Friday, 25 February 2011

Televisual Memories

I am starting to think about my postdoctoral project, part of an international study of post-broadcast television. My end looks at the development of broadcast, and then satellite TV in India. This is undoubtedly a huge field (especially given the sheer number of channels hovering over South Asian skies), hence I will most likely focus on three news and current affairs channels in English. I may branch out to the Hindu networks depending on the scope and outcomes of the project.

Reading the introduction to Shanti Kumar and Lisa Park's edited collection titled 'Planet TV', I began to wonder about my own televisual memories and journeys. I distinctly recall watching my first Bollywood film in a proper cinema hall at the age of seven, but my memory is far more ambivalent when it comes to television in my early years. There were the videotapes of Mogli in 'Jungle Book' that marked after-school afternoons, the vaguely opulent costumes of the Hindu epics on Sunday mornings, the 'Chitrahaar' that the domestic help regularly watched on Wednesday evenings, and also a lot of black-and-white visuals of everything from foreign film exports to beauty contests late into the night.

My televisual memories become more vivid in the post-1992 era when the satellite dish on our rooftop stood for a marked shift in terms of technology, content and the overall social fabric. There were game shows like 'Snakes and Ladders' as well as soap operas with independent female characters on ZEE TV; a slew of  American shows such as 'I Dream of Jeannie', 'Bewitched' and 'Different Strokes' on Sony Entertainment Television; and sitcoms like 'Friends' whose popularity was emblematic of an Indian urban youth culture that increasingly embraced western modernity. As for the news and current affairs media, this too emerged from the shadows on state-controlled Doordarshan to welcome greater degrees of independence and commercialisation at the same time. I am interested in seeing how this juggling act of global and local, indie and commercial is currently playing out in the news-focussed televisual mediasphere.