My biggest grouse with watching the telly is trying to find fiction programmes which engage me. I automatically gravitate towards English language American or British shows. So if I am in London or New Delhi, I am watching the same shows and probably the same season.
Now, for a younger me, it would be ‘totally cool’ and it would be an indicator of how India is ‘progressing’. Back to the present, I actually feel really pissed off that there are no Hindi language TV shows for ‘people like us’.
English, my second language, is like my mother tongue. I get the American and British humour and most of the references to their popular cultures, the plot lines are intriguing or funny (depending its a drama or a comedy) and scripting and editing is usually tight.
My question is why can’t we have quality programming in our national language? How many urban, English language educated, well travelled, well read young people want to watch Simar Ka Sasural and the likes of such shows?
I, for one, after a hard day of work, don’t want to watch sari clad, pancake layered women moping, scheming or pining for some man or kitchen politics. While the rest of the country progresses, we are stuck with TV shows in 2001 when Saas-Bahu conflicts were the best way to get your TRPs. And what about the really bad dialogues and scripts, shoddy camera work which looks like a shaadi wala cameraman gone creative and stories which urbane people can’t relate to?
We do have an alternative in reality TV shows. Unfortunately every channel has one song, dance and a general talent show. They all look the same to me. I can’t distinguish one from the other. They have, unfortunately, hit upon a formula too. Every week throws up a hero, some tears, a bit of drama, failures and triumphs. If you have seen one, you have seen ‘em all.
Right, so now we are left with those stand up comedy shows which propagate silly or toilet humor, jokes recycled from my childhood days when I used to read Champak and Target and forced laughter (including the laughter track inserted every two minutes). Seriously, would I want to spend my time watch Archana Puran Singh or Navjot Sidhu or whoever is the current judge of the season force laugh at something which is not even remotely funny?
So for people like me, the newly launched youth channels decided that relationships sell. So if I want to watch something which my generation, apparently relates to, I would be relegated to shows like sting operations on alleged cheating partners, devious and foul mouthed young people in Roadies or dating shows on Channel V or MTV. Seriously, who are they catering these shows to?
Last year when Yash Raj Films entered the TV market with some new shows, I silently applauded them. They were TV shows with well etched characters, decent script and plot lines and nifty editing. I used to find time to actually watch some of these shows which I thought were heralding a new era in Indian TV programming. But my joy was short lived when after a season or so these shows disappeared from the screens.
I understand that advertising and other market dynamics work in the favour of the same old soaps and reality TV shows. That out of 1.2 billion people, most tastes lean towards these kind of programmes. But there is a small percentage of people who would like to watch the telly and for once, not watch Star World or HBO but something in our own language.
Why should an episode of Friends be my frame of reference for something? Why can’t it be an Indian TV show? I refuse to believe that there is a dearth of talent in our TV industry, of innovation and taking chances. I am sure there is a small and growing market for new programmes (like there is for non traditional cinema). To the powerful people in those production houses, I just want to say – Get off the Ekta Kapoor and Reality TV bandwagon and do something new!