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Indian Television Needs To Stop Selling Sympathy And Patriarchy, Now!

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By Ojaswini Srivastava:

It has been a while since I last watched any show on the television on a regular basis. I really yearn for something good. Why is Indian television so disappointing? Every channel nowadays runs a message that says something like “if you have any complaints with any programme on our channel you can report to BCC…”. Ironically, I feel like I want to file a complaint against almost everything that comes on T.V., be it the daily soaps or the so-called reality shows.

TV

I am angry, annoyed and exasperated. My frustration lies in the fact that I can’t watch T.V. for more than five minutes a day. I may sound cynical, therefore, I will explain my concern with some examples.

The reality shows are a huge trend nowadays. But my question is how real they are? Slowly, everything about reality shows has become scripted and it is very evident. For instance, It has degraded its standard to the extent they use handicapped people for the sake of TRPs. If one show brings people with physical disabilities as a contestant, the other channel immediately finds someone with greater physical disabilities for their show. I am sure it is a good way to encourage them and promote their talent. They are also an inspiration for thousands of people. But isn’t it at the same time a very mean way to gain TRPs? Casting them on shows in the name of reality and talent presentation but actually ‘using’ them for high TRPs is a serious issue. Most of us overlook it. Whenever we come across such scenes, we stop, watch and become emotional. But how many times do we think that such shows are reflecting these people as “lachaar or bechara”. If these channels really believe in their talent and don’t think they are any less than someone with no disabilities, why can’t they just give them only as much footage as other contestants? Why not stop selling emotions? Why not be more genuine in the material you telecast? Trust me, the glycerin tears and lengthy footages are too much. These people are no less than any other, they are talented, and they deserve a lot of respect. Please stop making them a tool of your TRPs.

The second example that I would give is of daily soaps. Almost all these soaps claim to be women centric. But really? Is this the meaning of women centralism? These soaps claim to depict ‘strong women’. What kind of strong women, I ask? They describe a strong woman as the one who is insulted by her in-laws, beaten by her husband and thrown out of her sasural multiple times, and still stick to them, fight all odds and love all of them selflessly. Is this strong? I ask you again, is this strong? (If yes, I seriously need to improve my language skills). These shows have millions of audience, mainly women. Why cannot these channels show some really strong women? The scripts are necessarily such that revolve around a forever weeping woman who tries to please her husband and sasuralwalas all the time, constantly being insulted, and fighting to acquire respect in her awful life.

There was this show called “Balika Vadhu” that became a rage when it started. Honestly, I did watch two or three episodes and admired the content. It depicted the brutality faced by Rajasthani women, though that show too has now become one piece of horror and I don’t remember the last time I saw a glimpse of the same. I don’t watch daily soaps. I have never watched any daily soap in my life, not more than two or three episodes of any show. The reason is not that I think they are uncool or anything. I think they are silly, stupid and useless. These shows can be powerful. If even two shows start depicting some reality, something social, something relevant, something sensible, and most importantly a ‘strong woman’ in the correct sense, I will watch it. And it won’t only be me, but many thousands of people like me who will start watching them, and then these channels will get what they run after (TRPs, I presume).

What I wish to convey is that entertainment is necessary and powerful. The television is a common source of entertainment for millions of people from all sections of the society. If only these TV channels assume their social responsibility and start making at least some shows that have a sensible storyline, the viewers can get healthy entertainment. I have cited two small examples, there are many others though. The list is too long. My point is to raise a voice against all the nonsense being shown in the name of entertainment, and not put forward a list of critics of T.V shows. I hope my critique is something people can understand, relate to and agree with. I must not forget to mention there are shows that create social awareness like crime-centered shows, and I really appreciate them.

You must be to comment.
  1. Prashant Kaushik

    Ojaswani, I have read most of your articles, I get a feeling that the best thing about you is that you are someone who, if required, can sit back and relax in a lounge, and beat some one black and blue with words without making him feel so, and without raising your pitch or degrading your vocab…Good..
    I echo with most of what you wrote about Indian TVs and esp about reality shows.
    I am exasperated when the actors jerk their face multiple times, and then when same is followed by every character in the room, and when it takes several episodes to show to an incident, which in real life, would be over in 15 minutes..
    But I would suggest that you take the ‘daily soaps’ in a different perspective. You need to be illogical, and ignorant, and try to find resemblance, not difference between you and the lead characters.
    TV and Films revolve 90% around Love, emotions and relationships. Love is not practical. It cant be normalized or codified. So don’t think the ‘woman lead’ is suffering instead of being in love. Try to watch the soaps as an individual, not as a social activist.
    Not just female, but even male characters are shown doing acts in love which in real life you may not suggest to any of your friends or relatives.

    Remember ‘Rab ne Bana di Jodi’ or ‘Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani’ or ‘Namaste London’ where the male hero goes beyond any realism to win heart of a girl who has no emotions for him .? Even risking his life !! Would you call him weak ?

  2. jeeka krishna

    if only anyone has scene any american shows….jameez asmaan ka antar hai bhai logo…tolerate nahi kar sakta mein Indian shows…

  3. ila

    THE ISSUE YOU ADDRESSED IS REALLY TRUE. CANT AGREE MORE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. BUT THE TV PRODUCERS HAVE TO EARN PROFITS AND THE MAJORITY IS NOT INTERESTED IN BREAKING BAD OR SHERLOCK. THAT IS WHY THEY PRODUCE WHAT PEOPLE DEMAND. IT IS SAD BUT TRUE. ONLY A MINORITY WANTS GOOD CONTENT ON TELEVISION. WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH AMERICAN TV SHOWS FOR NOW. ONCE, THE SOCIETY IS MORE ADVANCED ONLY THEN CAN WE HOPE FOR INDIA’S OWN DEXTER. BUT FOR NOW, THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT. CINEMA IS A REFLECTION OF SOCIETY. IT IS A DISAPPOINTING FACT.

    1. Astha

      I agree that Cinema and Television reflects but they are also effective tools of change. Where do we get all the information? How is public opinion generated? Media shouldn’t hide behind ‘lachari’ of I-serve-what-viewers-demand. In fact this year some very good movies recorded success which generated hope that we do like good content. Once they start making it, they will know. A tautological argument cannot and shouldn’t come to appalling prevalence of mindless, derogatory, disrespectful and utterly offensive content served in the name of ‘entertainment’. I do not go to Cinema, or switch on the TV to get insulted. My definition of entertainment cannot accommodate disrespect.

  4. Rhythm

    I share the same views regarding daily soaps. But I think that involvement of disabled people in reality shows is a good move. They too get a platform to put forward their talent and are being recognized world wide. And if channels are making TRPs out of it, then I don’t find anything wrong in that. At least it promotes something good.

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