Thursday, November 1, 2012

Indian Television, a wasted opportunity

BBC One, Two, Three and Four as of today are running no less than 6 programs on history or history based topics, most of which is connected with Britain one way or another. Vikings: Impact on British culture, Ian Hislop’s emotional story of Britain: The stiff upper lip, Andrew Marr’s History of the world, Britain’s Coast: Exploring Britain’s coastline, The story of Wales, Grand tours of Scotland, In the highest traditions: Story of Regimental traditions of the army. This is a mere sample from the 35 odd programs running today on these four channels. Thirty-nine are yet to begin broadcasting in the coming weeks and countless others have been broadcast like the much viewed History of India by Michael Wood and I am not even mentioning history-based programs on National Geographic or the History Channel.

Compare this with programs on India’s vast satellite TV network which I remember reading somewhere to be one of the largest in the world. We have endless soaps, which churn out mindless tales with women decked in finery far from the real life of an Indian housewife. Moronic reality programs like the Big Boss. 24x7 news channels low on journalistic content and full on rhetoric. Reruns of bollywood mush and there is always Cricket to fall back on every few months. Why is there a dearth of sensible, educative television in India? A country that boasts of more than 7000 years of unbroken civilisation, we have little by which the story of India is told. Its a shame that India does not celebrate its culture and civilisation!

If one is to go by number of hits history blogs, articles and youtube videos on Indian history receive not to mention the excitement the subject arouses in Indian social media circuit one can safely surmise that the people care and crave for information on India and its ancient past. Unfortunately information is not readily available that can be easily disseminated (Television program and documentaries) to the masses to educate and raise awareness. Whatever is available in school textbooks and other books is dated and to speak the truth it is a dishonest narrative of half lies and hidden agendas.

Has any television program producer (barring very few exceptions) ever thought the need to explore India’s antiquity? Why is there no Indian narrative on the battle between Alexander and Puru on the Jhelum. Why do we have to go by the western version as the authentic version? Why nothing has been written or shown about the existence of Mahajanapadas’ the Democratic Republics in India even before the Greeks, let alone the French. With the exception of Chanakya and more recently the Upanishad Ganga on Doordarshan we have nothing to showcase Indian philosophy. Absolutely nothing is broadcasted about the five century long golden age of India under the Guptas. On many occasions I was dumbstruck by the total lack of awareness among many Indians on the Vijaynagar empire and the eternal city of Hampi. It is not their fault. The fault lies elsewhere. How can one know of anything when nothing is said about it anywhere, let alone on television.

Nothing has been done to explore and present by way of television documentaries and programs the ancient universities of India like Takshashila, Nalanda, Sharada Peeth, Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Valabhi, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, in fact there are too many to mention here. Will it not be interesting for modern viewers to know that India had the largest number of Universities in the world and they existed much before any form of education existed in the western hemisphere. Will it not excite the viewer to learn that students as far as from Greece, Egypt, Persia, China and every country in between studied in these first international universities, learning philosophy, physics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, anatomy, alchemy among other subjects. Besides this how much have we explored and narrated the story of ancient India’s excellence in science. A nation that prides itself in graduating the highest number of engineers does not know where the tradition of rational thinking and science comes from. Surely not from McCaulay’s education model.

India is part of the G20 and a member of BRIC nations, a group of emerging economic powers and in recent times no economics related topic is complete without mentioning India, but none have thought it interesting enough to produce a documentary or series tracing India’s economic history down from the Saraswati-Indus civilisation to the present, especially when the history of Indian economics reads as below.

According to economic historian Angus Maddison in his book Contours of the world economy, 1-2030 AD: essays in macro-economic history, India had the world's largest economy during the years 1 AD and 1000 AD....
The gross domestic product of India in the 16th century was estimated at about 25.1% of the world economy...
There are myriad other aspects of Indian history culture and civilisation that could be shared via television programs so that people less inclined to read old musty books are educated and informed about our great country. Besides being a medium of entertainment, television can be a vital source of information and education and people who wield control over this medium have a great responsibility towards their viewers. In many ways television producers are like teachers and like teachers they have to be responsible on what they impart on this mass medium.

PS: The defeat of the Huns by Baladitya Gupta is worthy of mention and a complete series needs to be produced. Its a fact that Indians were the only people who defeated the Huns. The same Huns who fractured the Roman empire and precipitated its downfall.

No comments:

Post a Comment