Many shades of grey

This  is how simple it was. Not just for me but for a certain generation. Families would make annual trips during summers to visit relatives and if they lived in picturesque hill stations like my grandfather did in the pine-shaded hill station of Lansdowne, all the more fun!  Family rituals included eating together, spending time doing real not virtual things and  on a Wednesday,  rounding up siblings, cousins, aunts to watch Chitrahaar, a program based on painstakingly edited, purified Bollywood songs and dances.  In my family,  even Doordarshan’s editing did not pass muster. We were lucky if we got to see even half of the show because, everytime the hero edged closer to the heroine, Nanaji would snort loudly and say “Wahiyat program hai. Band karo,”  (useless show, switch it off).  What he was calling “vulgar” was usually a couple holding hands and singing a romantic song under a flowering tree.

Am I glad he’s no longer around to see what Bollywood and television are dishing out these days?  Films showing corrupt, playful cops strike a chord with the masses even before they release.

Item numbers liken women to Zandu balm and lyrics and choreography leave nothing to imagination. 

It is hard to watch any film with your children because you never know when a suggestive gesture, a cuss word, a provocative song and cleavage revealing ‘extras’  will crop up.

Sure, these are  permissive times but how much permissiveness is too much?  A super successful TV show these days,  is busy doing sting operations on unfaithful 20 somethings.  The channel in question uses aspiring models to tempt people to cheat on their partners. Neither the intentions, nor the methods of bait employed – girls in skimpy dresses, guys driving swank cars, cushy apartments,  hidden cameras, microphones – are honourable. Yet, the show enjoys great popularity.

Those watching daily soaps must have had their fill of bride burning, murder, deceit, people with zero moral values. MTV, a channel that sees the youth as its target audience, has shows like Splitsvilla where a dozen girls vie for the attention of two boys. They use mud wrestling, love poems, time spent in the sauna with the boys as means to know them better.

News channels are expected to be  responsible purveyors of information but they too titillate if they can and so even news is no longer something that the family can watch together.

Channels when not reporting on moral transgressions  accord space and time to “celebrities” like Rahul Mahajan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ghodiwallah.   Everything goes. Anything goes.

 The media is flooding us with images that are creating an environment that will shape the values of young people growing up in it. Though not all of it is bad. One has to give credit to some meaningful cinema that has come to us like  My brother Nikhil — that took on AIDS and homosexuality with refreshing sensitivity. Karan Johar movies, however soppy, are talking about extra marital romances, divorce and step moms. And young filmmakers seem comfortable with girls taking Tequila shots, driving taxis, having boys as buddies and walking out of marriages they are not convinced about (Love Aaj Kal). Popular heroes are very comfortable playing characters with shades of grey or even sheer evil. Heroines have made the vamps redundant.  

So the media and the entertainment industry,  in  their own way, are also helping people realise that there are no absolute values in society today. Like Rajdeep Sardesai,  recently told this newspaper in an interview, “there are two sides to every story and the challenge is to show both. We need to show the shades of grey. The viewer also needs to start realising that there are shades of grey.” The days of black-and-white television are over in more ways than one.

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