Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Imagine the worst (Article on Child exploitation in TV Channels)

If anyone had ever thought that the Saas Bahu serials plumbed the lowest depths of what our TV channels could do in order to harvest ratings, then they should do a quick reality check. Newer depths of depravity have been discovered and the bar of regression has been raised by a channel, whose parent company we have always associated with respectable journalism, and is now exploiting newborn babies to grab the magpie eyes of an audience that can never have enough.

Pati, Patni aur Who, very thinly disguised as a parent orientation training project, is the desi version of Baby Borrowers where inexperienced couples look after babies who are biologically not theirs. The original serial was, according to some, inspired by the idea of looking after an egg for a full twenty four hours, on the successful completion of which, a couple would consider themselves qualified to go ahead have a baby. In Pati, Patni aur Woh our celebrity couples have to actually go through all the travails of a couple with newborn children. Exactly why this would turn on the average audience – or what the producers imagine to be the average audience is not clear – unless it is something like this: See how tough it is to bring up a kid? It’s happening to us today. Just have a little taste of what’s going to happen to you tomorrow. You are not going to look so glamorous after those dark circles under your eyes, like us ordinary folk…hmmm? Not so full of it now, are you then? The fact that the participating couples are media created celebrities, probably adds to this kind of resentful thinking. And the audience loves watching their favorite celebrities suffering on the small screen with a viciousness the TV channels recognize very well and obligingly know how provide for. Through it all the children cry, they are shaken, pinched in their cheeks, and made to undergo all kinds of trauma with their parents eagerly watching on CCTV, because their children are “coming on TV” while the larger audience watches ghoulishly.

But if the channels like to believe that people are just a lot of sadistic types insatiably waiting with their maws open for newer and newer outrages to be poured into them, here is a quote copied and pasted from U tube (with all the typos intact), among many others that express similar sentiments:

“othey just playing with kids like they toys...just imagine to win a kids heart then throw it away to hurt Goddness..even babies have feelings like we grown up people....they win and kids win no love at the end...they play with there feelings....daam it..if there parents are behind camera but its hurting if i give my kids and its crying and crying and i cant do anything while they training..oh no waaaaaaay i would do to my kid.”

One prefers to believe that an audience is what you want to make of it. Not so long ago, we had film makers and TV producers who understood this and did their best to create an informed and mature audience with aesthetically made films and programs with a small fraction of today’s humungous budgets and very little technology. The extreme cynicism and contempt that our serial channels display towards the public is surely misplaced because, even now, Buniyaad, Malgudi Days, Wagle ki Duniya, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and Astitva, are spoken of with a lot of respect and fondness.

The human mind is more easily influenced by the elements that would drag it down than by those that elevate it, that much is evident by the graph of regression that our media has plotted for itself. What next, one asks oneself, what fresh horrors are we to witness, now that even toddlers are not exempt?
In Rakhi Sawant’s “swayamvara” where we saw the worst kind of prejudices and self-righteous sexist views being aired by her “prospective mothers-in-law chosen with scientific deliberation from the most backward areas of India. Currently, we have a dissipated looking Rahul Mahajan – a complete nonentity with a dubious background – giving cheesy smiles that turn our stomach – and asking girls to marry him. The “ugh” factor, this time? Perhaps. The channels would know best.

It is not enough to say that one can always switch off the channel if it bothers one too much – what impacts the society at large will eventually come back to impact us too in various ways, whether we personally watch them or not. It is time for us all to do something active about the profanity that is Indian television today, whether it is an article like this or that post on U-tube or that NGO in Delhi which protested against Pati, Patno or Woh.

written by-
Gautam Benegal

Filmmaker / Illustrator / Journalist

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