Prior to advent of Cable connections my TV and Movie diet was confined to our beloved national channel DD 1 . Movies were shown once a week and perhaps a movie or two were shown by our disc wala. Daddy was in JK cement those days and our town and colony was out of the reach of nearest TV tower, located 100 kms away. So we relied solely on the disc wala . We shifted in that colony in 1987 as far as I remember and after that my dad purchased our first ever TV and that too a coloured one directly (normally pepple those days used to buy a black and white tv initially and then used to upgrade to a coloured one, but in our case we jumped a level high perhaps because we were lagging behind a bit, everybody else seems to have the TV by the time we got it :D ). TV was a great source of entertainment that time. Preparing for school early in the morning we used to wait for the transmission to start (yes, no 24 hour channels those days), with this famous signature tune.
Well as a kid, I never realized that time but later came to know that TV is also a mass communication source, a source of information and a medium for spreading awareness.
DD used to telecast several classy ads, especially on Sundays, like my all time favourite ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara….’
Most of my friends used to start the play when the not so famous program by 'Spirit of Unity Concert for National Integration' was telecast. I actually memorized this whole name without understanding the meaning of all/any of the words (yes studying in a almost Hindi medium school which later instructed to teach Hindi in English was fun :D)). The 'Mile Sur' ad and 'Spirit of Unity...' programs on Sunday mornings exposed me to several legends such as Pt.Bhim Sen Joshi, Ustad Alla Rakha, to bigB, Lata Mangeshkar and several other masteros of that era (news channels or news papers or TV programs were not much focused on Bollywood artists those days).
For me these were my first rendezvous with many things like the concept of culture, the idea of diversity and different languages and people living in our country, everything was amazing. It was kind of entertainment too but unknowingly we were learning things slowly and steadily things which would have been much difficult to be taught in class I guess. It was for the first time I saw people actually speaking different language except Hindi and English (though that time even the English was more of bla bla bla boo boo for me).
I first learnt about South India through TV as I saw them speaking Hindi in a particular fashion, Bengali speaking in different accent and so everything was fun and entertainment for a kid like me staying in a tiny town. Those shows by National Geographic which DD1 cared to telecast on late nights, the amazing wild life of Africa the desert of Sahara and various kinds of animals simply left us awestruck. The background commentary in thick English accent was incomprehensible for us but what amazed us was the whole setting, the jungles the colors the animals flora and fauna in its full richness.
Then started the great epic of ‘Ramayana’. The whole city used to come to stand still on those Sunday mornings. Sunday was a special day a very special day those days not only because of school holiday but also for the fun and frolic it brought for us via TV shows in the morning and a movie to end the day. We used to wait for the whole week to watch the next episode of Ramayana ……and soon after it finished the biggest TV block buster of those times …the biggest epic of Indian history ‘Mahabharata’ was on air. Anywhere in India you go, you can see people glued to their TV sets with curfew like empty roads and shops. The whole Sunday morning was kind of festival as most of the times the neighbours and friends used to come to our place for Chai and Samosa.
I first learnt about the Boarding Schools and hostel life because of another famous program (at least amongst the school going kids) "Neev" shot in the famous Scindia School. The first Cartoon shows I remember were Bugs Bunny ( a 10 minute show in the evening) and 'He-Man' ( the master of the universe :), a rare sentence I completely understood those time).
After this the cable TV era started in early 90s and so started the soap operas and talk shows and what nots.In the beginning it started with showing high society life in metro with daily soaps like 'Shanti' and 'Swabhiman' followd numerous such shows on the notorious Zee tv in our small town. Complex relationships and blind copy paste from American soaps. Initially all this was like a fantasy for the masses with the characters in black coats and shoes all the times. Then started 'Tara' and several other shows which first bough the mini skirts to the small towns. All these serials faced criticism but went on and slowly society adjusted itself as always. And so started the diversification with talk shows,game shows n number of shows and all type and kind of serials.Very recently (say 4 years or so)started this trend of family shows which tried to capture the essence of Indian culture and joint family thing with chacha chachee ..mama mamee and hero heroine dada dadee all in one.Everybody is hadnsome and wear latest fashion things,shoes in house full time...every thing so neat and clean and tidy that it will never give you the feel of a real house.But emotions sell in India and this time even the packing was attractive so everbody liked it.But it seems people are getting bored of this also,the simple reasong being 'N' number of channels telecasting 'N' number of serials on similar lines.
Sometimes I wonder what is the role of TV in a society,where it is there to entertain people..or something more then that also.Wheter it should act as a document of what was happening in that era or whether it should help in deciding the future and affect what is happening in that particular era.In India it has always taken a passive role and is considered a source of entertainment.Perhaps nobody takes it seriously or perhaps we still are waiting for quality serials or series or shows which can be taken seriously.