India Insight

Star gets fast and furious with U.S. shows on Indian TV

Star India wants to attract English-speaking audiences with a television channel that syndicates the latest seasons of American TV shows such as the counterterrorism thriller Homeland and the comedy Modern Family.

Several channels broadcast U.S. shows in India, but Star World Premiere HD is the first to broadcast episodes a day or two after they air in the United States.

Broadcast delays mean that sitcoms or dramas often complete their run in the United States before premiering in India. Fans, unwilling to wait for months, frequently download episodes from the Web.

“I am targeting the top 1 percent — the people who travel abroad, or have lived abroad, are exposed to these shows, and will be willing to pay for premium content,” said Kevin Vaz, who heads English-language channels in India for the television network owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

The line-up on Star World Premiere HD, which launched this week, includes new American shows such as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Michael J. Fox Show.

India’s TV import duty taxes travellers… and grey markets

India on Monday imposed a 36 percent duty on flat-screen televisions that travellers bring back from other countries, seen as another step to support a falling rupee. The move, however, will do little to help the economy but will cheer television manufacturers in India and hit grey markets, experts said.

India has taken various measures in recent months to deter the import of commodities such as gold as Asia’s third-largest economy tries to tamp down its current account deficit and a weak rupee that touched record lows below 65 per dollar this week.

The duty will not have significant effect on the rupee or on the current account deficit, which is estimated at 3.7 percent of the gross domestic product this year. With only seven months’ worth of foreign exchange reserves, India is taking a number of measures to narrow the gap between its imports and exports, though trying to discourage television purchases in foreign currency might not do much more than set an example.

Indian television getting too hot to handle

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Comedy Central was back on Indian television screens on Tuesday, getting what appeared to be a court-ordered reprieve four days after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting banned the network for 10 days for showing content deemed unsuitable for Indian audiences.

“Hey guys! We’re happy to announce that #CC is back on your TV screens! Thanks for your support-we appreciate it! Keep on Laughing It Off :) ” Comedy Central India said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Journalist Sardesai sours on Twitter: “Had hoped to interact; failed.”

(The following post contains some essential Hindi translation help from my colleagues Arnika Thakur, Suraj Balakrishnan and Havovi Cooper. Any remaining errors or lack of precision are my fault as I reviewed and participated in all translations. Additionally, any opinions here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

From the desk of Rajdeep Sardesai, editor in chief of Indian news network IBN Live (I stitched these sentences together from his Twitter account):

My timeline suggests little space for healthy debate/discussion on twitter. So will no longer raise any political issues on the medium. Will continue writing/talking on issues of natl interest in print/tv, but not on twitter. Will continue to write in print/speak on tv. But will no longer seek twitter as a medium for public debate. Had hoped to interact; failed. A journalist has only his integrity/credibility. That has been abused on this medium for too long by unknown people. Time to switch off.

Cleaning up TV’s dirty pictures

I was watching a documentary on Greta Garbo on television. The film was in English with English subtitles for people more comfortable following written English than quick spoken English. Every time the word “sex” or something related to it would come up, the subtitles avoided it. “Heterosexual” became “hetero.” “Her sexuality” became “her femininity.” Dedicated channel surfing revealed similar evasions. In a conversation about breast cancer on an English channel, the station inserted an asterisk to partially mask the word “breast” in the subtitles, even though you could hear it onscreen.

TV stations and networks in India, similar to broadcast TV channels in the United States, remove objectionable content (sex scenes, nudity, some foul language and violence) from movies and other programming (see this recent Reuters story about how it works). This is thanks to the Indian Broadcasting Federation’s Broadcasting Content Complaint Council. The idea is to make sure that public airwaves remain friendly enough for the ears of children and sensitive adults, though it can result in unintentional bloopers like the breast cancer example.

Apply that to film, and it can be an editing massacre. Look for odd leaps forward in the film’s plot and you can see where the chopping happened. It wasn’t always this way. Channels such as Star Movies and HBO made minimal cuts or none at all until the BCCC was established in 2011. Hindi films fare little better. The lovemaking scene between Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta in “Salaam Namaste” was removed from the televised version of the movie. “The Dirty Picture,” the film about softcore actress Silk Smitha that starred Vidya Balan, came in for 59 cuts, but still couldn’t make the cut for television.

No ‘Dirty Pictures’ please, we are Indian

Indians woke up on Sunday to front page newspaper ads announcing the TV premiere of “The Dirty Picture”, a National-award winning film that was both critically acclaimed and successful at the box-office.

The film, based on the life of soft porn star Silk Smitha, was one of the most popular Bollywood movies of 2011, and its success catapulted lead actress Vidya Balan into the big league.

It was a glaring example of how Indian audiences, torn between traditional values and rapidly Westernising cities, have come to accept films with bolder themes.

Star seeks groom on TV and other soaps

A new reality show in which a bunch of suitable men vie for the hand of Bollywood starlet Rakhi Sawant is an interesting twist on the prevailing custom of Indian men choosing their brides.

Rakhi Sawant ka Swayamvar“, which harks back to the ancient tradition of princesses choosing a groom from a line-up, began airing on Monday night, pitting more than a dozen men from varied backgrounds — and with varying singing and dancing abilities — wooing Sawant, a colourful personality known more for her antics off camera.

It may be yet another publicity stunt for Sawant, who claims she will marry one of the men at the end of the series in a traditional wedding ceremony.

from Global News Journal:

Breaking the news in Mumbai – literally

The concept of a televised war was born in January 1991, when news networks reported live on the missiles slamming into Baghdad and millions watched from the comfort of their living rooms as tracer fire lit the sky above Iraq's capital. A decade later,  the world watched in minute-by-minute horror as the twin towers came crashing down in New York. 

Now, with the ferocious militant attacks in Mumbai, we have arrived in "the age of celebrity terrorism". Paul Cornish of Chatham House argues that apart from killing scores of people, what the Mumbai gunmen wanted was "an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion". 

It's too early to tell if governments will respond with extreme reaction, but the saturation coverage of the drama in the world's media would suggest that, at least on this level, the killers were successful.  

The sad state of Indian soap operas

Prime-time television in India is not really known for sensible content. Especially the soap operas. I have never been a fan but one tedious evening, I switched on the telly and sat through one “saas-bahu” serial after another.

What was it about family dramas that kept millions of Indian women glued to their TV sets each evening? I intended to find out.

In one such episode, a mother-in-law laments the loss of an unborn grandchild.

indiatv.jpg“We have lost our grandson and our daughter-in-law cannot bear a child after this. Now we will never have a grandson to take the family name forward.”

All’s not fair in fairness cream advertising

Priyanka ChopraA new ad campaign featuring Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Neha Dhupia has viewers’ curiosity piqued with its almost soap opera feel, with each advert dealing with a new episode in their love triangle.

The story so far: Chopra and Khan were once together, and Chopra still carries a flame for him, and half a heart-shaped locket. Khan, who has the other half of the locket, is about to propose to Dhupia, but also still has feelings for Chopra. Incensed  Dhupia dumps Khan, and in the latest episode Chopra was looking for Khan at the airport.

So here’s the $1 million question: What was keeping them apart? You’ll never guess: Chopra’s dark complexion that lost out to fairer-skinned Dhupia.

  •