Friday, 11 April 2014

When Doordarshan was the only candidate:By Sona Sethi, Hindustan Times Chandigarh, April 11, 2014

As I watch the Indian election fervour escalate from half a world away, I'm reminded of my growing years in India and how we looked forward to the elections every five years. No, it wasn't for any sense of patriotism or for the love of any one candidate.

It was primarily because of Doordarshan. We grew up before cable television made its spectacular entrance into the Indian living room. We belong to the Doordarshan era. The lone channel would telecast the best of movies while the ballots were being counted.
Many of us remember watching "Chupke Chupke", "Baaton Baaton Mein" and, of course, the quintessential Indian election movie, "Aandhi", that was rumoured to be based loosely on the life of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi.
The cable-TV generation probably cannot relate to us, the Doordarshan generation. They are bombarded by information and entertainment 24/7. We, on the other hand, we were quite deprived.
Only one movie would be on air every Sunday and "Chitrahaar" twice a week. No matter where we were or what we were doing, it all came to a halt for those moments when the television came alive.
I remember that once a bunch of us neighbourhood school kids were playing cricket, and at 8 o'clock sharp we stopped the match halfway. It was time for "Chitrahaar". My cousin visiting from America followed us, not knowing what "Chitrahaar" was.
What he thought must be exceptional turned out to be a half-hour medley of film songs. He could not believe we had sacrificed our game for it! How could he understand? He could watch TV all day long in the US.
The examinations were another time when Doordarshan would become an escape. I would watch even the regional movie telecast every Saturday and "Krishi Darshan" every evening just to avoid studying.
Finally, in the late 1980s, Doordarshan came of age. New shows were introduced and we, a hungry audience, lapped up the content. Many talented actors belonged to the television fraternity initially before moving on to the big screen.
Maybe if shows such as "Fauji" and "Circus" had not happened to Shah Rukh Khan to give him his start, then he might not have gone on to become the Badshah of Bollywood.
In the 1990s, satellite TV arrived in India and Doordarshan could not compete with the non-stop onslaught on the viewer's senses. It started to lose its hold on the viewers. However, lately it has managed to regain some of its lost viewership.
This election year, as the results roll in, sitting thousands of miles away, I wonder will Doordarshan still play "Chupke Chupke" or maybe "Aandhi", or is that a thing of the past?

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