ABHAYA SIMHA writes from Poona: The other day I switched on Chandana, our dear Kannada channel on Doordarshan, at primetime. The programme being telecast was the send-off given to the chief executive officer of Prasar Bharati Corporation, K.S. Sarma.
I saw the send-off from 8.20 pm to 8.45 pm. So I presume it was a one-hour programme. This is the time when every channel worth its salt tries to telecast its best programmes. So why was Chandana telecasting this kind of PR masquerading as a programme?
It’s not a frivolous question. Three important questions stem from this.
# Do Kannadigas wish to see a send-off programme of a Prasar Bharati employee who is but an Indian Administrative Service officer?
# Can Chandana TV use its airtime to show anything it wants without audience research and without keeping in mind audience interests?
# Do we, the hapless citizens of Karnataka held captive by the channel, have any right on valuable airtime frittered away like this?
One other question popped up in my mind as I saw the send-off. The entire programme was in English. I do understand the importance of English in our daily life. But for an exclusive Kannada channel that is available across the State? Well, some things are beyond our understanding, so I left it there.
Most of the people who spoke on the occasion didn’t know what to speak. So they just kept praising the CEO. The poor fellow had no option but to nod his head meaningfully and smile with difficulty. The set put up for this programme was, as usual, extremely shabby.
So besides asking whether there is a need for such a programme to be shown to the public of Karnataka, the key qeustion we must ask is: Is Chandana short of content?
A television channel, on average, spends about Rs 2 to 3 lakh to produce content of 22 minutes duration. This is the industry norm, at least in Hindi. And it has to generate enough revenue from the telecast of this content to survive on air. Naturally there is some kind of quality check of the content because of this.
But our own channel Chandana runs extremely badly produced TV shows:
# The production values are pathetic.
# There is no quality check on the content.
# The documentaries are always superficial.
# The fillers are mostly repeat shows of some dance or song programme, or repeat shows of Chandanotsava (held in Mangalore which has hardly any culture or tradition of Mangalore in it) kind of programmes.
A channel which is supposed to be the voice of all Kannadigas, what does it show in the name of propagation of our culture? Some tribal dance and folk songs in the ugliest way.
Badly shot Yakshagana performance represent Dakshin Kannada for Chandana TV. Mangaloreans have access to VCDs of Yakshagana performances which have better quality of production than Chandana. And they have a fraction of the resources of Chandana.
There are hardly sets to speak of on any talk shows or tele- dramas. Even if there are, they look very cheap on screen.
Two days ago, I again switched on Chandana again. It was an interaction with Siddaramaiah by some print reporter. I saw 10 minutes of this interaction but even that was sufficient to test my patience. Out of these 10 minutes, almost 7 minutes were used by the reporter who was supposed to interview the politician.
The reporter spoke about every other thing about Karnataka in the most roundabout manner before he could come to the point. So why are these people not trained in interviewing?
We see great talk shows, interactions done in the most professional way on other channels. Even DD-1 has some good interactions. But our Chandana fails majestically. Be it agriculture issues, election coverage, or personality interviews, it’s the same story.
Worse, Chandana has a large number of interview-based programmes as they are easier to be produced. All it needs is a cameraman, an interviewer, and a subject to be interviewed. (No research needed!)
Yet another experience here. I was in first year of my graduation (in the year 2000) when I was invited for a quiz competition on Chandana (then I had no clue of filmmaking). I was supposed to be on the sets by 8 am. I travelled through the night from Mangalore to reach Bangalore in the morning. I had to spend about 80 rupees to reach the studio by autorickshaw.
But when I reached there, I found I was the only one on time. The set was not ready. In some time, the set people came and started working on the set. Everything was ready only by about 11. Then they started recording which went on till about 6 in the evening.
It took them one entire day to record a one-hour show that too in a multi-camera set-up.
A friend of mine in Zee TV, Bombay, produces four to five hours of recorded content in a multi camera setup in a day. Even in our practical classes at the Film and Television Institute of India, Poona, we produced better programmes in less time though we were still amateurs in this field.
So, although it gives me great pain to say so, where is the professionalism of Chandana?
Why should we bear this stupidity?
Some of the graphics they use are the same ever since they started telecasting. From my childhood, my home had only Doordarshan as a matter of principle. Not that we couldn’t afford it. Even now, we have Doordarshan DTH. But what we get in return is this crap.
Come to think of it, Chandana has full fledged studio and the entire weight of the government behind it.
# Why it can’t rise to the level of other channels?
# Why should it be a national waste of money?
# In this competitive world, if it is not producing worth watching content, do we still need to bear with it and spend money on it?
Being responsible citizens and as cinema educated people we should sound our views. I start this debate with the greatest optimism that this would reach the closed ears of our bureaucrats and open them.
Maybe, one day, we can find the value to our money.
Maybe, one day, we can have a true channel which represents our culture and heritage, and truly entertain us.
Maybe, one day, we will have a channel which can actually be face of our State.
(Abhaya Simha is a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India, and runs his own production house, Roaring Lions Productions)