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TV: Real-life gods and cabled lives

SUNDAY MID DAY 32nd Anniverary Special, Mumbai

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1982: Colour television makes its way to India
The Asian Games are all set to be telecast on TV in 1982. It is for the first time that colour televisions are introduced by state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan. Initially, only 50,000 colour televisions are allowed to be imported by the Union Government. Groups of people sitting huddled around TV sets, watching matches and shows become a common fixture. The year 1982 ensures that television viewing is never the same again.


People gathered around colour TV sets in evenings as it becomes a community affair

1987: Small screen gets its gods
Long before Kaun Banega Crorepati made everyone rush to their nearest TV set, it is Ramayan with all its regalia and melodrama that makes the entire nation virtually come to a halt when itairs on Sunday mornings. The epic television series written and directed by Ramanand Sagar make ‘gods’ out of actors Arun Govil and Deepika Chikhalia, who play Ram and Sita respectively on the show.

1987: Small screen gets its gods
Long before Kaun Banega Crorepati made everyone rush to their nearest TV set, it is Ramayan with all its regalia and melodrama that makes the entire nation virtually come to a halt when it airs on Sunday mornings. The epic television series written and directed by Ramanand Sagar make ‘gods’ out of actors ArunGovil and Deepika Chikhalia, who play Ram and Sita respectively on the show.

1984: India’s first soap airs on TV
The story of Basesar Ram and his wife Bhagwanti touches a chord with the middle class when Indian television’s first soap Hum Log is telecast on Doordarshan on July 7. Their daily struggles and aspirations are something everyone identifies with. Actor Ashok Kumar appears at the end of each episode as sutradhar to discuss the story.

1991: Cable television makes a foray
Till 1991, Doordarshan is the sole broadcaster, until the liberalisation of the broadcasting industry leads to the introduction of cable television in that year, and foreign players like Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV Network, MTV and others enter the market. Soon after, it is the turn of privately-owned channels, with the first one being Zee TV, to join the field.

2000: KBC boosts Bachchan’s career
Kaun Banega Crorepati not only changes Star Plus’ fortunes, but also catapults Amitabh Bachchan’s career, which had been in the doldrums for a while. The Indian version of the UK game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? sees Big B host the show for two seasons. Shah Rukh Khan hosts the third and then Bachchan returns for the rest.

Then & Now

Anil Wanvari, founder and CEO, IndianTelevision.com group

Small screen to smaller screens
Before the 1980s, we watched everything in black and white. Colour television in the 1980s brought colour into people’s lives. The introduction of colour inspired the government to follow Mexican telenovellas and introduced shows such as Hum Log and Buniyaad. More than travel, people used to go to Dubai to buy colour TV. Early cable TV came into the picture in the latter part of the decade. Somebody would put a VCR in his garage, wire up the building and show movies. Then came the next big change, full-fledged cable television wherein operators started beaming satellite TV channels. First there was Star, and then came Zee TV with its entertaining TV shows. Doordarshan was forced to also go the whole hog on entertainment and it launched DD Metro with content that was entertaining rather than preachy.

Sony came up with metro-oriented programming while Zee was for the masses. ESPN’s coverage of cricket was amazing. Star then broke away from Zee and in 2000, Kaun Banega Crorepati and Balaji’s soaps came in. Star provided financial gratification through KBC and emotional gratification from the soaps. Star ruled until Colors proved to be the game disrupter.

On the distribution front, the government tried to organise cable TV through CAS, but failed. Then DTH came and revolutionised the way we engaged with TV. Currently, the big thing that’s happening is digital addressable systems, that is, cable TV getting digitised. The net outcome of this is going to be that your cable bill is either going to shoot up or go down, depending on the number of channels you choose.

At the same time, there are disrupters coming in through Over The Top services. 4G is expected to come and change the way we consume content. There is a shift going to take place from the small screen to the smaller screen (phablets and tablets). 

Sepia memory
S Ramachandran

It was April 1997, when we read a story in The Daily Mail about some beggars being caught with mobiles in the Middle East. My colleagues Subir Kaunds and Suresh KK accompanied me to do a story on what would happen if people in Mumbai saw a beggar with a mobile phone here.

We were stunned by the response when I was chased away by cops at Haji Ali, chased by youngsters trying to get my phone, asked by gangsters to pay up Rs 15,000 to rent a spot at among other experiences.

After the story was printed in Sunday MiD DAY on April 20, I heard stories about a beggar who was connected to the underworld and was begging with a mobile at Haji Ali!

Guess that was Chinese whispers at its best. My personal high came when I was later interviewed by The Statesman and The American Traveller for doing a proactive story and begging fora response from Mumbai.

S Ramachandran was chief sub editor with Sunday Mid Day from 1997 to 2003 

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