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    Volume 8 Issue 69 | May 15, 2009 |

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Celebrating Mediocrity

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Pablo Picasso

How many times have you come across something so confusing and preposterous that you have kept asking yourself the question: Is it me or has the world gone cuckoo? It will happen quite often when you are engaged in that brain-cell killing activity of watching telly. This is because it seems that the electronic media, whether local or foreign has become our hypnotising guru that dictates to us who has talent and who hasn't. They have become the biggest Big Brother paralysing our ability to think logically and depriving us of our faculties that can discern between real talent and amateurish attempts to fake it.

A few days ago, I was transfixed on a programme on Ntv that promotes young, 'talented' musicians and makes them sing a song or two to prove their point that the country is churning out 'talents' by the minute. In this particular show, the rather smart, attractive host who, by the way, has far more of the real thing than some of her guests, tried with impressive effort, to carry on a fairly decent interview with this unbelievably pretentious singer.

What was most appalling was the way she spoke. At first I thought she was a Bangladeshi who had lived in the States for so many years that she was getting the accents mixed up. That would explain why she kept saying 'Ami feel kori jayy'. The host herself looked a little embarassed but went on and made the mistake of asking her what her husband thought of her singing and song writing (believe it or not, she claims to be a lyricist too). Unashamedly she replied that he was so enamoured of her that everything she did was Ok with him: "I mean ami ja kori shetai bhalo lage orrr". Again in that aggravating American accent. Then horror of horrors I realised that her English was actually even worse than her Bangla! How that is possible is quite unfathomable. After the insufferable interview, the 'shilpi' sang a song for guess who? Darling, doting hubby of course. Gag, gag I thought as I listened to her quite ordinary voice singing some soppy little ditty.

What really gets the blood boiling is the fact that there are so many undeniably talented musicians all over Bangladesh who are just not on the radar of the well connected in the media industry. I no longer understand what the criteria is for choosing guests of some of these shows. Is it because of requests from the bosses or the in-laws or just someone influential in the media world? Same goes for the unbelievably inane serials where the actors haven't even memorised their lines properly, the hair dye is too obvious and in which stereotypes about how rich people talk and behave abound.

Of course when it comes to inanity nothing can beat those Hindi serials where everything happens at an excruciatingly amoebic pace. In one very popular serial the sister of the bride-to-be poses as the bride and goes along with the complicated wedding rites while the fool of a groom has no clue whatsoever about the identity of his bride as he places his hairy foot in the milk (Hindi serial wedding ritual). It took about three days for that one scene to be shown and I realised what the basic formula of these hypnotic serials was. The vamps in these stories must be sexy and unbelievably well-dressed but their faces will contort into ghastly expressions as they plot and conspire to make hell for the good guys. The good guys, on the other hand, are not only pure and innocent, they are mentally challenged and have the vacant expressions to prove that. They may see the villain grabbing a girl and dragging her into a car but it will take at least fifteen minutes before one of them will say something like: “I have a feeling that he is taking her away.” Duh, no kidding.

But the real reason for the vengeance with which these Hindi channels are shown in Bangladesh, seems to be to advertise all those shimmering, sequined, chiffons and crepe silks that the overdressed ladies of the show wear whether they have jumped out of bed or are cutting the bhindi with delicately French-manicured hands. I am quite sure these saris are available at many of our huge malls that exclusively sell only Indian saris.

So here comes that 'Is it me or has the world gone cuckoo' moment when you will wonder why Bangladeshi television viewers must watch not only advertisements that sell Indian products but also programmes where they are implicitly, cunningly advertised? Perhaps we should start getting our actors, actresses, hosts and musicians, even the most untalented ones, to wear Bangladeshi clothes so that our local designers and textiles are promoted. Think of the music video of a particularly mediocre singer (who happens to have one of those doting hubbies who has made her into a star), where she wears a hundred different saris. She could have worn a hundred Bangladeshi jamdanis, Dhakais or Mirpur benarasis. I might have even become a doting fan if she had.

.Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2009