Blast To The Past

The other day, we were reminiscing about old TV shows that we liked as kids. Shows that had captured our minds and TV sets around the time ‘Happy Divaully from Starrr Plus’ came to be replaced by the storm that was Zee TV.

Banegi Apni Baat, for instance.

It was sort of like an Indian Beverley Hills 90210. It was cool, about college kids, their problems, relationships, blah, blah, blah. And gasp! It showed people kissing! Like real-real kissing. Not the stupid peck-on-the-cheek type. Not the come-so-close-it-looks-like-you’re-kissing-when-you’re-secretly-not type. Full on kissing, boss. Dillagi, another show, also did this, but since the people involved were old (when you’re 12, 25 seems ancient) and not that nice looking, it didn’t count. BAB, on the other hand, had college kids kissing, no, wait, COLLEGE, as in place I’ll be at in four years, which has BOYS in it, who apparently KISS you!

And it handled subjects like teenage pregnancy, drug use, dysfunctional families, single parenthood and a whole lot of other shit that was mindblowing, shocking, controversial.

Let’s face it, it was COOL. Not to mention, in the 1990s, progressive to the point of being almost alientating.

Cut to the year 2009.

You switch on the TV and see – Utaran, Balika Vadhu, Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Keejo, Chittod Ki Rani Padmini Ka Johur and any number of soaps that are clones of each other in their plots, characters, costumes, values and pretty much everything. Especially in the wonderfully unifying element of being completely, totally regressive.

Seriously. Watch any of these shows for more than 5 seconds and you get pelted with ideological gunfire from the 1800s that tells you to forgive a cheating husband, mutely tolerate abuse at the hands of your in-laws, accept ill-treatment as part of your destiny as a girl, stay steeped in self-esteem issues because you’re dusky and be ok with dowry, child-marriage, sati, the caste system and pretty much every social evil that has plagued India since the time the East India Trading Company was just a gleam in Victoria’s eye.

All in the name of Indian values and the importance of family.

My question is this:


Did we embrace BAB and its ilk because they represented a modernity and similarity with Western culture that we dreamed of but didn’t have? And by that logic, are we lapping up the Zee-and-Star Plus shitfest because we secretly ache for the past, where women were women and men were men and patriarchy ruled common sense?

What is it? Someone needs to find out. Because every pair of eyeballs glued to these little kaleidoscopic (and hence warped) windows to the Utopian past is dragging us back to the dark ages.

And I thought it was just our politicians…

4 thoughts on “Blast To The Past

  1. I think what happens is that the worse and more alienating the world gets, the more you want to hang on to a make-believe past of family values and stability.
    Sad. Also because I LOVED BAB. And R Madhavan was soooooooooooooooooo cute!


  2. v,

    we are as a people, forever trying to please. while that isn't always a bad thing, for any art form it is a mighty hindrance. we have stopped provoking. we are merely fighting to fit in. we are afraid to take risks. we are afraid to tell it like it is. the very characteristics of a mature nee developed society, we lack.

    i remember the evenings spent in front of the telly with BAB and wondering as thirteen year olds if we will ever lead that life. it was a great time for indian television because, for the first time people dared to use the medium to reflect where we actually were. maybe because it was new and because it was possible. and today i watch two hours of television in a year. (and when i do i see an elected member of the government being slapped for exercising free will)

    maybe it is just a co-incidence that my love with advertising started around the same time. and its unfortunate that my playing field belongs to this era of moral slavery.


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