The death and the burial of Storytelling.

I used to laugh when my soulmate Salim Asgarally used to say that soon one day when we turn our light or fan switch on, a jingle will start playing and not too long after that, a virtual screen will appear in our living, bed and bathrooms with an actual commercial running on it, but now I don't.
I really believe it is going to be a reality quicker than even he has predicted.
It's crazy how household and food products are promoted through 'in program' advertising in shows like Lux Perfect Bride and Big Boss as well as other reality shows.
'In film' and 'In TV program' advertising is the beginning of the most bizzarre phase that story telling and fiction, (I don't call reality shows non fiction because they are more scripted and manufactured than any fiction can ever be), has ever seen.
It has reached a point where the producer and the platform are no longer concerned about the audience because the returns on their investment is in their pocket before a product reaches a viewer and then the marketing of the product ensures vierwership by teasing the vicarious senses of the audience. (I wonder how many of you watched Sherlyn Chopra do a semi strip tease on Big Boss last week, and more than that, the promotions for the much awaited moment).
Between a story and the viewer is an active plan managed by a system that ensures that the spender and the viewer are both happy, oblivious of the damage it is doing on the psyche of an entire generation of people over a long period of time. When challenged with a good story told artistically and sensitively which will impact the audience in a progressive manner, the system collapses and rejects the idiom for its own survival before it is too late.
And now that the decline has plunged to depths of no return, from when good TV and good Cinema was not only watched by everyone but also popularized by the very consumer which devoured it and allowed its' influences to permeate their minds enough to change positively, the excuse of the creatively challenged system is that there is no benchmark in recent past.
Don't they realize that they have buried the wheel of art and creation so deep in the recesses of a chaotic and crowded world because of their comittment only to the numbers, that they have impoverished vehicles like Television and Film which have the greatest outreach to steer change for the better, almost permanently? That in their arrogance they have converted the art of storytelling from Literature to Math?!!!
I founded and launched Project Smita Society, a NGO, way back in 1989, with a commitment to work alongwith other NGO's working at the grassroots of urban and rural India to create commercial stories with a social slant and tell them through all popular media. From Tara, Umeed, Raahat, Shatranj, Rahein, Agnichakra and Sansaar on Zee TV, Kabhie Kabhie, Aur Phir Ek Din and more recently Miilee on Star, and Sheila and Kasbah on Doordarshan, I ensured that the impact on the viewers of all my productions was positive, progressive and falling in tandem with programs and policies of the Goverment of India and thousands of NGO's which were aiding it to make them work on the ground. Influenced by the research and understanding of the times we live in, each one of the shows remained popular on the charts in the top five of the rating meters, whether they ran for five years at a stretch or two.
Dissapointed when the most regressive political times fell upon us with the emergence of BJP in power, I rebeled when the market changed its tune and started singing a song which didn't make sense at all.
'Spend to cloak with decorations the worst practices and traditions', which are holding India back, became the new mantra, and it rent the air like a cacophony to such an extent that numbers went on growing and viewers continued to watch, never realizing when the taste buds which were being tickled, changed from good to bad, and when the effects of the mindless nonsense started to harm them.
It was a growing market for emerging tecnologies which provided exciting media to a hungry people when 'the concerned' were outnumbered by 'the opportunists' who were only interested to make a fast buck.
Now the tables have turned, and the two industries, film as well as TV, are floundering.
While the film industry and its lords, who sit in swank state of art offices atop the wealth they have amassed in most terrible times, is going to take a long long time to sort itself out, the fiction of the TV industry is in desperate state.
GEC's have become C grade Television.
News, Sports and Imported Entertainment have taken over and Entertainment Online is not making it any easier.
While the rona dhona of the poor woman, no longer in finery but now in tattered clothes and the same story continues set differently, the channels are frantically trying to garner ratings through reality shows which is their next attempt at confusing the viewers, or all that is left of them, more than they already have in the last 10 years with Saas Bahu fare.
Nobody can be fooled by the paucity of creative content here. The bad quality of writing packaged and marketed to an audience who doesn't care anymore. Now the audiece which has been made monster by the industry itself, is set to pay back in the same coin, unless and until the systems and the networks do not realize and understand that weaving good story to drive progressive change is a science which requires investment of time, research and respect for the creative mind.
At first it is the market, that pumps iron into the system to make it churn, which has to be influenced and sensitised to real issues, and then only will the perplexed programmers and producers, who don't necessarily 'have' to have deep pockets to hire the correct thinkers and minds, as there is enough money within the very system, be able to produce content which in the next five years can lend a helping hand to the millions of workers who exhaust themselves in the heat and dust to aid India's progress.


Anonymous said…
Raahein and milee still rank as my favourites .I did not know they were yours.I am very very happy to read this blog post.I shall forward it to all i know who recognise the want of sensible content on tv.
Mamta Narang said…
Wow, I never knew the depth you carry for the right story. Good for me! at least I know a few thoughts of yours.