TED Talks India Nayi Soch adds a new tinge to the current programming palette

 

TED Talk- most of us, living in the digital era, are familiar with this highbrow spectacle of human endeavour. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, TED Talks are a series of short, powerful lectures, delivered by confirmed literati-the crème de la crème of the intellectual world, the best and brightest minds of the world, masters of their fields of study.

They are a cerebral tour de force, initially about Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED), but now featuring a veritable smorgasbord of delectable topics and speakers, to assuage the voracious appetites of the insatiably curious. From Stephen Hawking to Bill Gates, Malcolm Gladwell to Richard Dawkins, all the great thinkers alive have given a TED talk at least once.

Intellectual credentials established, this leads us to the question- what business does this kind of a show have, featuring on Indian Television- which majorly caters to the largely mass centric topics? As TED Talks India Nayi Soch airs on Star Plus every Sunday, one is compelled to marvel- is this the beginning of the intellectualisation of Indian Television?

For literally dog years now, Indian Television has been levelled with the allegation  of dashing out storylines and insipid plots. Talking about the grey matter in small screen, once upon a time, in the days of yore, Indian television was an intelligent, pertinent being. Doordarshan ruled the roost, and shows such as Surabhi, Bharat-EkKhoj, The World This Week, Byomkesh Bakshi, Pradhanmantri, Param Vir Chakra, Chhapte Chhapte, Flop Show, Malgudi Days, and many more, whetted the appetite of everyone, intellectuals and commons, alike. Heck, there was even a prime time show on Amir Khusro, of all people.

Shahrukh Khan is the surprise package of the show. He is humble, restrained, introspective and unobtrusive. He discreetly blends into the background, letting the limelight shine on the real stars of the show- the speakers. No melodrama, no long monologues, no copious tear-shedding, no histrionics, to mar the premise of the show. Instead, the superstar comes across as one of us, listening, learning, awe-struck, by the ideas that unfold on stage.

Then, satellite TV gate-crashed the party, uping the level of competition and catering to the larger audience interest. Voyeurism, primitive saas-bahu sagas, supernatural dramas, possessed humans, slapstick comedy shows piqued audience interest. While some might paint it as mediocre, others would term it demand & supply scenario.

Enter Star Plus, and its sincere attempt at intellectualizing Indian television, with TED Talks India Nayi Soch. In the case of TED Talks, it is the first time ever, anywhere in the world, that TED Talks has been made available in the TV format. That a show, of the cerebral calibre of TED, thought it apt to mould itself to Indian TV, is, in itself, a huge boost and vote of confidence for Indian television viewers. Also, kudos to the honchos at Star, for attempting to showcase the never-before concept on Indian TV.

Interestingly, TED posted its first video online, after BBC rejected the TED TV pitch for being “too intellectual”. Yet, here it is, on Indian television, a medium famous for airing not so brainy content.

The show brings to the fore, an eclectic mix of people from all walks of life, some known, some not so known, giving them their place under the sun, to convey their ‘ideas worth spreading’- the tagline of TED. It features decidedly non-celebrity Indian thinkers, ranging from crusaders such as Shubhendu Sharma, an engineer who gave up his cushy job to plant forests and exhorts us to make the world green again, Gurmehar Kaur, a twenty-year old university student who bats for love, not war, and Anirudh Sharma, who makes ink from vehicular pollution.

The show forces viewers to think, really think; beyond petty, unremarkable topics, to bigger, better and brighter notions. It unceremoniously does away with India’s fascination with celebrities and guides us towards intelligent thinking, spurred on by everyday Indians like you and me. The ideas put forth are truly ground-breaking, the stories utterly inspiring, and the speakers, engagingly earnest. Here, intelligence is the new cool and innovation, the hero.

And Shahrukh Khan is the surprise package of the show. He is humble, restrained, introspective and unobtrusive. He discreetly blends into the background, letting the limelight shine on the real stars of the show- the speakers. No melodrama, no long monologues, no copious tear-shedding, no histrionics, to mar the premise of the show. Instead, the superstar comes across as one of us, listening, learning, awe-struck, by the ideas that unfold on stage.

The show forces viewers to think, really think; beyond petty, unremarkable topics, to bigger, better and brighter notions. It unceremoniously does away with India’s fascination with celebrities and guides us towards intelligent thinking, spurred on by everyday Indians like you and me. The ideas put forth are truly ground-breaking, the stories utterly inspiring, and the speakers, engagingly earnest. Here, intelligence is the new cool and innovation, the hero.

But one swallow does not a summer make. An hour of intelligent programming every week, aired on the most inopportune time slot of Sunday evening, will not lead to making Indian TV smarter. We need consistently intelligent programming, aired every day of the week, for that to happen. We need shows such as Mad Men, House of Cards, Grey’s Anatomy, Suits, House MD and Homeland, to really get the ball rolling in the direction of making TV intelligent. At a time when TV space is facing a stiff content challenge from digital space, the popular medium has to evolve in its programming strategy to ensure its survival in the long run. Mirroring of content will eventually lead to audience being put off. Hence, the need is of constant experimentation and innovation.

TED Talks India NayiSoch is a start. A shining beacon of promise. And more power to it. We salute the attempt not to behave like ‘pseudo intellectuals’, but the effort adds a new tinge to the current programming palette.

IndianWikiMedia would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

(Written by Rashmi Paharia)

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