TV’s Nostalgia Trip

In the ‘80s,television viewing in India was not only a family activity but meant getting together with neighbours in front of the solitary television set.

Written by Somya Lakhani | Published: May 4, 2012 1:58 am

In the ‘80s,television viewing in India was not only a family activity but meant getting together with neighbours in front of the solitary television set. On offer was a limited fare by the government-owned Doordarshan,the only channel that aired in the country. Chitrahaar and Krishi Darshan remain milestones of nostalgia. A lot has changed since then. The Indian TV viewer is now spoilt for choice,with over a hundred channels and shows from a variety of genres that cater to various age groups. An entire generation has witnessed this drastic change due to the invasion of satellite television in India. This evolution is the narrative of Inside Indian Television,an hour-long documentary on Discovery Channel,to unravel tonight.

An initiative of Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment,the documentary was in the making for almost a year. Industry veterans,such as Subhash Chandra of Zee,actors Ram Kapoor,Smriti Irani,Sakshi Tanwar and Ronit Roy,producer Ekta Kapoor and film stars Shah Rukh and Kamal Haasan share their views on the subject,highlighting the changes the television industry has undergone in the last two decades and in turn the changes it has brought about. “I started working with radio in 1994 and have literally grown up with satellite TV. The moment I realised that it has been 20 years,I thought it was a good reason to celebrate,” says Samar Khan,CEO,Red Chillies Entertainment,the creative director and producer of the show.

The narration is peppered with clips from memorable DD shows such as Mahabharat,Chanakya and Hum Log. “Collecting the archival clips was not easy since they are the property of other channels,but the fraternity has been very kind. It then traces the industry’s journey to the entry of CNN in 1991 during the Gulf War; Zee TV’s first broadcast on August 1,1992 and the big boom that followed Ekta Kapoor’s entry into the industry in early 2000.

More importantly,the documentary captures television’s impact on the economy,society and culture. It explains how the economic changes during the ‘90s led to the rise of private TV networks in India,leading to more employment opportunities for the youth. These changes also had a psychological impact on the audience as topics like homosexuality,divorce,pre-marital sex — formerly considered taboo — came out in the open through the TV sets. Kapoor attributes many changes to “aspirational identification” and Tanwar adds in the documentary,“Women copied saris,mangalsutras,sindoor,bangles and hairstyles. People wanted to become that character”.

The documentary then charts the entry of talent and reality shows,starting with Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and the grand entry of Bollywood celebrities as anchors on the small screen,marked by Amitabh Bachchan in Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2000 .

It captures the big guys of television in a candid mood as Chandra admits to the narcissist nature of voyeuristic reality shows,such as Bigg Boss,Spiltsvilla and Emotional Atyachar. “Nowadays the programming is more regressive than progressive,” he says in the documentary. Regional programming,rise in the number of news channels,lifestyle-related shows,sports channels,role of TAM and the Cable TV act — the documentary in barely 60 minutes touches upon this 20-year growth of television in India.

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