We have recently lost Vijay Tendulkar - one of India's best known playwrights and dramatists as he passed onto another world after an eventful and meaningful life on this one.
The Times of India's obit on him mentioned, in passing, the other illustrious member of his family - his fiery, actress daughter - Priya Tendulkar, who the art and entertainment world (as much as the viewers) lost to death a few years back. Priya became best known for her apocryphal portrayal of Rajni in the eponymous TV show that ran to high ratings and very high viewership, I guess sometime in the eighties. What stood Rajni apart, besides Priya's inimitable histrionics, was the content of the show. It seemed to have a compassionate soul, a caring heart and a mind that thought out solutions for a common man's everyday woes. The programme was a true change agent and brought in a wave of reform, as the man on the street took up cudgels against the system and the perpetrator, bringing about a conducive environment denying scope to crime and corruption.
But that was then. When TV was an intelligent medium, the choices were few and sensible and the commercial hunger for space and money had not eaten into sense and commonsense. With more choices of channels and programming fighting for the same pie of viewers, the bastardisation of culture in programming, I guess, was inevitable. A lot of television critics bemoan the loss of news sense in the sacrosanct news as well, that has been whoppingly dumbed down.
While America, a major TV viewing country, where even the Presidential battles are won and lost on the small screen; may still have a TV evangelist in the likes of Oprah (never mind the happy coexistence of Jerry Springer and his ilk), we in India, unfortunately are going down the other way.
Quickly count on your fingertips any programme of real import across the channels. At the risk of admitting that I am no couch potato and do no more than 1-2 hours of TV per day, I can just muster a few names - perhaps "We the People" on NDTV and the other programme hosted by Gitanjali Kirloskar that ran for sometime on another channel. I can't seem to come up with any more names. Perhaps you could do better, if you have a better memory than mine and are exposed to better and more programming than me.
The point I am coming down to is that when we all agree that things are getting from bad to worse (more crime, more corruption, more chaos, more anarchy......), why isn't a powerful medium such as television rising up to the challenge and bringing out something really meaningful and productive instead of the plethora of all that song and dance it makes about well, song and dance in various hues and avatars. Even the news centers on sensationalisation of news with true bollywood touch given to the representation of the facts and the faces that have suffered.
The media is the mirror of its society. When do we stop seeing distorted, exaggerated and unreal images of ourselves as if we were all taking a jolly ride in a fair detached from reality and life.
When does the media retrieve its soul, do some realtime soul-searching and make a trailblazing impact on the mindscape instead of gunning after eyeballs that have become stupefied with the senselessness and unreasonableness of it all.