Television: Finally More Than Just An “Idiot” Box

Posted on July 1, 2012 in Media and Culture

By Shobhit Agarwal:

11 am on 6th May, 2012, marked an important moment in the history of Indian television. This day will be remembered, as the day when television became more than just an ‘idiot box’ and took upon the mantle of being the medium for bringing about a change in the society. This was achieved by a show called ‘Satyamev Jayate.’

Indian television became a household commodity with the commencement of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and Mahabharata. Streets all across the country wore a desolate look when it was first telecast. The ‘you-tube’ generation might find it an exaggeration of the actual scenario, but people of that generation swear by it. That was in the mid 1990’s.

What followed was a brutal exploitation of the medium by people looking to make big bucks out of it. Shows began to be conceptualised not on the basis of content or traditional family values but on the basis of their ‘selling’ ability and the TRP they could generate, which in turn would increase the revenue generated through the commercials. It resulted in a series of substandard programs, wherein overtly decorated mother-in-laws went hammer and thongs at their equally over-decked daughter-in-laws. All thanks to one Ekta Kapoor, the K series saga had gripped the nation in the early part of the new millennium.

Mid 2000s, saw the rise of a new kind of television — reality television. Television had shrunk to its all time low. Everything, from becoming a crorepati to being a movie star or a singer, from having personal swayamvars to youngsters hurling abuses, journeying across the country on bikes was on display. The worst part was that audience in spite of being aware of such shows being staged and manipulated to drive the viewership, continued to be loyal watchers. This prompted channels to overdose the primetime with more such ‘reality’ shows.

With Satyamev Jayate, what Aamir Khan has done is restore a bit of respect to the medium of television by showing the kind of positive impact it can have on the society. It has also proved to everyone that there is a whole section of viewers out there, who are starving for good, meaningful content, but are forced to live on a diet of saas-bahu sagas.

With no melodrama, over the top sets or funky backgrounds, Satyamev Jayate just puts across the unadulterated emotions of average Indians, who have suffered through some evil practices of the society. And judging by the reactions of the studio audience and also the ones at home, it only shows that there is a lot of emotion in the real world itself waiting to be captured. By tapping these, not only will one be able to generate the kind of emotions that fictional television soaps can never think of, but also bring awareness about some of the prevailing intolerable practices at the forefront.

Our society is flawed. Only a fool would deny that. And also a bigger fool would try to hide it. The biggest weapon in today’s times, to bring about any positive change in the society, is the visual media. And, what better medium than television?

Satyamev Jayate has made the start; the thing to watch out for is who follows suit?

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