Shailesh Kapoor: Lessons TV Can Learn From Modi, The Entertainer

10 Oct,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s been an unduly inert week on the telly so far. About two weeks ago, we witnessed that magical event from the Madison Square Garden. But since then, both the entertainment and the news scenes have been on the low, with nothing remarkable to speak about, barring the launch of a new season of Satyamev Jayate, and the promising first week of Ekta Kapoor’s Life OK show AjeebDastaan Hai Yeh.


When the Prime Minister becomes the television star of the country, it says a thing or two about the state of affairs, both in governance and in the TV business. In my last 30 years of active TV viewing, this has never happened before. Yes, past prime ministers may have given an odd inspiring speech or two, but there was no show business involved there. Even their best speeches were merely functional in nature.


Narendra Modi’s speech was entertainment at its best – Complete with a song-and-dance pre-cursor, spiced up with a rotating stage and a cheery crowd, and very strong in content. For a country that has learnt to live with the idea of a non-communicative Prime Minister for at least a decade now, this was a bolt from the blue. There was fairly low hype around the event on social media and on TV during the day. It was only when the event began that its influence began to be felt.


TV channels may do well to learn a thing or two from Modi, in what is supposed to be their own bastion – Entertainment. The freshness with which he approached his speech, both in form and content, shows how well he has come to understand the pulse of the nation (and indeed, the diaspora). Cashing in on the overall mood of hope and optimism, he sent one positive message after another, but spoke specifics, than homilies and platitudes.


This hand-on-the-pulse optimism is something our conventional television (read entertainment channels) could do well to incorporate in their programming. In a country that’s been constantly in the midst of development for almost two decades now, the mood of the hoi polloi is bound to evolve every 3-4 years. Conventional entertainment, especially television, should be the first to tap into this.


But, as has been evident to me over the last six years, conventional entertainment operates with a lag effect. It is largely oriented at aping existing success stories, than searching for needs gaps. And by need gaps, I don’t mean programme ideas. Instead, I refer to the form of storytelling and messaging that resonates with the mood of the nation at any given point of time. We may as well can them ‘mood gaps’, instead of ‘need gaps’.


We have undoubtedly entered a period of optimism. A good leader at a national level can create that impact. It’s been five months since Modi was elected and the honeymoon period is still on. There are definitive signs that this mood will last. But do we see its impact in any TV programming? Not yet anyway.


We are in the last quarter of the calendar year and 2014 is set to be one of the least innovative years in the short history of Indian television. The Prime Minister is leading from the front to show us the way. But is anyone ready to follow suit?


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