After a 9 to 5 job all of us need a relaxing break. This delightful break is delivered best by that box, these days screen would be more appropriate, of moving pictures sitting in our living room or sometimes in our bedrooms. We want nothing more than to sit on that couch that seems to be calling out to us, let all our muscles loosen, and watch something refreshing.
As much as the national industry is trying to come up with solutions, the Bangladeshi TV experience is dominated by channels and shows of Indian origins. In an average household, the only instances during which the national channels shine through seem to be when there is a national crisis or there is an extremely important cricket match the dad must watch, or maybe the child got into some national TV show. That’s it.
Just a few weeks ago one of my teachers was telling us about the TV remote war he has with his wife and his son. His son wants to watch cartoons and his wife wants to have a RE-WATCH of her daily soaps. Not the national daily soaps, but the ones they air on INDIAN channels. Ironically enough, we see commercials of national companies on Indian channels these days.
Almost everyone has heard of the very recent trend of the PAKHI DRESS. If you haven’t you probably live in a rural area near the borders with no access to satellite television. This dress, which in its essence is just your everyday Anarkali with some embellishments, has reached its level of demand through television. How, you ask? To be very specific, the female protagonist of the daily soap called “Bojhena She Bojhena” (aired on Z Bangla) is named Pakhi, and she wears these dresses all the time. It is as if she has an unlimited stock and each one is different from the other, even though her economical background is said to be poor.
The hype about this specific style has gone to intimidating levels, where rumors spread about a woman getting divorce and a girl committing suicide, just because they were not given these articles of clothing by the bread earners of their families. It is sad, that obsession over these television dramas has gone to such extreme levels, although I personally believe these rumors are exaggerations of the hyperbolic level. The trend of dressing up like one’s favorite protagonist is not a new thing, and I must admit that Pakhi herself seems to be a confident and charismatic character despite her introversion. That is the case with most of the Indian-Bangla dramas, i.e., the ones aired on Z Bangla and Star Jalsha and channels alike. Many are encouraging and all of them are stories about good people. One thing respectful about these dramas is that they focus on women, how they have been degraded in the past and how they still struggle for equal rights today, though the message is not clearly stated. However, these are all stories in the context on their side of the border, and many things do not apply to life on this side. Most of them are love stories that our mothers should be sensible enough to not waste their time on.
Research (carried out on that side of the border) shows that the dialect used in Bangladesh is considered to be the dialect of the dead, explained by its slow pace and soft pronunciations. The dialect in Kolkata, in contrast, is said to be the living dialect, because of the loud and lively pace. Indian films even depict ghosts speaking in extremely slow speed, as if their speed meter read “-2” instead of “1”. I wonder why people who use the so called “dead” dialect are drawn to the “living” dialect so much. And it is mostly our female population, our mothers, grandmothers and female house-helps. Could this be the beginning of the Zombie apocalypse? I’m only joking.
Apart from that we have the “all Hindi” channels, with Star Plus, Z TV and Sony at the top. They seem to have an unlimited stock of makeup and jewelry for their female casts. They live in extravagant houses at least once in their lifetimes (in the drama plotlines I mean), and when they do, they spend their whole day in party clothes and bridal make-up; even go to bed with it. And even with the same storylines and plot twists recycled over and over again no one seems to get tired of watching them. In fact their TRP increases every day. Not to offend anyone, but these stories are nothing but fictional works, as it is mentioned in the disclaimer before every show begins, or used to at least. And just imagine how many people would lose jobs if one day our women woke up and were happy with their lives just the way they are.
One would think women are the only people being drawn into this influence. But, if you’re one of the people who do then you’re wrong. Unless a kid does not have access to TV, every kid in Bangladesh knows Ninja Hatori, Doraemon and Pakdam Pakdai (more commonly known as Doggy Don)Kids have lost interest in the cartoons we used to watch as kids, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon and Thunder Cats to name just a few. And even though the sources of these cartoons remain the same for the most part, India has taken the responsibility to dub every trending animation work in Hindi. To this day, my little cousin calls mice “chuha” and wants to get zeros in all his tests just like Nobita (protagonist of Doraemon). Recently the government has banned the broadcast of Doraemon in Hindi, so some people at Asian TV started to air it in Bangla. Genius really, but I would prefer the raws or the English dub. Some of the cartoons originate in India, and these are a whole different thing altogether. Sometimes they aren’t dubbed, but when they are they have the most hilarious mimics of Bollywood actors.more often than not, though, they showcase violence as fun. And that is obviously not what we want our children to learn.
In an attempt to get more audience, the national channels are making daily serials which more or less have the same layout of Indian serials. One prime example is Gulshan Avenue. It has the same basic outline, only played in a Bangladeshi context. But it is set in Gulshan so it is only a top class story. They have unlimited money, unlimited clothes stock, unlimited make-up and what not. In all honesty though, the serials which depict original Bangladeshi stories in their context are the best. Whether it be comedic, tragic or somewhere in the middle, we watch NATIONAL TV During and right after Eid, when the most original stories surface. We ll loved Arman bhai for being himself, and we all love Mostofa Sarwar Farooki for bringing these stories to life.
This has lead to the evolution in Bangla cinema, brought about by the pioneer Ananta Jalil, of course. The movies he directs and acts in may be hilarious and illogically put together plot lines, but many of the scenes actually look realistic. And believe it or not, the resolution and video quality has changed as well. Hats off to Jalil Bhai for this awe inspiring change.
All in all, the Bangladeshi entertainment experience is influenced by many factors, Indian television being at the top. But we also have our very own geniuses. With the advancements in technology and education, it is possible for us to go even farther.
This articles first appeared in Dhakainsider.com