Saturday, June 11, 2005

Time to scout for new talent
Randeep Wadehra

Darshan Baggaís Punjab Kaur deals with the travails of a woman during Partition
Darshan Baggaís Punjab Kaur deals with the travails of a woman during Partition

MH1ís You Are Welcomeji and Total Fresh, besides Zee Punjabiís Shava Shava are but symptoms of an unhappy trend. On the pretext of promoting Punjabi culture, the small screen is being flooded with all sorts of music Ė folk, crossover, hip-hop, reggae, hard metal et al. We have shows where anchors speak in cockney while songs are in chaste Punjabi, or a black dancer tries to synchronise his steps and lips to Punjabi beats. Itís cultural hybridisation gone haywire. In all this cacophony whereís the space for saner stuff like family drama, wholesome comedy or an exciting quiz show. The last category, perhaps, has never been telecast by any Punjabi channel as it requires honest effort, quality time and good money, not to mention intellectual exertion.

As for family drama, Ranjit, a veteran write-actor-lyricist, points out that quite a few interesting soaps shot for Zee Punjabi arenít getting the nod. For example, Darshan Rahiís Aulad has been waiting for a slot for an unduly long time now. Similar is the fate of Darshan Baggaís Punjab Kaur, which deals with the travails of a woman who, in the context of Partition, becomes a Punjabi icon. "Itís not that we donít have good story ideas, but crass commercialism of the channels is killing genuine creativity". Ranjit has a point. According to various artistes, channels find it inexpensive to hire a comedian and shoot 10 episodes of music shows in a single day, rather than parcel out slots to sitcoms. Some channels charge music companies of airing their stuff. In this grab-all atmosphere what chance can genuine literary-cultural productions have.

One doesnít know what to make of the Punjabi television scene. Pessimists tell you that once the fall begins itís all the way down the bottomless pit. Optimists say that when one hits rock-bottom the only way is up. The small screen is getting increasingly saturated with music videos. Drama and soaps are already extinct, now only a couple of serious talk shows are bravely surviving the onslaught and might go off air too, aver the pessimists. But the logic of economic survival might well dictate changes in the scenario. They will have to turn to soap operas and serious literature when the law of diminishing returns triggers off public clamour for quality infotainment.

Perhaps the time has come when Punjabi channels should seriously hunt for new talent in the field of writing, acting, direction etc, as they may have to re-prioritise their entire product mix soon.