Monday, Apr 08, 2002
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EVERY DISCOVERY THAT the world has seen came with its pluses and minuses. But, often television's negativism appears to blind its positivism. The months after Osama bin Laden struck terror have seen a queasy appetite growing among children for blood and gore, a taste which Indian channels have exploited unashamedly. The home television which has always fed on cinema, particularly the tasteless variety popping out of Bollywood or Kollywood cans now seems to be brazenly showing a huge number of thrillers and news reports whose impact, more often than not, is to goad viewers to adopt unfriendly, intolerant and hostile attitudes. Visuals on the New York tragedy and, more recently, on the Gujarat carnage may while purporting to present facts desensitise people to the enormity of human suffering and grief. While one can always explain a camera's intrusion into some facets of social upheaval as necessary in this age of information, the machine has the power at least in the hands of an unfeeling individual to facilitate rank invasion. The pictures that emerge can, then, be a source of provocation rather than pacifism.
Now, with children being some of the most eager spectators, screen horror, especially such liberal doses of it that is being beamed, has the potential to impair an impressionable mind. A recent survey by the Centre for Advocacy and Research along with UNESCO and UNICEF in some major Indian cities, including Ahmedabad, New Delhi and Hyderabad, found that the young had become more addicted to gruesome serials during the past several months. Television has in its own largely irresponsible manner tried to "satisfy" this apparently insatiable appetite that boys and girls have developed after September 11. Turning them into compulsive couch potatoes, the box not only refuses to admit that there is a problem, but has also begun to present incidents of rage and killing in classic sugar-coated forms. A mother, for example, feels no remorse after murdering her son in a popular Hindi drama. There is a lot more destructiveness and brutality in some of the other serials. What is upsetting about this is that the perpetrators of crime are presented as heroes polished, suave, rich and beautiful and children are naturally bewildered when they find it hard to distinguish between the reel and the real world.
This stylisation of crime is now truly scary: teenagers, the survey found, tended to accept violence as natural in a society where the images of Jekyll and Hyde are so blurred that goodness and evil mix and merge in a perilous sort of way. Indian television has injected this element in its family soaps conveying to its audiences that the home is now a hotbed of intrigue and poison. With sociologists firmly convinced about the dangers of the small (or big, for that matter) screen nurturing warped personalities among the young, it is a matter of grave concern that producers and directors are pushing our little men and women into believing that violence is an ideal way of resolving conflict. What is more, children may well grow into adults who would see questionable human behaviour as a normal part of existence. This depressing scenario is not going to change unless television men place their conscience before commerce. Artistic creativity should no doubt be free of external restraints and imposed values but it is for the directors and producers themselves to realise the kind of Frankenstein emerging from the "idiot box". In some ways, the well-being of a child rests on their shoulders.
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