Every generation grows up with a defining image; one that stays etched in its collective memory long after the generation itself has gone senile and joined the BJP. For example, people in the ’70s grew up with ‘free love’, believing that the key to world peace lay in unshaven female armpits and – OHMYGOD I’M RIDING A GIANT UNICORN! WHEEEEE!!!
Of course, the psychedelics wore off at some point in the ‘80s, but it was too late – 80s fashion had already been created. While women walked around sporting huge plastic earrings that men were trained to jump through, my ‘90s generation was shedding its diapers and becoming aware of the phenomenon that would shape its world for a long, long time. I’m talking about paradigm shifts in the erstwhile neo-socialist Indian economy.
OK no, I’m talking about TV.
The ’90s were a simple, yet glorious time for Indian TV, because Ekta Kapoor was still in school, giving English teachers a stroke with her kkkspelllinggg. As a result, people on TV did not look as if a jewellery store had thrown up on them, and cameras were not operated by epileptic monkeys.
But modern TV raises a lot of questions. For example, why has law been outsourced to Rakhi Sawant’s bosom? Who pissed in the gene pool that Raja Chaudhary crawled out of? And most importantly, what is a Dolly Bindra and why is it stomping across my TV screen?
Things were better in the ’90s. With fiction programming that included Circus, Fauji and Byomkesh Bakshi, it was clear that the TV industry could produce quality content that, unlike today, was not about some underage bride getting married to a Thakur, who also had a half-brother married to two women, one fair and one dark, both of whom were having an affair with the midget woman next door, who also happened to be a manglik, thus causing their ‘Baa’ (Gujarati for ‘old women who look like sheep’) to die and be reincarnated as Pamela’s implants.
Even Mandira Bedi – a woman who thinks ‘leg slip’ is some kind of lingerie – managed to appear normal back then with the critically-acclaimed Shanti (which I would’ve watched if they had incorporated ninja turtles into the story)
Then there was Sea Hawks, Surabhi, Malgudi Days – shows that, if you were to try and pitch to a channel head today, would result in him rolling up your script and using it to do blow off a sponsor’s arsecrack.
Remember, all these shows aired on just two DD channels (which, today, are the TV equivalent of a Chilean mine.) And now, with 100+ channels, there’s no room for fresh ideas, thanks to “market research”, which is a technical way of saying that a watchman sitting in Gorakhpur will not like them.
It’s scary that kids today will grow up and nostalgize about present TV shows. They’ll talk about the good ol’ days, when an ‘undercover agent’ seduced a guy, then had a sex-change and seduced his girlfriend, or about how Arnab Goswami created history by sitting silent for thirty seconds.
I, on the other hand, will be the incontinent geezer at the retirement home, harping on about DuckTales and Talespin, until somebody shuts me up, or better yet, gives me a BJP ticket.
(Note: This is my HT column, dated 21st November 2010.)