Viewers Of Indian Film And Television essay example

2,226 words
Television, and its effects on the Indian population Ever since the advent of modern communication technology that has allowed people around the world to communicate ever so easily, the world itself seems like a smaller space. Broadcasting is an especially effective manner through which millions of people are able to become unified on the basis that they are common recipients of a particular message. One of the most powerful transmitters of these messages is of course the television; programs of which can be seen around the world to serve many purposes. In most contemporary societies, television is a highly influential medium of popular culture and plays an important role in the social construction of reality. (Morgan, 1990) The effects of television should therefore be recognized as having the ability to alter social, economic and political situations in its places of propagation and beyond. I will be exploring these cultural shifts in detail pertaining to India, a developing nation undergoing a grand cultural shift in part due to the rapid growth of satellite television in the 1990's and its programming.

Television is unlike any other medium of mass communication in that its social effects are prominent, and able to prompt substantial change. The strong cultural influence of television on developing nations can therefore be linked to the following factors as outlined in Johnson's article. First, television programming is easily accessible and inexpensive, which is mainly due to the fact that American television is sold inexpensively around the world after profits in its home market have already been made. Television's potency is also a result of its broad scope and diversity of programs which therefore makes it appealing to almost anybody. Yet another reason for television's mass appeal is its benign presence, which allows viewers to be in control of what they watch, how much they watch and when to watch it. (Johnson, 2001) Ultimately, it is these factors that propel the reliance on the medium which has the power to inflict many societal changes in developing nations such as India.

Through the examination of diverse groups in India such as rural villagers, youth, women and the middle class, I intend to illustrate the vast social and cultural changes taking place in a culturally rich country, in large part due to the relatively recent popularity of television throughout the country. While almost 75 percent of India's one billion people live in villages, (Johnson 2001) their thoughts and actions consequently have a large influence on the country's social, political and economic state. One of the most prolific changes in village life which can be linked directly to the influence of television is rise of consumerism in rural India. Just as we are enveloped with advertisements and endorsements which propel us to purchase that which we deem necessary, the same is true in rural India in which such things as blue jeans and hand cream have become necessities.

Villagers themselves acknowledge this growing need: "I want many things that my parents never had. I want a motorcycle and a nice colour TV, I want to eat mutton once a week instead of three times a year" (Johnson 2001) Through this illustration, it is evident that needs are certainly growing and it is due to television and advertisements that the economically dependent third world is now being internally pressured to make shifts that may not be financially possible yet incredibly desirable. Another growing desire of the rural Indian population is to become urbanized, leading to a shift in behaviour and relationships. (Johnson, 2001) Not only do these villagers want to mimic the representations of their urban counterparts by changing their attire and consumer goods, their attitudes are also altered as a result.

Such phenomenon can be seen as a positive shift which allows modern attitudes to flourish, through which more sensitivity and emotion are finding their ways into the rigid caste system and competition, therefore adding sentimental value to various relationships. In the case of rural parts of developing nations, mediation may also be useful as a way of educating villagers about their own country. The programs that are seen by the villagers are those which are produced in India yet reflect a Western undercurrent of values and lifestyles. The rural audience is therefore able to learn about other parts of their own country, which is useful due to the fact that many do not venture far from their village for touring purposes. Although touring the country may not be prioritized, with the glamorization of urban life through the media, many villagers are moving to urban centers in search for a better life. (Johnson 2001) The implications of such a shift are obvious in that the villages that are being abandoned are at a disadvantage, yet the urban cities have nothing to gain other than more overcrowding.

Although the middle class in India is generally more urbanized and therefore more in touch with the globalizing effects of media, they resemble the villagers in terms of the effects of television on their daily lives. While villagers are enticed with what is outside their village, the urban middle class is able to see the correlation between the foreign and national trademarks. "Multinational companies consistently attempt to associate their products with signifies of the Indian nation, for instance through sponsorship of the Indian Olympic team in the 1996 Olympics or through more subtle references to specifically Indian conditions such as the monsoon season" (Fernandes, 2000) While conglomerates such as Pepsi and Coke are striving to merge the Indian identity with their brands by sponsoring sporting events and relying on Indian celebrity endorsements, the Indian audience fails to see that what they see as sponsorship for India's pride is actually a mere scheme to boost consumerism. It is therefore evident that just as the rural class is becoming increasingly, the middle class urban population is no different. Although many televised advertisements tug on the nationalized heartstrings, many direct correlations are also made between Indian cities and North American or European ones.

In this sense, the existence of the Indian city dwellers is being justified on the basis of their city's comparison to Western cities. It is through these processes that Indian's are made to feel that they are being recognized, but the concern is whether this recognition is strong if it is formulated through comparison. While many of these discrete messages are being transmitted through television and advertisements, they are transforming into ideals; and, just as the rural population is in search for an urban setting, the urban dwellers are looking towards Western societies for opportunity. In terms of programming, television shows are either American, or Indian imitations of them. "Programs targeted specifically at the middle class are often characterized by a hybridized language which combines Hindi and English. This mixture, termed " Hinglish' by the popular media, combines Hindi and English in different television shows" (Fernandes, 2000) Through this very example it is evident that Westernized ideals are seeping into Indian mainstream media through the use of television.

More over, an important shift to consider is that while English is becoming increasingly predominant, the non-English speakers are being marginalized and degraded in their own home country. Secondly, the predominance of Hindi as the main language on television weakens the diverse languages spoken in India which have contributed to its cultural heritage for centuries. One of the most prominent examples of the hybrid of Indian and American culture is through the phenomenon of MTV and youth culture in India. "The two main foreign-owned music television channels operating in India, News Corporation's Channel [V] and Viacom's MTV, have followed a market strategy of aggressive "Indianization". This has taken the form of programs featuring Indian film songs and music videos... ".

(Juluri, 2002) Although it may hold true that television which is geared towards youth may support Indian entertainment, these channels directly model the American versions of them; therefore, enforcing a global Americanized culture upon middle-class Indian youth. Consumerism is extremely prominent among this group due to the cultural icons represented through music videos and advertisements, along with their parent's willingness to support such spending. This seems to hold true as a characteristic of youth culture across the globe, which raises the question of whether this global identity was created to homogenize this particular group. Yet another concern that satellite television and its growing Western influence has brought about is the generational reformation of these viewers. .".. graduate students of classical dance and mainly Telugu Channel [V] viewers and say that they have frequently experienced discomfort (and so have their parents) because of the growing trend of obscenity in Telugu film songs (including nudity, suggestive body movements, and "double-meaning" lyrics)". (Juluri 2002) Whereas families were once able to enjoy programs without any discrepancy among parents and children, the ever growing influence of Western ideology that 'sex sells' in the media has transgressed into the Indian market, and led to reformation of the family unit, creating obvious distinctions between tastes. The new trends in television broadcasting may therefore effectively deconstruct the family unit as the Western ideals transgressing through Indian television are slowly creating gaps within the home.

Some young viewers of these provocative music videos seem to think that due to their promiscuous nature, that these television programs are also being aired in the West; (Juluri 2002) however, it is this misconception that demonstrates the young Indian's desire to be recognized by its American counterparts. This ideal requires placing cultural regulations on the back burner, meeting and enjoying Westernized standards and masking them with an overarching Indian identity, all in a subconscious attempt to escape that very identity. Another important group that has faced major identity transformations, sparked by the engagement in television is women. In recent years, viewers of Indian film and television have witnessed a shift from portrayals of females as innocent and subordinate in nature, into independent sexual beings. (Malhotra, 2000) While India's strong traditional heritage has always been significantly characterized by the traditional roles of women as homemakers and mothers, the portrayal of women on television has challenged this ideal, and therefore cultivated a new perception of womanhood for the Indian woman.

"In the 1990's, the Indian ideal of female beauty changed to become more aligned with the Western concept of 'thin is beautiful'. This change can be unhealthy because the average female Indian body type generally includes large hips". (Malhotra, 2000) It is therefore evident that the increasing popularity of Western norms through television can be equated with the changing attitudes of Indian females and their bodies. The concern here is obviously the potential damage these ideals may inflict upon the health and self esteem of women exposed to such figures. One particular article which examined the portrayal of women in Indian television states, "Although many of the programs continued to relegate women to the role of either the glamorous host or the traditional housewife, there were many examples of non-traditional roles for women".

(Malhotra, 2000) Whereas traditional roles are still portrayed, and certain qualities are equated with feminism, the diversity in female roles can be viewed as an indication that women now have choices to fit into those roles that appeal to them. Through television, a range of options are presented, therefore reflecting the potential flexibility of women's lives. The concern that arises in this case is the harsh reality of Indian culture that is caught between two contradictory gender role portrayals which may either promote female independence, or discourage it altogether. It is therefore important to consider those women who desire liberation, and are held back because they don't coincide with traditional norms and expectations. The very concept of woman has been revolutionized by the integration of Western ideals and practices that are seeping into Indian-produced television.

Conflicts are therefore surfacing which pertain to the issues of female identity. Similarly, with the recent uproar of music-based television, Indian youth culture is flourishing into an 'Indianized' group which depends on Western ideals to propel their tastes. This consequently, is creating drifts within the nuclear family structure, and producing a generation gap. The urban middle class, as well as rural villagers are also affected in that they now utilize commodities as a signifier of rank, and these commodities are determined by conglomerate advertising through mainstream Indian television. Socially, one of the greatest problems plaguing India today is the consequences of Americanization. Indian's have erotic ized the culture of America to such a degree where they do not realize that they are constantly consuming high priced merchandise at the expense of their own enriched diverse culture.

The Indian economy is so motivated by the capital gain from multinationals that they often try to counterbalance the impact of the western images by enforcing radical Nationalistic themes. The growing popularity of television in all parts of India is therefore making way for a homogenized Indian culture whose cultural identity is becoming ever so fragile.


Fernandes, Leela. "Nationalizing 'the global': media images, cultural politics and the middle class in India" Media Culture Society, 22 (2000): 611-628.
Johnson, Kirk. "Media and Social Change: the modernizing influences of television in rural India" Media Culture Society. 23 (2001): 147-169.
Juluri, Vam see. "Music Television and the Invention of Youth Culture in India" Television & New Media, 3 (2002): 367-386.
Morgan, M. and N. Signorielli (1990) 'Cultivation Analysis: Conceptualization and Methodology', pp.
13-34 in N. Signorielli and M. Morgan (eds) Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. - Malhotra, S and E. Rogers. "Satellite television and the new Indian woman " Gazette, 62 (2000): 407-430.