Saturday, August 13, 2011

Things I wish are banned from Indian TV

Before Indian Television goes deep down in the dog's ass and comes out as poop (since it has already gone to dogs, in a matter of speaking), here's my list of five things I wish are banned from TV.

Fewer and shorter ad breaks
yeah yeah we need ads to sustain television and the print media and all that jazz, but must we have a 10-minute ad break in between movies, every 12 minutes? There have been times when I have surfed up to 10 channels and each of those channels had advertisements played, no kidding. A 3-hr movie takes four and half hours to wrap up. There's a reason why we see international film awards like Oscars and Golden Globe Live on TV (they're big prime time shows abroad) but till date I do not remember seeing an Indian movie television award show Live. Why? It's all those ad breaks, stupid. Whilst ad breaks make commercial sense, too many- and longer- ad breaks break our rhythm and make tv less enjoyable.

Slow motions
A few years back during the Bombay Parsi Panchayat trustee elections that were held across Parsi colonies and baugs across Mumbai, I got an SMS joke. Some of these colonies had special queues for senior citizens. The joke went something like this: "If a majority of bawajis are senior citizens, we need special queues for the youngsters and not for seniors". Similarly, if 70% of a TV serial episode is in slow motion, its sanctity goes down. Slow motions are perhaps crucial for a few prominent shots or scenes. Presently, if slow motions were to go alltogether, a half hour tv serial episode could get done in 10 minutes. But here's the most bizarre thing about slo-mo: people's entry on award show stages (delay telecast) shown in slow motion!!!

Leave social issues to governments and NGOs
Let's face it. TV is business, lead actors get paid a bomb and a lot of public adulation. Nobody works for charity. This is television, not some NGO. So while it's okay to make TV serials to create awareness or highlight some social plight, a cursory glance though most of our serials tell us that happiness is in short supply in India. Nukkad, Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi Sriman Srimati, Hum Paanch, Indradhanush and many more such gems are sorely missed. Its a charade to make dozens of modern day crappy TV that showcase only sadness and all sorts of atrocities on women and then run disclaimers claiming they don't mean disrepect to any citizen or some moral lesson of the day at the end of each episode. We don't need your sympathies, we need good tv.

Volume control the news debates
News debates are getting louder by the day. Take a look at this debate on Times Now on the day when Dhoni was accused by some people to play to the gallery, during the second India - England test. While everyone wants to be heard, debates are more cacophony and less intellectually stimulating these days. Politicians want to be heard and they won't stop talking till they are heard. Many other civilians on tv suffer from the same malady. At times, 5 people talk at the same time, while Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sardesai & Co try to bring some order. Can't they just mute the loudmouths when it gets too much? Surely, newsroom technology is much advanced these days. If the guy doesn't shut up, press the button.

Emotional verdicts on talent competition
Nobody likes to lose. And judging by many talented candidates on these shows, there is no shortage of talent in India. But the one thing that TV producers need to coach the participants is that losing is natural. Whilst we all strive to win, there is no need to get so shocked and  awed if you don't go through. And soft ball judges who feel guilty pronouncing loss results should better stay away from becoming judges. Give me Simon Cowell, Peers Morgan or our Farah Khan anyday. Atleast they are honest; if you are not fit for the competition, you're told off in clear words "Do not waste yours- and our- time."

Do Radio taxis turn down short distances?

Mumbai Mirror newspaper did a good story recently about how radio taxis in Mumbai turn down short-distance passengers and usually mostly entertain long distance ones. I had a similar experience myself last week. On 5 August, I had to travel out of Mumbai and I had to catch a 7 am train from CST station. My house is about 4-5 kms away. On 4 August, about 9 am (only a little less than 24 hrs away) I called Meru cabs. They put me on hold for about 2 minutes, came back and refused the cab saying "there are no cabs available for that time slot in your area".

So I hung up and decided to call them again, this time pretending that I have to go to the airport (very long distance). They again put me on hold, came back and told me that the cab is available. I asked then "are you sure that the cab is available?" They said (not in exactly the same words) "Yes sir the cab is available, we wouldn't tell you otherwise if it's not available". So once they confirmed my order, I said that I wish to change my order and now aim to go to CST. Stunned for couple of seconds, they said they will now put me hold again and check the availability. My protests fell on deaf ears as they came back to me after a few minutes and said that the cab is not available. When I asked them why the cab was available for airport and not for CST, they gave me a flimsy excuse which was something like there was another pickup order waiting for the same cab in the morning at / near the airport so that cab needed to be there. I protested that the customer gets to decide the destination, not the cab. But it did not yield any result, and finally I hung up after registering my protest.

Then, I called up Mega Cabs. Again, I first asked for CST. I was quickly refused in a similar manner. Then, I called up again for the (fake) airport pickup and they agreed. The moment they said the cab is available to go to the airport, I told them I changed my mind and now wished to go to CST station. They put me on hold, came back after a few minutes and said the cab is not available. Then, as if it is a big consolation, the call centre employee told me to call back on 5 August about 90 minutes before our departure to check the availability of the cab. I do not understand, if I have to go to the airport, they accepted my bookings. But for CST, I have to call up at the last minute?

When radio taxis were launched in Mumbai a few years ago, they came as a breather from our usual black and yellow cabs. Radio taxis offered a promising future; clean and modern cars, well-mannered drivers, air-conditioned cabs, electronic meters that do not cheat and the freedom to go anywhere we want. Unfortunately, as the Mumbai Mirror story showcases and our own experiences, radio taxis have deteriorated and they too now refuse short distances. Atleast as per our experiences. The Mumbai Road Transport Office (RTO) should take cognizance of this deteriorating service and pull up these taxis. Mega cabs regularly send me SMSs advertising the so-called high quality of their service and the so-called convenience they offer to people who "party late at night and need a safe cab to reach home". Alas, it's a mirage.

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