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We are what we watch

  • Published at 12:25 pm September 27th, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:46 am September 28th, 2017
We are what we watch
Italian scholar Francesco Petrarch once said: “Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure.” However, when it comes to Bangladeshi television channels, even variety doesn’t seem to be the cure. Because as it turns out, the only variety we get in that sector seems to be in the numbers, not the content. I say this because there are 29 Bangladeshi channels on air at the moment, and I believe everyone will agree that they show the exact same things on all the channels, over and over again. I mean, every channel shows either news, talk shows with the same speakers rotated every other week, telefilms, and serials. Now, one might argue that telefilms and serials shown in every channel can’t be exactly the same as the others. Well they obviously aren’t -- but the plots, themes, and settings are really similar. Nobody is doing anything different. Low drama The serials are either set in rural settings trying to extract cheap laughs from the audience, or set in urban backgrounds where a bunch of youngsters speak in distorted colloquial Bengali -- also trying to get cheap laughs. The former type is mostly based on the template of Ronger Manush by Salauddin Lavlu, which aired on NTV many years ago, while the latter is based on House Full by Redowan Rony which also aired in the same channel quite a few years ago. As you can probably imagine, these two serials were successful for the same reason, and all that followed were not because the original two shows I mentioned were fresh ideas.
Our artistes are great. Our directors have captivating stories to tell, and we have amazing actors who are world class actors, if not better
Recently, after the massive success of Sultan Suleiman (Turkish dubbed series originally called MuhtesimYuzyil), a third category has joined the TV channels: Foreign dubs. Nevertheless, our television industry has been struggling with the same problems over the last few years, the rest of the world, obviously, hasn’t been waiting around. And with access made even easier through the availability of the internet, the bored audience have been taking full advantage of it. Thanks to the internet Bangladeshi youths are now keeping up with all the latest hit shows all over the world. In addition to watching the English series, people are watching shows in other languages like Korean and Spanish too. Other demographics have also been turning to foreign sources of entertainment, primarily in the form of Indian soap operas (which are also being mimicked by our industry, but on a smaller scale). While the quality of these programs might be questionable, it is also true that our industry is unable to provide anything better to the viewers at this time. Even the most successful series in Bangladesh at the moment is a Bengali dubbing of a foreign serial, Sultan Suleiman. So this is where we stand. Our directors and performers can’t entertain their audiences, so the viewers are turning to foreign entertainment. So much so that we are giving our own screen time to foreign dubs. So, logically, that must mean our artists are pathetic and are not worth anyone’s time. This is where it gets really frustrating. Because it is not true. But we got talent Our artistes are great. Our directors have captivating stories to tell, and we have amazing actors who are world class actors, if not better. All the great work that is done during the two Eids is living, breathing proof. There are discussions all over social media, the audience gets excited, and there are arguments going on about them days after they’ve been aired. Good examples of great work in the recent Eid would be Boro Chhele, Hotel Albatross, Kotha Hobe Toh, etc. In addition to that, when it comes to producing quality TV material, Bangladesh has a rich history that can boast of the feverish craze of Kothao Keu Nei and the widespread popularity of Aaj Robibar. So why do we not see these efforts made throughout the year? I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. However, it can be said that the Bangladeshi TV industry is in dire need of some variety and innovation. That is not only true for the artists and directors, but is equally applicable to channel owners and other media personnel. If everyone is broadcasting similar types of content, the public will obviously look for variety elsewhere. If there were dedicated channels, for different content, that is to say if the channel owners created niches for their content, it’d be a great start to getting viewers back. Isn’t it surprising that a sports-loving nation such as Bangladesh doesn’t have a dedicated sports channel despite having 29 different channels? Alternatively, if there were channels that only showed Bangladeshi series, then new and young directors such as Nuhash Humayun would emerge. We need to inject diversity and novelty into the TV sector paired with fresh ideas and new blood, along with better management and disenfranchisement. If the industry can carry on their good work all year round instead of in just isolated times, it won’t be long before we see Baker Bhai smugly spinning his chain and threatening Sultan Suleiman to get his throne back. Nibir Mostafa Khan is a content writer for BeLocal Today. 
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