Sunday, March 1, 2009


A nostalgia that cannot be reimbursed, Doordarshan, gave India its first taste of the picture tube and with it came a series of programs which paved the way to the television that we see today.

The channel began broadcast on an experimental basis on September 15, 1959 from a makeshift studio at Akashvani Bhavan in New Delhi as part of All India Radio. It started with 20 TV receivers in and around Delhi and transmitted one hour educational and developmental programs twice a week. In 1976, the Indian government constituted Doordarshan, the public television broadcaster, as a separate department under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Doordarshan gave us a list of nostalgic songs which brings in a sense of homesickness , some of them were, Mile Sur Mera Tumhara , Ek Anek, the title song of Malgudi Days, and the theme songs of Mahabharata and also Jungle Books-“jungle jungle baat chali hain”, these are some songs which are irreplaceable. Broadcasting was harnessed for the task of political nation building and national integration and for the development of “the national consciousness” which can be sensed in the serials that were aired. By 1990, nearly 90% of the Indian population watched Doordarshan , it was during this time that the “integration of Indian consciousness”, concept came home.

The serials which were aired after 1982 like Hum Log, Chitrahaar, represented the Indian common man and his ideologies during the post independence era. The serials like Mahabharata, Chanakya, Malgudi Days, Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne, Mitti keRrang, Mr Yogi, Neem ka Ped, Nupur, Bible ki Kahaniya, Babaji ka Bioscope Om Namah Shivaya, Oshin, Byomkesh Bakhsi , Ramayana, topped the list of those “ not to be missed”, these shows lacked the fanfare of the sets, accessories and locales but were succulent with human emotions. For children there were an array of shows like, Chutti Chutti, Nukkad , Brahmaand, Captain Vyom, Chamatkaari Telephone, Alice in wonderland, Baigan Raja, Quiz time, Rimba’s island, Disney Hour, Gayab Aya, Sindbad The Sailor, Alif Laila, Haddi Raja , Shaktimaan, Sunno Re Kissa, which were entertaining as well as informative. There was something about the serials which were aired post 1982, which reflected the Gandhian ideology of ‘swaraj’ and ‘swadeshi’. One could find the nationalist autonomy in Doordarshan. But 1991 saw the beginning of international satellite broadcasting in India and the government launched a major economic liberalization program. Both these events combined to change the country's television environment dramatically.

With the advent of STAR TV, the popularity Doordarshan took a nosedive. Now commercial competition has transformed Doordarshan as well, and it is scrambling to cope with the changed competitive environment.

Satellite broadcasting has threatened Doordarshan's audiences and self-preservation has spawned a new ideology in the network which is in the process of reinventing itself. On a deeper thought one can see how the cultural imagination of national identity has changed because of satellite and cable television.

In retrospect, one could find that though these serials lacked huge investments when it came to the sets, costumes, but then the stories that were aired had much more than what Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV could give us or any other channel could give us for that matter.