Indian television has never been stupider
Traditionally, this is best achieved by drinking enough alcohol to kill an average sized bison (or knock-out half a Dolly Bindra). But since one rum and cola at a bar now costs an apartment in South Mumbai, this is difficult to do. The other option is to do hard drugs. But for one, that’s illegal, and more importantly, nobody wants to be the guy that has something in common with Fardeen Khan. Luckily I’ve discovered a third, relatively inexpensive way to get the job done; put on your TV.
Indian television is the stupidest thing on the planet right now. If George W Bush, Digvijay Singh, a bag of hammers and a Miss World question came together to form a giant super-robot of stupidity, it’d meet its match if it tried to out-stupid Indian television. Stupidity isn’t a crime though; not making even a basic effort to be anything else is a straight-up felony. And Indian television makes roughly as much effort as an Indian man on his 27th wedding anniversary.
In an era where television around the world is growing in scope and ambition, often surpassing cinema in its drive to be art, Indian TV is the guy in the back of the classroom with his finger in his nose. Everyone else has moved on to bath-salts and shower-gel. We’re still dealing in soaps.
This week, I caught an episode of one of those shows that comes on at 10 pm and looks like all the others that come on at 10 pm. And 9 pm. And 7 am. The sort of show in which men show up once every six days, and all the women dress like they’ve just come back from Bappi Lahiri’s coming-out party. I think the name of the show was Kya Aapki Badi Acchi Kasauti Ke Baarein Mein Log Kahenge Vadhu Smriti Irani or something. And I am not making this up; in it, the bahu (Hindi for “person who is about to have a relentless stream of miserable things happen to her”) discovered a bomb while the family was praying. Except the bomb was stitched into the bandhgala of a child in the family (probably Suresh Raina’s nephew). So she took him outside, bit the wires off with her teeth and then flung the jacket over the side of a cliff. As if Indian girls didn’t have enough pressure on them, now they’re going to have to add “defuse detonator attached to C4” to their list of “Things to learn for marriage” list.
If a writer anywhere else in the world came up with that, you would have only one course of action; call the zoo and tell them that their orangutan has escaped and come to your office again. But we put this on TV. You’re thinking “Why not just change the channel?” Because it just gets worse. Changing the channel takes you to “youth channels” that used to be music channels that now run reality programming where half the cast looks like it’s on heroin, and the other half look like they deal it. Another change takes you to sports channels, whose idea of post-match analysis is Sidhu dancing with three cheerleaders to Halkat Jawaani. A third change takes you to English channels, which you can’t watch because they’re like the Fill In The Blanks section of every school exam ever come to life. “She said _____________ to that _________, that _______ ____ ______” is what most shows sound like, because apparently, if we heard somebody say the word “gay” or “nipple”, god would drop the entire west coast into the ocean.
In pandering to what we condescendingly call “the lowest common denominator”, our own content diminishes us. It reduces us to a collection of our worst tics and stereotypes. It blows my mind that we currently have more TV channels on air than we ever did in the past, but somehow, at the same time, fewer unique ideas than we did back then. We need better TV. We deserve less stupidity. Though at this point, it’d probably be easier, less painful, and more fun, to just legalise drugs.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi