Friday, March 16, 2007

Mad TV

Who says old habits die hard? A couple of years ago, I effortlessly got rid of a childhood habit, a habit — I am certain — many others share as well: that of reaching for the remote the moment dinner is served. These days, months pass before I switch on the TV, and the few hours that I watch it make me determined not to touch the remote for the next few months.

The other evening I made the mistake of touching the remote and I immediately forgot what I was having for dinner: kadhi-chawal or news of the Abhishek-Aishwarya engagement? Even CNN did not show so much excitement when the suicide pilots struck the twin towers on 9/11.

But I am sure there are people who would never tire of watching Ash and Abhishek, so it is entirely up to me whether I want to watch the “breaking news” or not. Now one can’t blame the channels. It is easy to fill 24 pages, but to fill 24 hours? So Shah Rukh Khan sneezing becomes “breaking news”.

A reporter with a hidden camera bribing a policeman, who is overworked and poorly paid in any case, becomes a scoop. A man who had predicted his death and was waiting for its arrival is covered live. It is so easy to get into TV these days. I will tell you how.

The other day I went to a stylish pub in the city to meet some old friends, and was somewhat taken aback at the attire of some of the women there: barring the basics, they showed off everything. I thought: if they are comfortable, what’s my problem? And who am I to have a problem in the first place?

But then, I missed my five minutes of fame. The next morning I could have filed a complaint with the police commissioner (an increasingly common practice in Chennai) or a petition in the court, demanding a ban on such pubs and nightclubs because they were corrupting society. By the evening I would have had a battery of cameras at my doorstep. If the cameras did not come, I would have hastily formed an organisation called PMC, or Protection of Morality in Chennai, and called a press conference to denounce the pub culture. Who knows, the effort could have paid off in the form of “breaking news”!

Two days ago I was watching Party, Govind Nihalani’s brilliant portrayal of the dark side of a glittering society party (today, Nihalani might have named it Page 3 Party). As a teenager I had seen the movie on Doordarshan and, for obvious reasons, missed out one scene: Rohini Hattangadi, in angry desperation, tearing off her top to catch the attention of her aging husband. Rohini Hattangadi and topless!

My jaw dropped, but my first instinct was to recall if any theatre-burning had taken place when the movie was released in 1984. Nothing had happened. Nothing happened those days. Even Debonair carried centrespreads of nude Indian women.

Today any magazine attempting to do that would have its offices gutted. So have we discovered Indian culture and morality within a short span of 20 years? No. We have discovered the power of free television. Why else should an out-of-work lawyer file a petition against a kissing scene, or a bunch of unemployed youth vandalise a theatre when they should be sitting inside and enjoying the so-called “corrupting” bits?

(Published on 1 February 2007)


Blogger Apurva said...

Hello :)
I love the way you write, and I look forward to reading your articles every sunday. It makes me smile and think "thats so true!" most of the times.I find them really touching and really (I have to say this) wise.
Just wanted to say Thanks :D

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just wondered whether you were married....and then i found out from your blogs that 2006 was when u got married.....i was so disappointed....what did i expect tho?anybody as cool as u would be snapped married too....but that didnt seem to matter when i was wondering about you.

4:53 AM  
Blogger Sai said...

I liked this piece. I too blog in a less-frequent manner at I have a slightly more radical take on the media's dumbing down. Please do visit if you got the time.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Eclectica said...

Been savouring your Sunday snacks in the New Indian Express :-) Glad I found my way here through rs' blog. If you are interested in Chennai, do read my blog sometime.

4:45 AM  
Blogger Shankar said...

I was browsing through some books at a nearby bookstore and happened to notice a book by name Indlish. My initial reaction was to dismiss it as another book that glorifies Indian English or Hinglish. But something caught my eye and I read the blurb and realized that it was actually a critical take on how we Indian write and speak English. some of the example cited seemed to be glaring mistakes after they were pointed out. However, I still resisted my temptation to buy the book and instead I did a google search to read some reviews. And that was when I stumbled across your blog. Your review helped me to set my expectations on the book. However, I did not stop with that. I read your other posts on this blog as well and I must say I was rather impressed. There is a clarity of thought on your blog which is so rare to find these days. I am so happy that I got to see your blog - you may count me in as a regular visitor from now on.

Do keep writing and keep us people interested in visiting your space.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Shankar said...

Some howlers in my post :)

"a critical take on how we Indian write and speak English. some of the example cited seemed to be glaring mistakes after they were pointed out."

Of couse, I do not claim to be an expert.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Art scene said...

u havent posted your recent writings. 'Of ink and drink' was very enjoyable. One of your bests for me.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Aybuk H said...

what happened to these pages?

3:40 AM  
Blogger Himanshu said...

your articles are simply superb. How do you describe events and focus on general problems, is amazing.
are there any tips to do that !

1:20 AM  
Blogger pragya said...

hey biswanath...i like your blog..keep it flowing

9:39 PM  
Anonymous S. Raji said...

Nice post.

6:59 AM  

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