Sunday, April 02, 2006

For The Prehistoric Couch potatoes

Satellites are these big time chunks of metal, electric circuits & on-board computers & they go round & round around the planet in orbits of various eccentricities. They offer various kinds of services ranging from telecommunications to remote sensing & what not..
But why am I all of a sudden talking about satellites in this post?!
Its because to me the most enthralling application of these big chunks of metal is how they can beam hundreds of channels into our idiot boxes & help couch potatoes like me in attaining digital nirvana.
But this is not even about that. Then what the hell is it about??
Well its about how life used to be for millions of Indians before cable TV, before satellite TV invaded our homes & made certain very important decisions of our lives like what time will I have to leave from work to catch that prime time broadcast of Miss Universe or the latest sting operation about the bollywood starlet in very compromising circumstances.

A long time back in a television galaxy far far away, the Indian television broadcasting system gave us DOORDARSHAN, the grand daddy of Indian Television.
As long as I can remember I have always been a TV addict. But before becoming a neurotic channel surfer with an unquenchable appetite for 24 hour music channels & American sitcoms, I used to look forward to my Sundays with a gleeful excitement of a 10 year old (which I was!) for the next episode of MAHABHARAT or JUNGLE BOOK, which came later.
Never can I forget the restless anticipation with which I used to wait to see the drama between the Pandavas & Kauravas unfold in front of our eyes, or the battles fought in Kurukshetra, being mesmerized by the special effects (one arrow being converted into hundreds) which can be best described as prehistoric by todays standards nor can I miss enough, the adventures of Mowgli & the rest of the JUNGLE BOOK gang.
The title song of the cartoon series was also quite a rage in my school at that time. I guess same was the case all over the country.
Apart from serials of epic proportions & jungle adventures there used to be some very meaningful & socially relevant serials & programmes. HUMLOG, which is believed to be India’s first soap, was the story of an archetypal Indian middle class family dealing with issues of everyday life. It was supported by an impressive cast who became icons for the Great Indian Middle Class & people could identify with each & every character in some way or the other.
Always being an ardent Sci-Fi fan, I also enjoyed the inter-galactic adventures in SPACE CITY SIGMA which a lot of people won’t remember. If it was STAR TREK for my elder brother when he was young, it was SCS for me. No comparisons made, I feel it was a pretty decent effort at bringing a science fiction series on screen. Although I’m a STAR TREK fanatic, SCS will always remain in my mind as my first Sci-Fi series.

My parents would always wait for Sundays to get their share of latest ‘filmy’ music in CHITRAHAR.
The entire week used to be spent in wait of the weekend for the weekend movie which most often than not turned out to be a Mithun Chakraborty pikchur.
The Badshah of Bollywood, SRK started his career in Doordarshan with a serial called FAUJI which I used to follow with a fervent zeal imagining myself in his uniform running around the house with my toy sub-machine gun.
Another SRK starrer, CIRCUS followed the lives of people working in a circus & was hugely popular owing to a fine cast none of whom can be seen today on screen.

The most intelligent, knowledge rich feature that Doordarshan gave us was SURABHI hosted by the inimitable Siddharth Kak & Renuka Shahne. The kind of fan following witnessed by this programme was unmatched & beyond compare. What I liked the most about the programme were the thoroughly researched features & the cultural backdrop of the whole programme. Not to forget the weekly quiz which also led to the introduction of the competition postcard.
Being an ardent fan of the mystery & suspense genre, I was also a very very big fan of BYOMKESH BAKSHI & POIROT (based on Agatha Christie’s character).
I enjoyed both the serials equally as both of them kept me at the edge of my seat & my grey cells working. The only difference was in the setting of the two equally captivating serials. Both David Suchet (POIROT) & Rajit Kapur (BYOMKESH) gave performances which thoroughly intrigued the viewers & I cannot picture the two playing any other character besides these two. The title tracks of the two serials will also be etched into my brain forever.

Apart from the serials & programmes, who can forget the awesome time fillers like the national integration song ‘MILE SUR MERA TUMHARA’ written by Piyush Pandey & first aired in 1987 commemorating 40 years of Indian independence.

And finally, on every 26th January, all of us still sit in front of the TV, switch onto DD1 & watch the Republic Day parade with our families & wait for the colourful tableaus of our native states.
While trying to remember any more programs or features that I used to enjoy, I evoke fond memories of the lost glory of doordarshan & also thank the people who thought up the concept of satellite television & gave me 75 channels of pure bliss. Couch potatoes of the world…UNITE.

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