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A Hindi invasion!! Is that what we are heading for? Over the past few months, the local market has become inundated with Hindi films and music programmes, with all TV stations devoting quite a sizeable chunk of their airtime to Hindi fare. Why this sudden craze for Hindi films? Kshalini Nonis writes:
Hindi films, , have been popular with Lankan audiences for several years, and our culture, dance etc., has its roots in India. But the recent surge has left many viewers feeling that there should be some sort of a balance between the local and foreign films being screened on television.
Why then are the TV stations giving almost an "overdose" of Hindi fare to viewers? Rosmand Senaratne, Director/General Manager of ETv, which switched off the popular Star Plus channel recently , in favour of a Hindi channel, ATN and Raj TV a Tamil channel and NBC News (much to the annoyance of many fans of popular soaps like Santa Barbara and The Bold and The Beautiful) said that at present they are at an experimental stage on deciding the type of programme/films that will be telecast over their channel.
"We have not yet conducted a survey as to find out what the appeal is among viewers for Hindi films, but I would say there are plenty of sponsors for these films. The Sinhala film industry is also fairly restricted unlike the Hindi film industry which has a wide variety of films," he said.
Mr. Senaratne also added that it is difficult to get suitable software in order to run a 24 hour channel, and expensive to strike a balance between the programmes that are telecast. "The cost factor must also be taken into account and although Hindi films tend to be more popular among the young people we are yet to determine the extent of this popularity and the reason behind this," he added.
The MTV (Maharaja TV) channel now devotes a large percentage of its viewing time to Hindi and Tamil programmes by telecasting Sun TV, another Tamil Satellite television based in India. Promotions Manager at MTV, Jumar Preena said that if people are given an overdose of anything be it films, music, food etc. nature reacts in the opposite way and it would eventually be rejected.
"Only time will tell about the popularity of Hindi films, and people's reactions to it. All programmes that are telecast over MTV are standard ones that are scheduled in advance. Therefore we have control over these programmes and nothing is forced down our throats," he said.
He added the fact remains that the Hindi film industry is doing a good job and has reached international standards in entertainment.
Director Programmes of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), Bandula Vithanage said that there is a verbal regulation by the Media Minister that only one Hindi film be telecast over the TV stations every month, but at present, only Rupavahini is adhering to this regulation.
"There is definitely an overdose of Hindi films being telecast over the other stations, and once the viewers are shown these films on a frequent basis they will naturally keep watching them. Enough is not being done in the local film industry, and it is very costly to get new foreign films. I would say that these Hindi films are cheaper than some of the other contemporary foreign films," he said.
Mr. Vithanage also added that at the SLRC there is a Procumentary Committee which screens the films prior to getting them down and therefore only the good Hindi films are shown.
An official of ITN (Independent Television Network) said that depending on the popularity of Hindi films they would continue to be telecast over the TV channels. "We certainly have a large audience for these films and the sponsors are also easily available, and therefore we have to cater to the requirements of the general public. How can you impose restrictions on these films? After all, the people pay their licences and are entitled to express their opinions, and watch what they want. The standard of the films varies. Even though some people may not understand the dialogue in Hindi films, they enjoy the music and dances which are done in a very elaborate manner unlike in the local film industry," he said.
An official for TNL TV said that the increasing popularity for Hindi films among locals was the reason for the numerous Hindi films that are being telecast over TV. "I do not feel that there is an overdose of Hindi Movies and we usually show one Hindi film per week. These films are very popular among the young people and the standard of Hindi films is higher that local films," he said.
The fact remains that professionalism in the Hindi film industry is much higher than that of the local industry. Therefore if the viewers are not being given high quality films locally, can they really be blamed for looking elsewhere, to keep them entertained? As one person in the local film industry pointed out, technically the local industry is decades behind the Hindi industry, and one reason for this is the government restrictions and heavy custom duty that is imposed on certain equipment being brought into the country. The Hindi movies are "computer animated", and technically very fast and able to hold the interest of the viewers. However, it is not that the local industry is lacking in talent, but the fact that there is really no means of developing this talent due to financial restrictions.
Veteran producer and actor, Lucky Dias expressed the view that while it is good to have foreign films, it should not be to an extent where the fact that Hindi films being shown continuously over TV, makes a frequent visitor to India wonder whether he is actually in India. "Obviously our cultural roots are in India and we will be influenced by them but not to this extent where our country is more or less becoming a second India. I am a fan of Hindi films, but I feel that there is an over-abundance of them. What is most shameful is that it is actually some of the people in the local film industry who are responsible for getting these Hindi movies purely to fill their pockets in a typical Sri Lankan style," he said.
ÒI categorically say that the reason for the downfall of the local film industry is not due to this invasion of Hindi films but due to the fact that the local producers are making trash. There is so much of talent in our country, but most of these talented people are seeking greener pastures overseas as they cannot make a living out of it. Of course Hindi films are popular among the people, but just because they ask for them, it does not mean that we should go over the limit and let our culture be taken over by the Indian culture. What is absurd about the whole thing is that even the state-run TV stations are encouraging these films. Of course there is a great deal of professionalism and glamour in Hindi films. The local authorities should, however, be more concerned about what they are doing, and be able to strike some sort of a balance, and not destroy our own industry," he said.
The question being asked thus, is whether the local authorities should be more aware of the type of films that they are showing and impose certain standards, without merely showing whatever comes their way.
Consultant at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), Dr. Vijaya Corea said, "Personally I feel that too much of anything is good for nothing. There should be variety in the Hindi films that are being shown, with reasonable intervals between films. Hindi films have been very popular for decades and Hindi music in particular, is very pleasant to the ear. However, there are also some very good Sri Lankan films. There should be some sort of standard in the Hindi films that are being shown," he said.
Most of the young people The Sunday Times spoke to said that the bottom line is that those in the local industry cannot deliver the goods when it comes to keeping the viewers entertained. The standard in the local and Hindi film industries cannot really be compared as the latter is far more advanced and glamorous. "For instance even if they keep running around rose bushes the scenes will be shot at different locations, using exotic costumes, while the dancers will also be agile and dance in a professional manner," they pointed out. "We should endeavour to promote our own culture and not be taken over by the Hindi culture. We also don't see the point of having films in a language that is not understood by a majority of the population, and be shown just for the visual appeal which could even be quite provocative in certain instances," said one eloquent youth.
Popular Radio/ TV Presenter Arun Dias Bandaranaike said that he is perplexed as to how Hindi films have become so popular, unlike Tamil films or those from Kerala, which have some sort of relevance to our culture. "The reason behind the popularity for Hindi films really beats me and I feel that those in responsible positions should get high quality Kerala and Tamil films which will be appreciated," he said.
Actress Anoja Weerasinghe said that the Indian influence is something that has been there throughout. However it should not invade our culture to an extent where young people go crazy about Hindi films with some even going to the extent of being more familiar with "Namasthe" than the Sri Lankan National anthem, she added. "Of course the viewers must be given what they want but not in excess and the authorities concerned should act in a more responsible manner. The local industry is really quite unprofessional. when compared to the Hindi film industry which is technically perfect, and in the latter industry a great deal of time and money is spent on shooting the various scenes. Unfortunately, those in the local industry are restricted by lack of funds." She felt that the average Hindi film also tends to be unrealistic and sometimes similar to fairy tales.
While television viewers are having their fill of Hindi films, music and dance, it is obvious the craze for things Indian does not stop there. Since Miss World Aishwarya Rai visited Sri Lanka in July 1995, there has been a stream of popular Indian entertainers visiting the island on a regular basis, not to mention models and beauty queens. Hindi pop singers Anaida and Mehanaz sang at the Sugathadasa Stadium in August, after their concert date was postponed due to the July bomb blast in Colombo and then Alisha Chinai, the reigning Indian pop diva made her appearance in November. A bevy of Indian models and reigning Miss India Rani Jeyaraj also made short visits, while film star Sunil Shetty whizzed in to catch some of the cricketing action in the Singer Cup final. Entertainment industry sources reveal that promoters are also negotiating to bring down various Indian celebrities early this year
While it is apparent that Indian stars and celebrities will certainly attract much popular attention in this country, it is obvious that Hindi films are here to stay too, at least for the time being on TV. While it can be argued that these films provide quality entertainment for viewers, it must also be pointed out that they have a wide influence on people, especially the younger generation, and it is vital that the authorities concerned have more control over the films that are being shown. What needs to be considered is the impact on the youth.
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