Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ban those debates on TV!

Sometime ago, there was a blog post (or, was it a news item?) that argued that all the bad teleserials from the production house of Ekta Kapoor (who once famously said that she produces more soaps than Hindustan Lever!) may actually have some social value. The argument is that these hit serials among the women can be -- and are -- effective in disseminating information regarding a whole bunch of things, including reproductive health, contraception, and other such topics which, if dealt with separately, would be news and hence, just plain boring.

I am in such an enraged state that I haven't bothered to post appropriate links to other sites which offer more authoritative info. I hope to get to it later.

I don't think the serials in Tamil, which tend to be one long sob story after another, can ever be held to even that (admittedly modest) ideal. However, the debates ('patti mandram's) that are extremely popular during the festival days are really ideal for mass education on tricky topics. Having seen today's debate, I would rather prefer that they ban such debates altogether.

With the first Deepavali -- the 'thalai deepavali' -- of a couple being given a very special place in the Tamil psyche, the topic of today's debate on Sun TV was not at all surprising. It was on "which is better: marriages among non-relatives or among close relatives". [the latter category is one in which the spouse is from the family of one's maternal uncle or paternal aunt. In an egregious version, the groom is the bride's maternal uncle himself! Ugh!]

Sure, the debaters are professionals -- I would even say 'mercenaries', after seeing the debaters for 'close relatives' in action. Sure, they are expected to defend any position given to them and to trash their opponents. Sure, the debates are about entertainment, and not education. But, this one was entertaining in a bizarre way, and an opportunity to educate the public about the bad implications of marriage among the close relatives (MCR) was, alas, completely missed.

First of all, it was a pretty serious topic of great relevance to large sections of population, and the debaters could have alerted the people about the alarming consequences of MCR, mixed with some entertainment. What we got instead was just too much bad entertainment, and too little of education. For one thing, the side arguing for 'close relatives' could at least have been advised to go it easy. On the contrary, they carried out their job with a missionary zeal and mercenary professionalism! They came out with all their guns blazing. If I were a dumb judge who didn't know the facts, I would certainly say they won!

To be fair, the other team did point out some of the medical problems that MCR might expose the couple's children to. But, where they should really have pressed hard, they offered weak arguments. As examples of medical problems, they cited some strange diseases of historical figures in other countries (Queen Victoria!), as if it is not a contemporary problem. Couldn't they cite examples from their personal lives? From their circle of relatives and friends? From their neighbourhood? Couldn't they have made up some everyday examples that everyone is aware of? Couldn't they cite what the doctors say, even if the language is a little technical?

I missed the judge's verdict (because of a phone call), but the way things were going, I wouldn't be surprised if he said MCR is actually better!

Utterly terrible fellows, these TV debaters. We should ban these useless debates on festival days!

Oh, that reminds me: we have a festival on. Happy Deepavali, folks.


  1. Anonymous said...

    ouch. Thought I missed all the Diwali TV action. While I was young I used to enjoy those debates which in a way helped with my love for the language. The debates are entertaining when confined to literature. Outside literature, they fall flat on the face.

  2. Anonymous said...

    yes, ouch. what kind of stupidity is it to even debate on the worth of marriages between close relatives? what will we have next - a patti-manram for and against smoking?

  3. Abi said...

    Selva, Charu: Well, yeah, we can all say that again: OUCH! After seeing that 'debate', I really felt horrible.

    Thank you both for coming by and agreeing with me! I really needed that ... ;-)