Note: this post is a long one, I decided to write it in 2 parts. If you have interesting comments or suggestions, let me know and I'll incorporate them too
Thanks for your responses to the previous post! Comments are really encouraging and nice to read!
And of course this gives me an increased enthusiasm to write about the second entity in this series, the television , which over a period of time has had it's time as the intelligent box and the idiot box.
Perhaps this blog post is also fitting because of 2 more things, first , 25 years of Hum Log , which according to me was the symbol of the TV becoming popular in the early eighties. Though, I don't have any memories of that time, I have heard from my mom how this show used to be so famous. In fact, as a school-going kid, I remember reading in Limca Book of Records (circa 1993), that Hum Log was the longest running serial till date, spanning 156 episodes, a number which seems so trivial as compared to the modern era. The second thing, well, let me come to it at the end of the post.
I remember the first TV in our house. A Black and White TV, with no channels. Yes you got it right. It had 2 things on it. A power button and a volume control knob. Just turn it on, it would show DD-1. I always felt envious, because my uncle's place had this extra 2nd channel ( which over the years became popular as DD Metro) . But then, there was a value for this one channel. Every thing that came on this TV was watched with some deal of interest. It was a unique, nice experience. I still remember this popular tune and I am sure most of my readers would too. There were some soap operas that we watched with great interest and of course, you had neighbors coming in and watching TV. Serials like Wagle ki Duniya , Fauji , Circus,Magic Lamp became objects of public conversation and debate and ignorance about them was a taboo at school . Chitrahaar and Chaayageet were perhaps the only source of watching hindi songs on video, and I remember that they typically came up with songs that no one wanted to listen :) . And how could you forget the Hindi movie on Sunday (which moved to Saturday some time), a movie with no commercial breaks and a proper 20 minute interval for Mom to quickly cook some nice snacks for us and give the impression of watching a movie in the theater. Of all movies seen till date, the greatest value must be for those movies that we watched.
The first stint at cable television was when a few operators started telecasting movies in the afternoon, evening and night. It was a new experience. For some years, my parents were against the idea because it would distract us from our studies, but guess they gave in eventually . The concept was really really unique. Cable operators used to print out monthly brochures with movie listings. Cable operators were branded from good to bad depending upon the new movies they telecast. I did have a dream sometime that if I ever did this job, I would do it so much better :) .
The advent of the satellite world came about somewhere in 91-92, starting with 4 channels, MTV, BBC, Prime Sports ( the predecessor to Star Sports) and Star Plus. It was nice and interesting. First, the concept of a 24 hr channel. The feeling that when you turn on the TV at 11 pm, you see something else but those 7 stripes of DD National . Personally, I became a fan of Prime Sports in 1992 during the world cup. For the first time you could see high quality graphics, never-ending stats trivia, and a quality of commentators which was big relief from the Ravi Chaturvedi's and others on Doordarshan. I remember getting up at 3,4,5 am to see matches. It's still a wonderful memory, and I am glad that I could see it then.
The first big revolution in Indian satellite television came with the advent of Zee TV . It was a really pleasant change over the low-quality Doordarshan, in a lot of senses, be it transmission quality, quality of programs, to the way serials were promoted. This phase saw the evolution of commercial breaks and repeat telecasts, things which were new innovations over state-owned television. It also marked the beginning of game shows which were otherwise unheard of on Doordarshan except in the form of academic quizzes which did not quite appeal to the common masses. Game shows like Saanp Seedi and Antakshari became popular, and with this came the introduction of post cards and competition post cards, a kind of pre-cursor to SMS voting today. Those days, all programs would have lucky draws in which someone would select a post card out of a huge bunch.
The next big revolution came with Star Plus going Desi, with the introduction of two revolutionary players in Indian Television Industry (coincidentally they were launched on the same day ), Kaun Banega Crorepati and Kyunki. KBC, armed with the big B, an amount of cash which seemed unbelievable and a concept yet-so-simple that anyone could understand and play with it, was the one that of course enjoyed the opening glitz . In fact for months, all 4 slots of KBC remained the top 4 in the TRP ratings. It became an element of social change, with people suddenly trying to apply general knowledge. I mean for years, quizzes like Cross Fire, Bournvita Quiz Contest had remained limited to the educated and the scholarly masses. This was one program where the common man could imagine himself sitting on the hot seat with Amitabh Bachchan and winning a Crore rupees. Unbelievable.
Spin-offs and competitors soon followed, the most infamous of them being Anupam Kher and Manisha Koirala anchoring an otherwise useless show named 'Sawaal Dus Crore Ka', which was really a comedy show and nothing else .