ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dubbed Out

Through the nationalisation of tele-serials via dubbed big-budget Hindi productions, local narratives in Indian television have been essentially muted.

In the early 1990s, just after the country’s new policy of liberalisation “opened the skies,” television “nationalised” the mythical imagination and iconography of Hindu India through the telecast by Doordarshan of the pan-Indian puranas, Ramayan and Mahabharata. In a way, it was television replicating the history of Indian cinema which too had its beginnings—pan-Indian in reach and impact—in mythologicals inaugurated by Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra. In cinema, it was followed by a bhakti movement of sorts in the form of a series of sant films featuring saint poets and poetesses like Tukaram, Mirabai, Nandanar, etc, from various languages and regions across the country.

Through the telecast of TV mythologicals, the actors and actresses from the Hindi mainland gave body and voice to the umpteen gods and goddesses, demons and demonesses hitherto imaged, imagined and narrated in their various local forms and avatars in different languages, communities, cultures and localities. They all suddenly assumed a pan-Indian embodiment and spoke in the “national” language of heavily Sanskritised Hindi (take, for instance, modes of address like Mathasree and Pithasree, etc). The TV screen normalised North Indian mise en scene—architectural details, colour schemes, interior decoration, domestic settings, utensils, exteriors denuded of all signs of contemporaneity and locality, etc—in which the puranic narratives unfolded, etching them in the viewers’ minds. The very look and feel of the programme, the settings and landscapes, and the body language, gestures and modes of dialogue delivery of the actors—all these created a pan-Indian iconography and mythological imagination.

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