On 15th 0f September, 1959, at 5 pm, Doordarshan started its telecast from New Delhi, with Pratima Puri as the first one to appear on TV.
Of course, I came to know about this ‘wonder box’ (Yes! in those days, it was not an idiot box) much later. If I remember correctly, the programmes were aired for only two hours every day. One Hindi film was shown in a week, in two parts on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Besides this, we had Chitrahaar, Phool khile hain gulshan gulshan, and of course Krishi darshan. And yes, we enjoyed everything that we got a chance to view. Not that every family owned a television. So what! neighbours welcomed anybody and everybody who wanted to view any programme. Subsequently, transmission started in Bombay on 2nd October, 1972 and soon it spread in the whole country, faster than swine flu. Can you believe – NO ADVERTISEMENTS! Viewing was so enjoyable! If I am not wrong, the first ad was a still ad of Topaz Blade. Believe it or not, we anxiously waited for advertisements to start on TV. Little did we know, that in the years to come, we will wish for a ‘break’ from ‘advertisement breaks!
And then arrived the first TV serial – HUM LOG, on 7th July 1984, and got the nation hooked on to it. Its popularity was amazing. I doubt, if any other TV show or TV serial has ever touched its popularity. Its greatest attraction was its simplicity, – its realistic characters. As if, it was happening in every house of the country. There was no ‘saas-bahu tussle, no scheming buaji or chaachiji! All characters were grey in colour. One could bond with the characters, the family and the story line. And of course, after every episode Dada Muni would come and in his own style say bye for the day.The serial had 166 episodes.
Hum Log was followed by quite a few serials which did not leave a mark on viewer’s mind and memory, except for ‘Buniyaad’ based on partition times’ crisis, widow marriage, unwed mothers and so on. Again without any scheming buajis…… And yes, fortunately the women in the serials were not decked up ready to either attend a wedding or get married themselves.
These were followed by ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’. These epics had grand studios built up for them. The story demanded it.
The entry of various channels in the field brought in more competition (read more serials, bigger sets, decked up women – even when they are cooking or sleeping). As of today, TV is flooded with channels and each channel is in turn flooded with serials. It is interesting to see that most of the serials have the same basic theme – suppression of women by the women. It is equally interesting to see that if a women is pregnant in one serial, all the serials have pregnant women, if one serial has a wedding organised – all serials will get one or the other character married. And the list goes on and on.
There is no denial that technically, the serials today, are much superior. But, with those umpteen flashbacks, showing each character’s face three times and later freezing it individually at the drop of a hat, takes away all the charm (provided it has). As if this is not enough, each half an hour episode will have at least two commercial breaks. I wonder is it a commercial break or in between advertisements, we watch some story, which does not even seem to progress.
Television is meant to not only entertain, but broaden our outlook and vision. Unfortunately, serials like Balika Vadhu, Phulwa, Na Aana Is Des…., etc are dragging us back. No please! they are not showing reality. Yes, it does exist. But by showing it not only are we popularising it, but accepting it as a fact and part of society – sort of approving and condoning it.