Presentation of R. SUDARSAN, Programme Executive, All India Radio, Chennai at the 4th International Radio Forum during 12th International Radio Festival of Iran at Zibakaner on 16th May 2012.
Man Khobam. Hale Shoma Chetour ast?
(I am fine. How are you?)
Distinguished dignitaries and my dear fellows of the same broadcast feather, I represent PRASAR BHARATI, ALL INDIA RADIO, the largest public service broadcasting networks in the world which meets a hugely challenging task of serving a pluralistic society. And I am privileged with the twin pleasures of not only representing the premier broadcaster, but also sharing some of our experiences with this international audience of eminence. Equally important is the fact that despite market demands, AIR has a public service broadcasting policy and it can be confidently said that it is the only public service broadcaster that has various radio formats including drama, which is a wonderful literary expression too. Focusing my presentation on radio-drama and social values, I would like to draw your attention to the countdown that has already begun. Yes, Radio Drama, born in 1920 at the studios of BBC would enter its centenary year in 8 years time from now. For 3 years after its birth, BBC only staged Shakespearean dramas. Having grown tired of these under the garb of radio plays, John Reith gave a form to the radio play in 1923. Thus was born the RADIO EFFECT and Richard Hayes satisfied the thirst of Reith by producing a humorous play titled COMEDY OF DANGER that was broadcast on 15.1.1924. It is pertinent to note the remark of Lawrence du Garde Peach, a renowned playwright for radio, stage and screen who said – Nothing to see at but something to think about. A lot of experimentation and evolution took place in the subsequent years. And quite a few renowned names like Dylan Thomas and others contributed for radio drama. In India too, brilliant innovative efforts of Chiranjit and Satyendra Sharath as Chief Producers deserve mention. Similarly there have been equally brilliant efforts all over the country, the enumeration of which would be monumental. Now with this very brief peek into the past may we get on with the specifics of radio, drama and social values?
RADIO, DRAMA AND SOCIAL VALUES
Understanding Social Values is essential if we are to put to effective use the tools of change – Radio and Drama. Social values are what we consider to be important in social interactions between people; they are a certain qualities and beliefs that are shared within a specific culture or group of people. Typically such a value has a limited shelf life – anywhere around 50 years. Having said that, there are more permanent “all time values” that seldom change. For instance, respect to elders or issues related to honour of women and its protection, the institution of family and related values do not change. On the contrary, certain stereo type values, what can be called “changing values” presenting women as home makers, child marriage, girl child feticide and infanticide could be cited as some of the instances wherein the change of values is taking place. However, this may not apply to extremely rigid and compartmentalized societies, which may end up resisting changes for longer duration of time or even endlessly. But, generally changes may occur due to –
- Scientific discoveries
- Evolution of religious beliefs
- Changes in moral values
- Zeal of the reformers
- Intervention of Media
- Changes in the economy
- Technology influx
- Shift in demography, etc.,
Radio being the poor man’s medium is also known for its simplicity and lucidity. And any change taking place in the society can be reflected through the medium and vice versa. As carriers of the message, they have the immense potential to influence the decisions of the people at large. And Drama being the Emperor of all Formats has played monumental roles in effecting a change in the lives of the people, for the good or bad.
Speaking of Social Values, in the Indian context, building up a solid and substantial social capital as the basis of civil society and ensuring harmony amidst a multi religious, multi cultural community have been the twin aims, which All India Radio has handled with panache. All India Radio has been maintaining a very healthy convention in not promoting smoking, violence, drinking alcohol or in indulging in un-parliamentary, obscene, disrespectful and derogatory usages in all its programmes; it is religiously committed to the maintenance of harmony and upholding of values. Promoting a universal culture has always been the ethos of the organisation and in the name of independence; universal values and ethics are seldom given a go by. As a responsible public service broadcaster, AIR has always promoted decency, refined broadcast and remained neutral at all circumstances, in the face of fierce onslaught by fellow commercial media. Equally remarkable is the harmony present, in all its stations across the country, against the background of a multi cultural, multi religious, multi linguistic milieu prevalent. More significant is its role as a national broadcaster that presents a national perspective against the narrow, parochial and crass commercial orientation of the private broadcasters.
Classical Thamizh speaks of Iyal, Isai and Naatakam – Prose, Poetry and Drama. Classical Sanskrit too speaks volumes on these formats. Bloody revolutions to more subtle, yet radical social changes have been influenced by Drama. The biggest potential of Radio Drama lies in the fact that the common man who may not be able to appreciate the nuances of poetry and prose, not only understands complex concepts with ease but also identifies himself with the characters of the Drama, thus imbibing the values and suggestions diffused, faithfully.
# Play skit on advaita.
Characters become icons to be eulogized, thus making way for effective influencing of public opinion. This is more true in the case of the developing countries, wherein not just social values, but also information on a host of other issues like public health, sanitation, primary education, right to information, vaccination etc., can be disseminated most effectively by exploiting Radio Drama, probably the most powerful societal tool.
# Play skit on polio.
Every society has this concept of street plays, dance dramas, folk plays or variations of these prevailing and the reason as to how they have withstood the test of time and yet survive is because of the fact that be it the common man or the erudite, one identifies easily with the characters, theme, plot being portrayed and the dialogue spoken. He travels through the character, with the character and in the character, making the identification complete. In my personal experience, I have realized how drama as a format is more effective as a tool than even prose, poetry and music, in reaching out to the masses.
But the million dollar question is - whether it is done…………? I personally opine that nowadays radios world over are not unduly bothered about exploiting this powerful tool crying to be used. And the reasons are far too many to be enumerated, but one thing that can be said for sure is that drama as a format is lacking serious patronage. If used judiciously, unobtrusively and subtly, drama can effect very significant changes in the lives of people and the future of societies. Any format has an element of drama in it, be it a documentary or an interview or even a talk; drama is the one that gives colour, warmth, affinity, the “we feeling” as sociologist Sumner would have it. It then becomes our sole responsibility to put it to use for effective public good or not. Taking cue from Shakespearean To be or not to be - To use or not to use, it is for us to come to a meaningful conclusion.
Man Ashege Iranam
(I love Iran),