Whenever someone asks my age, I more often tell them that I am a kid from Doordarshan era. I am old enough to have witnessed a evolution in entertainment. It is said that asking someone their age is bad enough but once they get an answer of this kind, I am usually cornered with no questions at all. Seems like battle won?, I don’t think so. However why Doordarshan?

I was born in the early part of 70’s when black & white television was taking its baby-steps. You had to order, get on a waiting list for months to finally have it delivered at your door steps. I can’t help but brag about our debut color television which my dad picked up years later, breaking the monopoly of black & whites. I remember  there were 11 channels but one stream of entertainment, Doordarshan; a platform of infotainment unparalleled even to this day which today’s generation might never know about.

“What’s so great about it?” asked my sister’s daughter. She felt that having one channel was a limited way of acquiring knowledge and it’s always better to have hundreds like today. My response was part defense, part acceptance but it mainly focused on explaining about the difference in quality, then and now. I thought may be a few years later I shall make her watch a few shows to make her understand what Doordarshan’s stories stood for and how strong were their characters, especially the ‘women’.

As a kid most us enjoyed cartoons, some of them even now are my favourite, such as Pop-eye, Tom & Jerry which was my great time of fun, laughter friendship and heroism, but the top position went to HE MAN AND THE MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE. A little older and I would race back home from school to watch another program which was the point of discussion in school by every kid  “Giant Robot”, also known as Johnny Sokko and his flying robot series created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama in which the robot was controlled by a small boy, both of the programs giving us the pure element of fantasy.

My first brush with a human story of success was a woman who featured in ‘Udaan’. The story of a young and an aspiring IPS officer was very inspiring for the little me the resilient protagonist, Kalyani. I remember an episode where Kalyani, successfully completes her training and gets posted in  station and her father comes to see her and admires. the respect she gets from other policemen I liked that scene as even at that age.

As I started to change my understanding of programs, the program that one again topped my list was SURABHI’ presented by Renuka Shahane, “The World This Week presented by Dr. Prannoy Roy of NDTV – It kept us all in awe of the stories and the simple yet great success of individual personalities.

Of course who could forget the ‘Chitrahaar’ our weekly dose of Bollywood and other regional movie songs. Then came the program which may entire nation stop and watch ‘Ramayan’ a mega-serial which was done by the visionary Ramand Sagar with no special effect or CG’s. We saw Lord Ram in Arun Govil – who even today is often referred as the Maryada Purushottam, each and everyone casted were truly inspiring and reinstated the way a story should be told.

As is the rule of nature, the wind changed its direction but for worse – my personal opinion . What followed was a blind acceptance of patriarchy, a lack of conviction in self, a character short of individuality are what maketh today’s on the small screen and it’s appalling that we are witness to this atrocious objectification and degradation in a time when methods of education and empowerment have come a long way from the Doordarshan days.

So where exactly are we going wrong? When did the TRP raking damsels in distress become our role models? Is it true that the woebegone character on the screen bears a stark resemblance to who contributes to its viewership? In that case, how evolved are we as a society? If the soap operas are a reflection of the other side of the screen (which I don’t believe), as justified by the makers, then our neighbourhood is nothing short of a living nightmare.