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     Volume 10 |Issue 38 | October 07, 2011 |


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Television is One Big Advertisement

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Television has become a big booby-trap that makes you waste precious hours you could otherwise have been doing far more productive things - finishing the novel you started in 2004, searching for your Voter ID card lost in the debris of your bursting cupboard, looking at your baby pictures, playing Ludo with your grandmother, embroidering an image of Ahsan Manzil on the bedcover...you get my drift.

But no, we tend to forget all the exciting possibilities of a non-TV watching existence and choose to be couch potatoes devouring the goodies the telly has to offer - hour after hour.

Over the decades, however, one must admit, the television has undergone a metamorphosis.

In the old days when BTV was the sole option, only die-hard TV addicts would sit through the entire six-hour broadcast. Others had only a handful of favourites: a weekly Bangla drama serial perhaps or a cartoon show on Fridays, a popular English series or a musical programme or just the movie of the week. Even the commercials were a novelty.

Now with the umpteen number of cable channels we are forever trying to figure out which one to watch. But it is not because every channel has some riveting piece of entertainment.

The constant channel surfing comes from a deep-seated frustration. It is to avoid yet again those advertisements that are repeated over and over again; sometimes the same one is repeated two-three times in a row.

There's so much for instance, one can take, of fairness creams, powders and lotions that will scrape off your ugly brownness and reveal the inner, fairer, 'real you'.

By now we are all well aware of the merits of certain hair dyes and shampoos that will make you look like Ash or Penelope, deodorants that will clinch movie deals (because of all the confidence trapped in the stick), the smart phones that will get you to the hottest hangout with your friends and the chanachur that is the ultimate ice breaker among youth going on a camping trip.

Every ad offers you a product of something more -extra protein, extra talk time, extra glamour, extra green peas in the chanachur. It's like some hyperactive Santa Claus who just can't get enough of giving those extra gifts to his fans.

So can we please get back to the programme we were watching? Oh, then again what were we watching? Was it Sharukh painting his expectant wife's nails - oh sorry, that's his 'ad family'. Was it the drama about the magic plastic chair and melamine crockery that could work miracles in the village -even help to win a UP election! Oops, sorry, another ad.

Let's see...oh there you go - a young couple on the beach feverishly chasing each other, a prerequisite for human courtship. Apologies again, it's the soda they have sipped, the soap they have used or the talcum powder they have poured on themselves, that evokes such nauseating exuberance.

If you thought it was a bit tiresome enduring a young man in trunks diving into the water and coming out exhilarated because of some bath gel - for the nineteenth time (no matter how well built he is) while watching an old classic, think again. Now you will have to bear with at least five more ads about the 'awesome', 'hottest' shows that will be shown on the channel over the next two weeks. Thus a one and a half hour film will actually take at least three hours, thanks to the commercial break, every five minutes -even just before the climax of the film.

Needless to say, we couch potatoes are just fed up. We know, our shows need the sponsors, hence the ads. But if it has come to a point when we are beginning to memorise dialogues from the latest anti-dandruff shampoo and debating whether Shahrukh has another wife besides Gauri, something must be done. One Smart Alec has suggested airing a show that is just one gigantic advertisement where actors, guest speakers, hosts, even the sets, will display or wear the products to be advertised with speech bubbles to show the name of the product. Even unlikely items like cement, tyres and corrugated tin can be somehow woven into the plot. The remaining airtime will be totally ad-free. It may sound a little too avant garde but definitely bizarre enough to titillate the imagination of any bored director who has run out of ideas.

If this does not save us from being hostage to endless hours of ad watching there is only one thing left to do. Pull the plug out and bring in the Ludo board.



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