The Tales Of A Decaying TV
I stopped watching TV much before Netflix arrived. Somehow, it didn’t make sense anymore.
On one hand were news anchors shouting on the highest plane of decibels audible to the human ear, trying to thrust their staunch opinions down everyone’s gullible throats, passing judgements on cases sub-judice and sensationalizing the trivial to gather attention, even at the cost of murdering sanity. While on the other hand were drama protagonists, draped in heavy silk saris, promoting marriage as the ultimate aim of every woman, career-oriented or otherwise, tracing their journey from being an obedient daughter-in-law to turning into a nondescript fly. Yes, you read that right - A fly.
As a child, I remember being excited about Sundays because that would mean I could wake up early and watch a slew of TV programmes. The nineties were a time when whole families would sit together and see the sagas of Ramayana and Mahabharata unfold on their television screens. It did require a bit of hustling around with the antenna though, before Doordarshan could be telecast without static. It would be wrong to say that I liked any of these shows, maybe because they were too preachy for a kid to understand. Yet, there was a certain enthusiasm about them, primarily because they had a storyline which followed the perfect trajectory of – commencement, conflict, resolution and conclusion. In other words, you knew the serials would end.
Contrast this with the first decade of 21st century and you’d know how different things had grown by then. The Tulsi’s and Parvati’s of the world seemed to lambast our cable-powered screens, day in and day out, preaching morality and shooting their wayward sons to death in episode after episode, without any end in sight. This K-revolution, initiated by the daughter of a yesteryear superstar, portrayed the picture of a regular family where the path of normality ranged from plastic surgeries and rebirths to brutal murders and hasty time jumps. Strangely, this era didn’t end there. It paved way for worse. Now that Tulsi has graduated from Television to the Parliament, the void which she left on the small screen has been filled with characters that can as easily swing from being a college-going teenager to a shape-shifting snake.
The news channels too are now no different from TV soaps. There was a time when Barkha Dutt reporting from ground zero during the Kargil war was considered to be brave. Today, the definition of bravery has been severely altered to mean yelling at panellists who question the moderator’s preconceived notions. The primetime debates aren’t about constructive discussions anymore. They are about showing others down in a senseless frenzy of constant noise. You might as well be stuck in a traffic jam with horns blaring from all sides. Obviously, if nothing else works, there’s always a way to slip patriotism into the conversation and render every other argument ineffective. In journalistic parlance, it is said that ‘when a dog bites a man, it is not news but when a man bites a dog, it is news’. The electronic media industry seems to have been bitten by both.
In an era where slick storylines ranging from horror to comedy and drama to reality are easily available on the internet, TV is steadily jumping towards an age of irrelevance. The values it is trying to inculcate have outlived their course. No sane woman thinks about marriage all the time. No mother-in-law constantly hatches conspiracies against her daughter-in-law. Inter-species transformation is just not possible. Neither does a screaming match classify as a news report.
If this continues unabated, the proverbial couches would soon be devoid of their eternal potatoes, leaving TV with no other value than being a redundant box of good-for-nothings, occupying way too much space.