Shouldn't be just about TRPs

Telly Talk

Shouldn't be just about TRPs

New-age ‘dhoka’: Cynicism is romanticised as great art and romance in cinema.

To turn cricket into a colourful spectacle is fine but to milk it like a milch cow is just a sign that we have compromised the innocence and romance of the game to make it more profitable. Everything should not be up for sale. Certainly not the credibility of a game that for some is more sacred than religion. But even beyond cricket, surfeit of noise is what defines TV bytes today in news or entertainment.

Quiet, deliberate moments of recollection, introspection are gone with shows like Surabhi, Darpan, Ek Kahani and story tellers like Lekh Tandon, Benegal, Nihalani who gave Indian television some deeply human and memorable moments in serials like Phir Wahi Talaash, Bharat-Ek Khoj and Tamas. There is a palpable longing for simpler times on YouTube where public service plugs like Ek Chidiya Anek Chidiya, title songs of serials like Chunauti and Subah and even entire serials like Fauji and Kacchi Dhoop are uploaded and watched intently.

It is not merely nostalgia that draws people to the past; it is the  programming that thrived on connection, not addiction. There is a very good reason why the new versions of Mile Sur Mera Tumhara in India and We are The World in the US did not resonate with us. Television universally has become a fragmented entity. It divides sensibilities because nothing today is intended to coherently tell one story; sing one song.

Memorable programming is driven by a narrative, not by an agenda for more TRPs and ad revenues. It is forgotten that art, cinema, music and television content have to be created from the impulse to say something rather than sell something. Soaps cannot be created with the same mind set. Some amount of heart must be invested in art.

Take the failed promise of Ye Pyar Na Hoga Kam on Colours, which has suddenly veered into a subplot borrowed from Tigmanshu Dhulia’s sleeper hit Haasil. The actor playing the role of a campus leader made famous by Irrfan Khan, is a non starter and utterly uncharismatic like the majority of TV actors today. One is indistinguishable from the other just like the plots and stories they all star in. We do not register any more lines, pauses, frowns, smiles, tears, moments that can become memories. TV feeds us over done stews and we consume without tasting a single morsel. Even films and film songs are shot differently now. They have no satisfying, lingering aftertaste.

You hear young filmmakers say with pride or arrogance on televised interviews that Indian cinema must progress beyond song and dance. My point is if you can’t create song and dance sequences to better the ones made immortal by K Asif, Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Yash Chopra, Manmohan Desai and more, then the fault lies with you, not the genre. And replace the songs and dance sequences with what? The hidden cameras of Love, Sex aur Dhokla?

It is sad that today cynicism is romanticised as great art and romance, be it in cinema or TV. The uglier the reality shows, the better they do. The more disjointed and self-indulgent a film, the more cerebral it is. And the audience is caught between either shamelessly populist, commercially driven entertainment on TV or films that pretend to be intellectually stimulating but are primarily titillating.

We will never have another Malgudi Days, Udaan or Chitrahar — a film that the entire family can watch on a sunday evening, but we can have something better. Programming that sets standards for tomorrow. Shows that will make people look back 30 years from now and say, “I remember this! This defined my youth. I connected with this. I wish I could live those wonder years.”

Truth be told though, there is no sense of wonder anymore anywhere. Even ‘Harry Potter’has faded into ‘Twilight’.

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