Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hypocrisy and Indian Television


I know I am more than three years late on the issue, but hey, I discovered blogging only recently and even with that, you need something called inspiration (or in this case, something that gets on your nerves so badly that you would want to vent!)

During dinner time in our house, we generally watch the prime time soaps (on weekdays) because that’s the only time during the entire day when my mother gets to choose what she wants to see and since we have the TV to ourselves the entire day, we don’t dare to object, although our preferences when it comes to television programs do not match at all (my mom watches all the stuff that my sister and I watch, but the same is not the case the other way around). So even though we don’t want to, we end up watching all the Hindi soaps (that's her idea of 'entertainment' :-p)

So when we’re having dinner around 10, Uttran is on TV and that’s what I end up watching till I’m done eating. ‘Colors’ is probably the only channel these days that has programs worth watching because each of its serials have a message and most of them have managed to stick to the main motive of the show over the last year and a half that they’ve been running.

Uttran (meaning something that is handed down after being used) started off well with the story of two little girls, one of them a maid servant’s daughter (Ichcha – meaning wish, desire) and the other (Tapasya – meaning penance, religious austerity), the daughter of a rich Thakur living in a mansion. It goes on to show the how the lives of the two girls are completely opposite and yet they end up being the best of friends. Ichcha lives in the mansion with Tapasya’s family as her mother is Tapasya’s nanny, and grows up using the old clothes and toys handed down to her by Tapasya (justifying the title of the serial). Then Tapasya’s grandmother poisons her mind and all Tapasya wants then, is to get Ichcha out of her life. So the story takes such a turn that the grandmother has convinced Tapasya that Ichcha only wants to take away every thing that Tapasya owns and loves, including her parents.

So years later (the story took a ten year leap a few months ago) when her family starts groom hunting for Tapasya, the boy rejects her and chooses Ichcha instead. Now, the grandmother poisons the girls mind even more saying that Ichcha took Veer away from her. Therefore, even though Tapasya already has a boyfriend, she is convinced that she should marry Veer because he is also a Thakur and only the daughter of a Thakur would be fit to marry him as opposed to the daughter of a maid servant; and more so because she does not want Ichcha to become the daughter-in-law of a Thakur family.

Tapasya then starts plotting to sabotage the wedding and the entire wedding episode (which went on for about two whole weeks) was pure torture to watch! Instead of talking to her parents and telling them that she wants to marry Veer, Tapasya resorts to measures that can only be termed as evil, like making Ichcha look bad in front of her in-laws to be, spoiling the henna on her hand, almost burning her wedding dress, etc. Tapasya then blackmails Ichcha when the poor girl is in her wedding dress just few minutes before the wedding, by asking her to let Tapasya get married to Veer and threatening to commit suicide by cutting her own wrist.

The entire drama is really upsetting. Tapasya seems to have gone crazy and the beginning and end of her world seems to be Veer, who she did not even like in the first place when he came to see her. During these scenes, she cries and begs Ichcha to let her marry him. My point here is that those episodes* where Tapasya is trying to convince Ichcha, literally begging for Ichcha's mercy, were very disturbing, very negative, very unrealistic (as no one would actually do this in real life) and definitely NOT suitable for television.

When I watch the story lines in Hindi serials become such bullshit and so far away from reality that even 'Tom and Jerry' it seems, could happen; all I can think of, is the big hue and cry raised by Ms. Pratibha Naitthani (professor of Political Science in St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai) somewhere in 2005 about censorship in Indian television.

Back then, she filed a Public Interest Litigation against the broadcast of all adult films and programs on cable television. Her contention was that “if a film is certified as Adult by the censor board, whereby only adults can watch it in a closed theatre then, how can the same films be shown on television which is watched by children as well? As per the laws, any adult program cannot be shown on a public means. The channels showing violence and sex in India blatantly violated Indian laws where as the same channels abided by the laws of other countries. In India their argument was that they are foreign channels and hence need not follow the Indian laws. Whereas her argument was that if the software is produced here, the sponsors are here and revenue is generated from here then how can it be foreign channel. Besides she also mentioned that being a foreign national does not give a license to people to violate Indian laws then how can the channels give this lame argument?”
(Source: Wikipedia)

This resulted in most of the English channels like Star Movies, HBO, etc. going off air for at least a week. Also because most Bollywood action flicks fell under the Adult category, the High Court had restrained all cable operators to stop screening A-rated films; which meant, films like Satya, Gangajal, Aparhan, Company, Shool, Kurukshetra (all brilliantly made movies with excellent stories), among others could not make it to the television screens.

"When I say adult content, I don't mean just sex. I mean violent films, and that includes other offensive things shown. I am more against vulgarity," she had said.
(Source: IBN Live)

Now my question here is, if sex and violence on television is so bad for children, is it okay to show multiple marriages, illegitimate children, plotting, scheming and revenge as the focus of someone’s life (topics which seem to be the driving force of the success of Hindi soaps) on Prime time when the entire family watches television together? What kind of effect will this have on the tender minds of children? Is this the example the Indian television wants to set for the future generation as the culture of India? So why ban only English movies and shows?

I haven’t seen one Hindi program that shows any individual academically oriented to achieve a goal and fighting against all odds to attain it (except for Balika Vadhu now on ‘Colours’). I haven’t seen people struggle through their daily lives to go to work to make ends meet (Ladies Special on “Sony” was one such program about normal people and their normal lives with normal problems but that’s not aired any more).

On all other shows, people seem to live in huge palace like houses with thirty odd rooms; and there always seems to be infinite space to accommodate any new character introduced into the plot, who for no rhyme or reason ends up staying there and seems to have no intention of leaving, ever! The ladies in the house don’t have jobs (and no one knows or cares if they are educated), except maybe in the kitchen and even when they are in the kitchen, they are decked up in heavy sarees and jewels. I wonder how they manage to cook with hair falling on their face and the pallu of their sarees left afloat?

No one ever sleeps in their night dress or removes the thousand ornaments that they wear all day. When they wake up in the morning, their make up is intact and every strand of hair is in place as if they’ve just stepped out of the salon. There is always someone in the house who’s jealous and wants to get hold of the entire property (which they always have a loooot of). People seem to have so much money, that they end up buying all the shares of the company that the family holds (every family also owns a company by the way... Doing what, I'm not really sure) and take the company over.

I know the disclaimer in the beginning of the show says that the story is fictional, including procedures of medicine and law, but does that mean they take the viewers for idiots? Everyone is not born with a silver spoon (and when it comes to these programs, treasure chests would be a better word) with a profitable company to handle once you’ve grown up; with a house with endless space; with a bank account that never seems to overdraw; with a fleet of cars; with beautiful looking skins and hair any time of the day.

To add to this nonsense, no one seems to know who’s married to whom and how many children one has (and they need not be from the same partner!) Also, certain scenes where the villains on the show have the upper hand are so disturbing and emotionally violent that you can’t enjoy television once you’ve seen something of this sort. Television is supposed to entertain, not disturb; and somewhere, people have got those two aspects grossly mixed up.

For instance, there was this scene in Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki (which is thankfully over now) where this girl gets beaten up by her grandma in front of the entire college and dragged home. In another case, in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the lead actress’ mother-in-law was brutally injured in an intentional accident, such that she was paralysed. I thought with the “K” series off air and the change in trend with the new meaningful programs on ‘Colors’ there wouldn’t be much to worry about. But those episodes of Uttran shocked me to my very core!

So by definition, is violence restricted only to action movies with cars crashing, vehicles overturning, jumping from buildings (or even mountains) and dhishum-dhishum?? What about the traumatic effect that such scenes (and stories) have on people. Shouldn’t the content of the story also be subject to censorship? Especially when it is shown on prime time??

When it comes to what children watch on TV, I would like to believe that parents have (or rather should have) a lot of control. Now-a-days, most of the TVs come with a child-lock facility. Wouldn’t it be better for those “concerned” parents to use that rather than depriving the rest of the mature audience from otherwise really good movies just because they contain violence and/or sex?

If you ask my opinion, sex shown in the movies is closer to reality than all the stories of the crappy Hindi shows put together, because in real life, people do have sex, but no one would deliberately, consciously and in their right minds, want to plot to kill someone and take revenge day in and day out!

So what if such movies are banned from TV? If children actually want to see them, how hard is it to get a DVD these days? And they always have internet at their disposal.

What we need here is for the audience to be more mature and understand that we are not living in the eighteenth century, or even the twentieth century anymore. Censoring television programs will not keep children away from watching movies containing violence and/or sex. Children in their early teens these days may have much more knowledge about sex that I myself know right now. And who’s to be blamed for that??

At this point, I can’t stop myself from comparing Indian soaps with English soaps (the only one that I’ve regularly been watching). 'The Orange County' (popularly known as 'The OC') is this teenage drama series about the lives of four kids in Newport, Orange County in California. But even with the multiple relationships, parties every weekend, girl/boy drama; these kids do go to school, do their homework, fail tests and get reprimanded, work summers to earn some extra cash (even if their grandfather is the tycoon of Newport) and yes, have a normal life closer to ours than that portrayed in the serials of our own country.

And in one episode of forty four minutes each, they cover so much of the story that even ten episodes of twenty two minutes each won’t be able to manage in India because of all the slow motion, back ground music, unnecessary waste of time in showing the expression on the face of all the zillion people present during the scene before actually attempting to deliver one coherent dialogue!

So all in all, people, stop bullshitting with the audience and taking us for fools. We know that most of what is shown in the soaps (excluding majority of the programs on ‘Colors’) does not happen in real life. And stop making a big fuss out of nothing to gain the attention of the media. There’s enough hypocrisy already!

- Azaad!!

*I've put up the videos of Uttran in a separate blog post in case you want to see them!

1 comment:

  1. <span style="">one correction - Tapasya's behaviour was more of emotional blackmail, not begging. Yeh sab TRP ka khel hai beta! But thankfully not all TV shows r 'that' bad  :)   </span>

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