Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unreality TV

Cable TV came into India in 1991 and caught the frenzy of the Indian masses. Till that point, the four Indian metros had a choice of two channels while most of India had only one- all state owned. The programming was more of a monarchy run from Mandi House and content was what the head at Doordarshan wanted to show rather than what people wanted to see. I remember the days went from bad to worse in case of a state mourning- a day full of shehnai, veena and sitars echoing a sad tone.

This has changed over the last 20 years and now I am not even sure of all the channels I get on TV. Being a part of media, I do track developments, but with the kind of choices available, it is impossible to know every small change or addition. But in all this, I do have one point that I am upset about. The biggest attraction that came to me as a transition point between the Doordarshan and Satellite TV has got diluted- music channels.

Okay, I agree that music is my weakness. No wonder MTV was like a major attraction in my early impressionable years.(Well a part of the reason for writing this is I hate what comes on it over a weekend) Yes it was a certain amount of cultural change in terms of attitude, clothing and vocabulary that were coming into our lives from a five minute video on MTV. No amount of blurring or smart edits kept us away from realizing where there was possibly a passionate moment or nudity in a video.(at times the blurring made it more obvious that it was something forbidden that was happening here)

One of the changes in the Music Channels that I certainly am not comfortable with is their shift away from music into a domain of reality shows. I would say that I was comfortable when Channel V came up with shows like super singer; it was an organic shift; a music channel hunts talents and put them up on a stage, cuts an album. Viva made it big, Asma did not. But this was a much better platform than Sa Re Ga Ma at that time- the latter has become a popular breeding ground for talent now.

MTV made it big with Roadies. Raghuram always says he is what he is because of a troubled childhood (he said that on stage in my college but it might be just sarcasm) - well his brain child definitely attracts people I believe certainly have been through some trauma. The success opened the flood gates and out came a whole avalanche of shows that had only one motive- be different, even if it meant weird or fake or staged. A channel called ‘Real’ was launched. A GEC like Colors launched with a reality show. 24 hours surveillance camera’s made Big Boss and mega hit.

What pains me is the fact that if this is entertainment as demanded by audiences today, we have become sadists. I want to see a certain person undergo an agony, some embarrassment or witness a catfight and feel good about it. Firstly I am completely aware that it is staged- don’t believe me… well how else does someone who faced pranks in “Axe ur Ex” feature on “Dare2 Date” within three months? Most of the participants are on these show for cheap fame- I mean why else would a guy go the full monty before a packed auditorium on a reality show as a task??? (does anyone recall a case against Channel V where 2 girls striped on a street???)

What is very much disturbing is the way these unreal incidents are portrayed. Take revenge on your Ex- pure sadist behavior to feel good. Plotting against people to eliminate them, playing the honey trap, acting the seductress and tons of beeps on being voted out- no wonder Dolly Bindra was once most Googled by Indians. (Until Poonam Pandey came in)

I know this debate is going be endless, more so; not have any kind of resolution. But if the generation before me felt that MTV was the cause of social changes and rebellions on the rise in Gen X; I really am not sure how the Unreality of TV today will play its role in shaping Gen Y.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Social Network and Happiness

Whenever a person is let free of their basic chores of survival, more often than not, they start thinking of individual goals of their own life. Some crave for fame, money; some see satisfaction in places that cannot be equated to a monetary amount. A very recent set of incidents took me down the thinking alley searching if there was an exit or was it blind.

Over a couple of drinks, my friends got into a discussion seemingly headed nowhere. The reason was primarily due to disconnect in understanding what need was the key in their pursuit of happiness. My getting involved contributed little to get to any consensus, but sure did entangle me in a web of thoughts. Also it got me back to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs- the gospel truth that every marketing man starts life with.

Amongst the two, one guy was up in arms about the opportunities lost along the way by him and his father in an effort to live a life well within the norms and expectations of people. Like most others, his father had missed out on rising higher in a high rated PSU in India due to reservations. He had suffered similar instances in getting good education. His idea of being happy in life was rising to a level where his name is attached to something so mammoth that the achievement makes him immortal.

Contrary to him was the other friend involved in the discussion. This one had let go of more lucrative opportunities in his career since his happiness was time with family. Working for an airline company, he was known in the office to come in at 9 am and leave at 5:30pm, ensure he used his 32 annual leaves and free tickets to spend time with his family. His thought came from a very simple source- I want my family hold me in high regards for giving them the small joys of life everyday.

While both my friends were not in appreciation of each other’s needs, one thing was for sure- with physiological, safety and belongingness to a family was in place, they were both aiming for raising their self esteem. While one wanted his self esteem raised on a larger stage, one was happier playing his act on the settings in his own home and family surroundings.

Just as I was about to close the case, another instance added a new twist. Driving my grand mom back from her friends place, she told me of a certain lady now immobile due to age. Even though the household was full of people, she called the group on phone occasionally candidly reminding that she was still around.

What were all these people seeking? What do people on facebook seek? The answer was the same- the need to raise Self Esteem. Whatever your Social Network; family, friends, professional circles, internet or anything bigger- it is that applause, appreciation, just a causal visit of number of ‘Likes’ that we all crave for, strive for- and derive happiness from.