is not funny or entertaining at all. Bollywood has gone so far away from meaningful entertainment that one is utterly flabbergasted by films such as “Rang De Basanti” and “Munnabhai” being hailed as new wave of film making. Come on, the supposedly new wave of Bollywood film makers such as Hrishikesh Mukherji and Basu Bhattacharya are dead or phased out.

I speak from a hazy memory here, but I know some of these are facts. And so are Guru Dutt, Ritwik Ghatak, Aravindan, John Abraham (not this lover boy John Abraham, but the director John Abraham [yes, there used to be one director by the name John Abraham who served journalists attending the premiere of his movie with Arrack, that too in plastic mugs!]), Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen.

I should say it reflects the corruption of the cinematic medium and today the darling of the media, the television is full of laughter, fun, songs, blood and gore (they have an new wrestling hero called Khalli), and NO NEWS. News channels these days sound and look more like a David Dhavan caper with Govinda doing a slapstick gag every second.


Here’s a rough study I carried out yesterday. One of our leading news channels had the following programmes in its prime time (a time when I was expecting some earthshaking news scoops):

The Bajji-Shrishant slapping controversy: with repeated pans of a seemingly unrepentant Bajji and a crying Shrishant. Okay, but this has zero news value in a country that is beset by a heat wave (in the North) and torrential rain (in Kerala), the Maoist risings, and farmers committing suicide.

Saif and Kareena’s latest capers. Um oh, who’s interested? (क्या सैफ करीना को शादी करेंगे?) I mean well for Saif (whom I have met in person), who I think is a decent human being. Again zero news value.

A poisonous snake found in New Zealand. Oh really? What does it do for us in India? Should we stock anti-venom shots? Again zero news value.

And then Raju Shrivastava (my favourite comedian): he comes on, wearing something like a steward’s dress (the sort I see waiters wearing in the Deccan Odyssey), puts on an act, and he is left clapping his hands and laughing at his own jokes. Oh God, how can my favourite comedian fall so low? Guess overexposure is not good for him.

Mindless entertainment to increase TRPs? You guessed right.


At the same time I switched to BBC and they had the following programmes:

The violence in the Gaza strip (live coverage, lots of news value)

The Hillary Barack tussle for Democratic nomination.

A documentary about Zambia, and how the Chinese are investing there and why Zambians don’t like working for Chinese companies. (Great news value)

Zimbabwean elections (live coverage, lots of news value).

Now when was the last time you saw a documentary about a state of India (forget a country like Zambia) on Indian news channels. Here are a few documentaries that are crying to be made and shown on Indian televisions:

  1. The growing menace of plastic in Indian cities
  2. The Sulabh-Shauchalay experiment that failed (this may be of interest)
  3. What is frustrating marginal farmers in Vidharbha
  4. An in-depth report on Special Economic Zones
  5. A documentary on how migration is killing Indian urban infrastructure
  6. A detail report on the politics of appeasement (free houses, free loans, etc)
  7. How many this or that Yojana schemes have reached the poor
  8. etc. etc.

Why don’t we see such coverage and instead of laughter, wrestling, cricketing, star affairs, even poisonous snakes of New Zealand is what beats me.


Parth said...

I do agree with you about the decaying standard of Indian TV. Unfortunately, even the newspapers are going that way. Even Times of India. Sigh.

But, trust me, western TV, even with the amount of good information they have playing 24 hours, is almost as inane. In fact, people like Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and Joel McHale have made their careers just due to the stupidity of the 24 hours news/entertainement channels.

John said...

Hi Parth,

The problem with Indian te tv is that they don't want to go beyond their backyard to get their stories. Khalli is imported ans saif kareena story can be shot without much effort at parties and award functions.

when was there a meaningful documentary shown on Indian news channels.?

typed on the morning train to work