"The hiss of TV static denotes remnant radiation that still lingers from the big bang 14.5 billion years ago."
- National Geographic, February 2003
September 2009 marks the 50th year of dear old national broadcaster Doordarshan.
Yeah, it's kind of hard to believe, I told my Uncle about it and he didn't believe it. He thought Doordarshan must have started in 1960s, it should only be around 40 years old.
According to wiki:
Doordarshan had a modest beginning with the experimental telecast starting in Delhi in September 1959 with a small transmitter and a makeshift studio. The regular daily transmission started in 1965 as a part of All India Radio. The television service was extended to Bombay and Amritsar in 1972. Till 1975, seven Indian cities had television service and Doordarshan remained the only television channel in India. Television services were separated from radio in 1976. [...]In my own state, J&K, the broadcast started only as late as 1973 with an experimental broadcast. In the beginning you could only catch it in Chief Minister's cabin on his private television. In 1973, the famous (I find it kind of ugly) Tv tower atop Shankaracharya Hill cropped up, by November it was fully functional. Also by then, in 1973, Doordarshan had already got its famous signature tune.
National telecasts were introduced in 1982. In the same year, colour TV was introduced in the Indian market with the live telecast of the Independence Day speech by then prime minister Indira Gandhi on 15 August 1982, followed by the 1982 Asian Games being held in Delhi.Another big TV event of the decade was year 1984 nationally televised (in color) funeral of Indira Gandhi; people had documentaries and Bhajans playing all day long. In 1985, Doordarshan accepted commercial advertising for the first time. Hum Log became a rage. Still television was something that needed to be turned off. When there was no signal, there was static noise. People decorated their television sets with television covers. Some sets came with shutters no less. A couple of years later, in 1990, February 13th to be exact, Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Doordarshan Srinagar was shot dead by militants right outside his house in Srinagar. Still, listening to News on Doordarshan, you couldn't tell Srinagar from Modinagar. Everything was normal. These were days like any other. For news people turned to BBC radio. People said there were some strange signals coming from PTV. But it wasn't easy to catch PTV in the valley. I learn't a technique - drive two nails, inch apart, into the wall just over the television set, attach two wires to the nails and use the nails as antenna. We tried. It didn't work. I was learning to love Mile Sur Mera Tumhara. My folks were packing the bags. We left. TV came along with us. But the bigger one, a Philips B&W with wooden cabinet, had to be left at the relatives for some years, we had no space for it. Space was never enough ever since. In Jammu, I finally caught up with PTV.They were playing Jaws. I remember the night, we were sleeping under the dark open sky on mats spread on still warm cemented rooftop. It was fun. But the blue light of Tv attracted moths and other strange insects. I hadn't seen such insects in the valley. Tv wouldn't burn the moth. Still they came. Still more came. From the rooftop, I could see the bright electric lights of distant Trikuta hill form a deformed inverted pale orange V.
On 26 November 2008, late at night, when all the other news channels were on the frontier of information war front, I found classical music playing on Doordarshan. It was just another day. It made sense. Back in my state, in the afternoon of 27th, people must have picked up national dailies, front page (fixed hurriedly late in the morning ) was right, it had the right big news but inside, people got to read international news dated 25th - they read about things that happened on some part of earth on 24th. I don't think you can now see the inverted V that clearly from the city now.
Jayesh Adhyaru, a journalist from Gujarati daily 'Divya Bhaskar' and a reader of this blog emailed me last week and reminded me about 50th year of Doordarshan. Jayesh wanted me to recommend some books (and some links) on Doordarshan. Here is a list of books and a resource that I often end up reading on the subject of Doordarshan:
- Doordarshan days by Bhaskar Ghose ( 2005) (Probably one of its kind book written by a former director of Doordarshan. Here's an extract at Rediff titled 'The prime minister & the fly' , Prime Minister was Rajiv Gandhi and the fly was just a fly in the studio. Obama could have taken a lesson from it.
- Amita Malik's 'Amita, No Holds Barred' (1999). [More at a previous post about Amita Malik]
for more about the kind of content that was generated by Doordarshan, you can check out parts from following two books (preview available at Google Books)
- Screening culture, viewing politics: an ethnography of television, womanhood by Purnima Mankekar. [Google books]
- Pop culture India!: media, arts, and lifestyle by Asha Kasbekar [Google books]
You may also like to check out ghushe.com : A website to complement largest Doordarshan Community on Orkut. It is filled with obscure and arcane information in form of conversations about Doordarshan.