The world is in lockdown; coronavirus, as claimed by doctors, is refusing to leave anytime soon. Vaccines in Italy, India, Israel, Russia, etc., have already begun production and experimentation. Experts claim that the best-case scenario for mass production in a year, provided the vaccines work, would be at most 0.5 Billion in the first quarter of the next year.
The world’s population is approximately 7.6 billion at present and it is safe to say that the virus will stay and there is no going back to the normal we were hitherto subjected to.
With the pandemic and the lockdown, more people have been consuming content than ever before. Locked in and spending more than the usual time in front of screens, there is a plethora of shows and streaming services to choose from.
From TV to the Internet and the vast number of domains and platforms to pick from, looking at what people choose and what is considered HIT entertainment, it doesn’t need a thinking person to see that what people are rooting for is more crappy entertainment than worked for pieces of art.
Let’s talk about it from the beginning, from before I was born and then reach today when entertainment has become, for a lack of better words, sh*t.
In India TV programs began in the early 1980s where Doordarshan was the only channel or outlet for entertainment to be broadcasted other than radio which would become obsolete in just half a decade. At that time, since TV sets were scarce and were mostly accessed by the more privileged sections of society, the content was mostly catered to these sections and only broadcasted by Doordarshan.
With shows like Ramayan (whose rerun is still watched with utter faith), Mahabharata, Fauji, Circus, Malgudi Days, Jaspal Bhatti’s The Flop Show, and Buniyad were a few of the shows that were televised in the programming due to the government monopolizing channels. All these shows were impeccably written and mostly broadcasted to cater to Indian cultural and familial values, life lessons, Indian Army glorification, and satirical comedy.
This was before the masses had access to TV sets which started to happen in the early 1990s. With 1991’s Liberalisation Policy of the Government, with emphasis on Economy that supported Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation and the rising number of audiences, the number of channels began to grow and channels like Zee, Sony TV, Star Plus started the competition in TV broadcasting.
With an increase in broadcasting competition, increased advertisements came into the picture. The more views a channel has the more advertisers see it as an avenue to invest. This is the very algorithm that is being used on the internet to generate capital in today’s day and age as well.
The 1990s saw amazing shows that came into the picture, shows like Tara that came out in 1993, a show that revolved around an urban woman Tara and her friends; depicting the trials, tribulations, joys and sorrows that the characters faced in the urban world. Malgudi Days by RK Narayan, had life lessons in forms of short skits and stories that developed the conscience, virtue, and imagination in people who watched it.
Shows like Alpaviram, about a woman who is raped while in the hospital while she is in a coma and gets pregnant. Aarohan, a show about cadets in a Naval Academy, the journey of their personal and professional lives while in the academy and en route to being in the force.
Shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh, Movers and Shekhar’s, Hum Paanch, which revelled on comedy content that was intricately written, taking jabs on socio-political structures and trials of women and minority, without having the need to be outright vulgar, needing to have to roast or be outright sexist and objective.
Then there were shows like Just Mohabbat, Hip Hip Hurray, School Days, etc., that came to show the coming of age stories of kids, teenagers, their friendships, affection for the opposite sex, and a real picture of how hormones worked in adolescence.
Captain Vyom, Chandrakanta, Alif Laila, Aahat, C.I.D (the 90s scripts), Byomkesh Bakshi, Raja Aur Rancho, Tehkikaat, etc., captured the imagination and gave us thrills and chills without having to be out of the mind stupid or gory. In all of these, reality TV wasn’t as revered as it is today, and the only platform for talent was Boogie Woogie, Antakhsari-SaReGaMaPa, Khana Khajana, etc., that had a sense of reality as compared to the crap that shows a superfluity of extremely unlikely backdrops.
It all turned to crap as the new millennium started, with the song, “Dekho 2000 jamana aa gaya”, entertainment took a nose dive. The show that shed light on the demographic that watched TV the most in the early 2000s was Kaun Banega Crorepati, a show that not only saved Amitabh Bachchan’s career but gave Ekta Kapoor a tremendous idea to capitalize on that knowledge.
Targetting the biggest demographic in the viewership of Indian TV, Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji telefilms produced their K-series, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, KKusum and Kyunki…Saas bhi kabhi Bahu thi, that showcased big joint families with a lot of capital and a girl who was from a humble background and the trials that she faced at her “sasural” or her in-laws’ house. These shows were a massive success, and with success comes other producers copying or trying to copy the same techniques and then started the metaphorical shit-show that is still telecasted in India and is watched by millions.
From Aarohan, Tara, Saans, Alpaviram, etc., that focused on ambitious women, the real struggle of women in a patriarchal society, to Sasuraal Simar Ka, Kasauti Zindagi Ki, etc., that just is objective, shows that women should be servile, are misogynistic and are in no way pro -women.
From channels like VTV and MTV India which had TV programs for the youth, and were mainly focused on music, entertainment in the form of reality (not the kind that is portrayed today), and commentary on trivial things that were really to cater the needs to take the edge off of a long day. The shows today like Big-Boss, Roadies (which once was aspirational but has turned into badly scripted crap), Ace of Space, Splitsvilla, etc., that glorifies the worst side of humans. The latter are the shows that thrive on objectification, conflict, crass and unhinged commentary, and vices of the human temperament.
Coming to the Internet, the content that thrives has become the same, it is almost like people love cringing on things they see on the internet. I’m not saying that everything has turned to crap, it is not that but the statistics show that there is a demand for it.
There is an overflow in crappy TV shows because there is a demand for it, there are more reality TV contestants who get in solely of their back story rather than their talent is because there is a demand for it, there are more views on objectified women and nudes rather than women who work for the society because there is a demand for it, movies like Dabanng 3, Veere Di Wedding do better and do hundreds of crores of business than movies like Chichhore and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is because there is a demand for it.
There are more and more cringy, sexist, crass roast channels that do not draw a line on what they are speaking for and against while making so many suffering sections of the society collateral damage is because there is a demand for it. There are more and more short videos of people trying to act in other people’s dialogues without actually trying to google acting lessons let alone go to an acting school because there is a demand for it. There is shit being produced all over because there is a demand for it, and we are the ones demanding it because we are the ones watching it.
“We are producing sh*t after sh*t and revelling in it for a hundred years now,” Ratna Pathak Shah says in an interview on the Indian entertainment industry.
Indian entertainment has this low-quality production that bears more fruit and does more business, it is because the audience is like that. Though there is an evident shift where people are investing time and money in with more people now switching to OTT platforms and watching some impeccably written shows either because of internet trends or because of good taste, the shift is happening but the sheer amount of money and views that are flung towards crap still makes the 90s kid in me whimper plaintively.
Sources: Tried and Refused Productions, YouTube; Wikipedia; Twitter; et al.
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