Monday, February 04, 2008

Pardesi Pardesi Aana Nahi

On Sunday, Raj Thackeray thrashed taxi-drivers and hawkers in Dadar who have been ekeing out a living in Mumbai for decades. Most of them even before Raj Thackeray was even born. Their crime: either they or their fathers were born in a different part of India.

On Monday, Radio City, the last bastion of good music in Bangalore city (which, contrary to what BIAL may believe, is not called Bengaluru yet) turned "local". For some odd reason, having local pride in India excludes national pride. As a result, some programming head decided up in his Ivory Tower that popular entertainment must talk the "official" language and not the popular one. 60 years after independance, officials would have us believe that hindi--and not English-- is the link language. In the remotest corners of the country, if one must be understood, the only thing that works better than English is sign-language!

A similar myopia has hit the radio industry. With ad budgets being reserved for television, the size of the FM pie is so small that the channels are unable to recover their costs no matter what they do. Reeling under the illogical high license fee to operate an FM station, most are being driven to random and desperate acts of management before they get snuffed. Two such acts are

  • playing only the latest 5 tunes all day long with even songs from the 90s relegated to a 30 minute "Golden Oldies" show at 7AM on a weekend.
  • getting all the jock-talk to be done in the state language, alienating the youth and migrant audience.
This is a good idea for say, a new channel to differentiate itself. But when all channels do exactly the same thing, not only do they become extremely monotonous but also waste precious airwaves that could be used for genuine entertainment. Just like the film-industry of the 1980s was run by businessmen and not film-makers, no one running FM channels today seems to have any music-sense. When they proudly claim in interviews such as this one that the only differentiator in their channel is a chance to win Rs.One Lakh if you tune in, can you really expect this chap to now his Santana from his Nusrat?

I saw the same depressing trend in TV with new channels like NDTV Imagine and 9X shying away from new programming and maintaining the glut of saas-bahu serials with lengthy titles and zero-page scripts. The punch-line is when they wonder aloud in trade-magazines later as to how they haven't managed to make an impact. I mean, hello, are they really paying MBAs to do this thinking for them?

Why is it that as Indians, our "soch" does not extend beyond 2 square miles whether it comes to food, music or plain humanity?

1 comment:

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