destination india

Thursday, March 10, 2005

the teachings of the tube

Recently, there has been a spate of advertisements depicting arrogant kids. If my memory serves me right, it all began with a kid asking Kapil Dev to move out of the way so he could pitch the ball in the correct place. Next, we saw the kid with Saurav and the famous ‘toss-ka-boss’ ad. His latest prey is Sehwag – the kid orders him to ‘get the ball’! One more specimen of arrogance is shown in another kid swaggering to the grocer and demanding a packet of ‘shudh nimak’.

When Doordarshan started operations in a very humble way in the 60s, it was supposed to be an extension of the medium of learning. The initial batch of programs of Doordarshan was all aimed towards fulfilling this objective. But, if TV is going to teach kids to become arrogant, I feel we should have second thoughts. Such ads may increase the sale of the products but they will also take their toll on the tender minds that are prone to be influenced by such displays.

Viewers of the 60s were limited in number; the reach of the medium was also confined to certain pockets. However, during the tenure of one of the Gandhis, it started spreading its tentacles far and wide. The count went up with every passing day till the map of India was dotted with Doordarshan centers and relay stations. Needless to say, viewers never found anything to grumble about. Decency was the inevitable password, we had a sense of values to protect and propagate.

Subsequently, one day, the sky was thrown open. Others entered the market. Their approach was cautious because the waters were untested. How far can we venture was the question on everyone’s lips? Foreigners wanted to cash in on the immense potential of the multitude of middle classers who had started enjoying freedom with a capital ‘F’. Till then, the only entertainment used to be in the movies – holding hands in the dark, munching potato chips and popping corns in between. Opening of the skies changed all that overnight. Suddenly we discovered that there were channels that really took us places, literally. The number of players kept on increasing till we lost count. To top it all, cricket carnivals became real money spinners. Advertisers found newer and newer gimmicks to promote their products. And – our very own Indian producers realized that this was a medium where you could really spread messages as no other medium can. So, they gave us the world of polygamy, of extra marital affairs, of surrogate mothers, of adolescent sex and crimes. Our soap operas dictated changes in fashion. Western clothes gradually became the norms – today, we do not get serials like Buniyaad but are bombarded by the ‘K’ factor. We do not tune in to classical music but love to watch the remixed videos. Dress is on the way out, but we still have dress designers! Wonder what their contributions are!!

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