Duniya badal gayi…
Insaan badal gaye…
Badle nahin kabhi yeh..
Mitti ke rang, mitti ke rang…
These are lines from the title song of Mitti Ke Rang, a hugely popular TV series of the late 80s based on short stories authored by eminent Indian writers on Doordarshan. This is not the only one, there were so many like Rajni, Malgudi Days, Gul Gulshan Gulfam, Tamas, Hum Log, Buniyad, Sanjha Chulha,Potli Wala Baba, The Discovery of India, Yeh Jo Hai Jindagi, each from diverse genres and are still being scouted by millenials on various search engines
Cut to 2020 when viewers are made to watch stuff like Yeh Rista Kya Kehlata Hai, Pinjra Khoobsurti Ka, Kumkum Bhagya, Kundali Bhagya and Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke in private channels and needless to say these are pale shadows of the serials made about a couple of decades ago. There was just one channel – Doordarshan but it had something for all age groups. Then kids were allowed to watch TV on weekends and that used to recharge them for the next week.
Gone are the days when entire family used to sit together to enjoy the shows which were healthy sources of entertainment in each household. Rapid growth of streaming platforms coupled with sub-standard serials shown on various channels has posed a serious challenge to the very existence of television. Expectedly, the number of cable and satellite TV homes coming down to 150 million compared to 153 million of last year. Ahead of World Television Day November 21, some serious celebrity TV viewers tell Sunday POST about the pleasure of watching television in the past and share their disappointment over poor-quality content.
—– Pravas Acharya, one of the most popular newsreaders of Doordarshan Kendra Bhubaneswar in the 1990s, is of the opinion that people used to wait for hours to watch shows on television in the 1980s which is not the case today.
“Television shows in the 80s and 90s were first generation programmes. There were no competitors to Doordarshan which was dominating the scene. TV sets were few as not many people had access to them. People would wait frantically to watch mythological shows like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Similarly, actors would enliven the characters so much so, that there are instances when people touched the feet of actors like Arun Govil and Deepika Chikhlia (Lord Ram and goddess Sita in Ramayana), Nitish Bharadwaj (Lord Krishna in Mahabharata) assuming them as real god,” says Acharya.
He continues: “In 1989, Odia television started airing news in Odia. Being amongst the first generation newsreaders in Odia, we used to follow the style of our counterparts of Doordarshan Kendra, Delhi. Like film stars, we were getting mobbed at functions and meetings. Such was the craze of television in those days. At that time there was a specific time for watching television. But these days, people can watch televisions round the clock and check the repeat shows also. The landscape of entertainment has changed completely. Apart from hundreds of channels to choose from, viewers have many OTT platforms also.”
Acharya feels that though Doordarshan was the only option at that time, it was better than having so many channels which have no ethics whatsoever and are running after TRP. While streaming platforms mostly offer content-driven films and web series, shows aired on TV channels lack in quality which has adversely affected TV viewership, he concluded.
——Singer Priyanka Mitra who has shared stages with the likes of Amit Kumar, Udit Narayan, Abhijeet, Vinod Rathod, Javed Ali, Jolly Mukherje and Usha Uthup among others, says, “Being a kid from the late 80s, I have probably been exposed to the best content on television, starting from mythological classics like Ramayana, Mahabharata to first daily soap Hum Log. I have grown up watching comedy flicks like Office Office and Dekh Bhai Dekh, musical shows Rangoli, Chitrahaar and Chitramala, Disney classics Ducktales & TaleSpin and cultural news magazine Surabhi. Today, there are plenty of OTT platforms or cable channels to choose from but at that time we had only Doordarshan. The content then was pure, straight from our lives. They never affected our innocence. Moreover, they promoted values and Indian culture. Now, the serials are costume dramas with emphasis on heavy glam make up and fictional sets. The violence shown in serials is adversely affecting the young minds.”
—– Social activist Namrata Chadha, a former member State Commission for Women, says, “I was raised in Delhi in my early childhood. My aunty was having a black and white television set. Then there was a craze for television because it was a new technology at that time. I always made it a point to watch movies on Saturday and Sunday nights apart from watching daily soaps like Ulta Pulta, Uddan, Hum Log, Chitrahar and Rangoli. I considered them the golden days of television. But now I am not watching television at all and call it an idiot box as it no longer offers novelty to the viewers.”
She observes that shows have turned stereotyped or are being copied from English and Pakistani serials. “Earlier I even loved to watch the commercials as they were made aesthetically. Now, you not only have to twist your brain to understand the message, there are many commercial that you will feel embarrassed to watch with your family,” added Chadha.
—–Tele actress Baby Pradhan says “Watching television was dreamlike situation when I was a kid. Content then was about our culture, tradition. Be it Pallishree or Krushi Sansar, people loved watching them minutely. But now we have hundreds of channels with over a thousand shows but people hardly watch them as they don’t identify with the content. Though private channels promote our culture and traditions, they grossly promote an exaggerated version. This is one reason, most viewers are leaning towards OTT platforms. People were anxious to watch television during the 1990s which is missing these days.”
—–Sweta Acharya, known for playing negative characters in films and television says, “I made my debut in television in 1999 when there were no private channels. People would wait for programmes with bated breath. Now everything has become commercialised. Streaming content is the new television now. Though we were paid less at that time, we never compromised on content.”
Sweta goes on to add, “This is a reason why the new era viewers still love to watch serials like Kathasagar, The Discovery of India, Mitti Ke Rang and many others. Ramayana, Mahabharat still attract sizeable audience in this technologically advanced age. So much so, that re-broadcast of Ramayana on Doordarshan during the lockdown period smashed viewership records worldwide.”
On the future of television, the Thukul actor says, “With a rapid growth in content-driven shows and web series, most viewers may shun television and make streaming platforms as their prime source of entertainment.”
—-Documentary filmmaker, photographer and writer on social and development Pranab Aich who has eight international awards to his credit, says, “Earlier we had one channel and an objective to promote Indian culture and tradition. Then came a phase when the number of channels increased so as the viewership. But in due course, people started losing interest in watching television thanks to the crude content served 24X7 and opted for digital channels and streaming platforms. So, it is high time the producers thought strategies to bring the viewers back to the television.”
Rashmi Rekha Das, OP