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Foreign TV, lost locals

  • Published at 12:03 am December 22nd, 2016
  • Last updated at 12:14 pm December 22nd, 2016
Foreign TV, lost locals

Against the ongoing debate of airing foreign TV programs vis-a-vis local ones, one feels that the core issue is not just limited to one issue. The problems are many. In fact, the foreign versus local clash has several facets, starting from giving more space to outside programs to copying templates of others, to allowing too many frivolous materials to go on air.

We have seen in recent times that there have been several protests in front of TV channels, demanding foreign serials to be taken off air, permitting more space to locally made ones.

This is indeed a heartening move, something which should have been done much earlier when most TV channels, in their drive to give better entertainment, began the reckless competition to go to any lengths to be the best.

Of course, the first question to ask: How many people watch TV nowadays in major cities? A large portion of those who do switch on just look at the news, which is perhaps, once a day.

The strict preference of one channel has seen a wane; most people seem to be happy with the channel which is within five stations of remote control surfing. As for entertainment, hardly anyone follows the mega serials religiously because of too many adverts plus a busy social life.

The only time when TV entertainment is pursued is on weekends and possibly during high winter and heavy monsoon. But then, given a choice between TV and social media, the young would possibly opt for the latter.

However, in the rural plus district areas, TV still rules supreme as the chief mode of leisure. For them, a lot of the channels offer stuff copied from others.

Take the mega serial phenomenon for instance; these 25-minute short dramas aired every day have no substance in them. The worst part is all of them fall within a category of absurdity.

Too much make up, insane plot twists, bizarre dialogue topped by overacting go into making these trashy products.

If TV has to become a true entertainer, things on offer need to be a little original. Going into the wider debate about originality, supported by stellar acting, one has to mention the stupendous success of the recent movie, Aynabaji.

Again, the plot had some flaws, but audiences all over the country came to see it, and during a recent trip to the US, this writer, while talking to expatriate Bangladeshis, found that some of them actually took a full one-hour drive to go and see the film.

I am not saying there have not been attempts to break the mould but more productions, challenging fallacious notions, need to be promoted. The ludicrous practice of presenting a very chaste façade of society with good and bad clearly marked out does not have any takers anymore

Their response was highly positive; the moral: Something which is out of the clichéd format can move the audience despite the mistakes.

Problem is, most of us do not want to be venturesome and try out something new. The TV mega serials are all similar -- mostly shot outside Bangladesh in some holiday resort, these are like long adverts for a holiday spot with some basic acting and an evanescent plot thrown in.

I hear, in the stand against foreign materials, a much-used line was that local products with creative edge need to be given the chance.

Well, first, the local makers need to come out of that pseudo-moral veneer that they keep on plastering over their productions.

Entertainment, ranging from comedy to drama, has to have some resemblance to a changed society where many of the orthodox beliefs have undergone a metamorphosis.

Time and again we hear about the need to uphold our cultural values. I really want to ask: What are these values?

Can anyone define them without any ambiguity? Showing textbook (read: Unrealistic) romantic relations between men and women and presenting protagonists as persons of impeccable character may have an inflated sanctimonious air but, believe me, they certainly do not reflect society as it is.

I am not saying there have not been attempts to break the mould, but more productions, challenging fallacious notions, need to be promoted.

The ludicrous practice of presenting a very chaste façade of society with good and bad clearly marked out does not have any takers anymore.

Modern day entertainment dilutes the division, making fictional characters a little less perfect and infinitely more credible.

The dubbing of foreign films started as a curious novelty; for a few years it was fun, but why dub everything?

Shockingly, most Bangla channels do not have any English presentation, which was a main feature of BTV in the 70s and 80s.

How about starting a slot for young film-makers on the rise? Or perhaps TV adaptations of renowned historical stories?

Sorry to say, in my area, I found that only one cartoon channel was English while all the others were in Hindi.

Entertainment, both on the large and small screen, need to be overhauled -- the traditional formulaic materials dumped with more chances offered to new avant-garde makers with unconventional, maybe eccentric ideas.

As Bertrand Russell once said: Do not fear to be eccentric, every idea accepted now was once considered eccentric.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist currently working in the development sector.

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