Telescope: A question for TV

That the assailant’s husband recorded the incident on CCTV, and allowed it to be shared with the entire world via the internet and television, perhaps deserves sociological analysis.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: January 14, 2016 12:07:06 am

Tuesday morning began with Rohit Sharma hitting some delightful fours and sixes (Star Sports), which definitely helped the breakfast go down in the “most de-light-ful way” (thank you, Mary Poppins). But then the news channels made you want to throw up the omelette you had wolfed down, with repeated runs of a video in which a woman is literally thrashing and squeezing the life out of her mother-in-law. That the assailant’s husband recorded the incident on CCTV, and allowed it to be shared with the entire world via the internet and television, perhaps deserves sociological analysis.

But certainly as a visual testament to human brutality and the world of domestic violence, words could never have done it more justice, or said it better. Mornings like Tuesday’s make you appreciate the power of what you see.
It also makes you wonder at the way in which Indian — or at least Hindi — TV serials tiptoe around familial ground, paint it in bright (blindingly bright), pretty colours and leave it to crime shows (the Savdhaan series, Crime Patrol, etc) to reveal the seamier side of the Hindu parivar.

A serial like Gangaa (& TV) may show you the horrors of child widowhood and Udaan (Colors) of child labour, but there’s precious little by way of television fiction that isn’t heavily dressed up or caked with make-up to hide the warts. Issues tackled by TV serials are so over-dramatised that they’re almost completely obscured by the melodrama.

Why must everything and everyone be decked up for a perpetual Ramlila? It’s aspirational, we’re told, for a younger generation in cities other than the metros. Maybe, but as a result, they’re unreal in a way that crime serials are stark in their realism. That makes the latter far more watchable, interesting and relevant than the daily soaps which really haven’t evolved from the saas-bahus of Ekta Kapoor. The exception is the channel Epic. It tries and succeeds in offering shows that are entertaining and dare we say it, informative. Apart from the stories of Rabindranath Tagore, there is the historical Siyasat, which is really a costume drama but more plot than costume and tightly knit together. Dariba Diaries is a detective serial set in 19th century Delhi. Nice, different.

The channel also has a good line-up of non-fiction shows — an area completely ignored by our entertainment channels that broadcast only soaps, talent shows and reality shows, although what exactly is real about Bigg Boss (Colours), where a bunch of people who didn’t know each other (well) have to share everything but their bodies with almost strangers for over two months? What could be more unnatural, in fact? Epic’s Mid-Wicket Tales with Naseeruddin Shah takes you on a journey to the cricket pitch, Devlok with Devdutt Pattnaik pitches Hindu mythology at you while Khwabon Ka Safar with Mahesh Bhatt rewinds to the making of the Bollywood
studios. All highly watchable.

It simply tells us that if Mumbai’s TV channels and producers want to, they can do better than they do. Why they
don’t want to, say, produce a desi Downton Abbey (which has sadly concluded) — tailor-made for India don’t you think — is a complete mystery. By the way, did you know that there are at least 10 channels that devote themselves to providing viewers with Hindu mythology, spirituality, discourses, and the healing touch? To say nothing of Nirmal Baba appearing in advertorial/ sponsored shows on news channels. That is nothing short of bizarre.

Instead of cutting short kisses in films like Spectre, removing the goddess Kali from Angry Indian Goddesses, deleting four-letter, five-letter and six-letter words from English films so that they are unwatchable, why doesn’t the censor board rid us of such programmes? Don’t they promote superstition?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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