February 20, 2012


There was a time when I was around 10 or 12 when television meant Doordarshan and there
were these wonderful things called tele-films that existed.

Just an hour, and a story was told, and it was never boring. There were no item numbers that
had to be plugged in to keep us glued. Masalas stuck to their kitchen boxes and formulae to
our chemistry books. The films took us on a content- rich journey.

Tele-films (or TV film, television movie, TV movie, television film, telemovie, made-for-
television film, movie of the week (MOTW or MOW),feature-length drama, single drama,
and original movie, as wiki informs) is a film made for our idiot box, unlike their cousins
who are made solely for distribution across “ theatres worldwide” as they famously claim.

I vividly remember a particular slot called “Director’s Cut” on the long dead DD-2/ DD
Metro, on weekends, between 9 pm and 10 pm, where tele-films made by famous directors
were shown. I don’t recollect missing a single show. In fact I even remember that a couple
of them had songs! And those songs are stuck in my head till date owing to my very
impressionable age at that time!

In a world that swears by its bread pakode instead of fighting for a sadhya meal, one feels
that it is time to enter into the biggest reality show of them all- the search for tele-films! One
search in YouTube or Vimeo declare that short films are being made dime a dozen. When
movie-making has been made cheap and film studies are not taboo anymore even in the most
conservative of houses, the future of the film industry lies in tapping these content-driven
well-executed passionate pieces of work.

Television soaps are forever chasing saas-es and bahu-s (who are mostly chasing one
another) or falling for the endless reality shows. Channel X declares Singer A as the “Best
Singer in the whole nation”, and Channel Y, the very next day has Singer B being declared
something similar. It is quite a pity that we have nothing else but these contradictory shows to
occupy our prime time.

What television must do is rope in directors –veterans, student filmmakers and enthusiasts
– to develop myriad content to fill the best four hours of our evening with tele features
and short films. Our own demi-gods should also understand that no matter which IMAX
their films screen at, it is the little corner telly that still captivates the largest audience in a
developing nation like India. And every actor worth his emotional palette would only want to
be a part of this franchise.

A whole market could be made out of tele-films. Producers needn’t wake up in nightmares
after having invested in crores for a ‘masala entertainer’. Tele-films will mostly turn out a
lot cheaper to make (excluding a few exceptional themes that inherently demand their extra
paisa). The reach and advertising market is such that the returns would be splendid too. And
at the end of the day, the financial guru could surely come up with wackier ways in drawing
out more money from this enterprise!

Short films, which, unlike their feature friends are less than 40 minutes of running time and
could even be just a few seconds long, could also be arrayed into a programme that will last

30 minutes(inclusive of those never ending ads). One cannot think of a more refreshing type
of programming in this regard! Stories, perspectives, slices-of-life delivered in seconds and
minutes lending a new angle to your own thoughts.

The best part is these tele-features and shorts could be fictional, documentary or experimental
in nature. Imagine the kind of themes they could explore, the nature of the exposure they
would provide to our general public! Socially relevant campaigns could have better reach,
new talented actors could be launched, unexplored places could be seen from your favourite

The far-reaching consequences of this idea are many. It is a pity that television channels have
not thought of the marriage of the smaller and larger screen content-wise!

Buy your home-made popcorn, or go for the hot bajjis, if you please, and settle down cosily
in front of the TV to see a film unfold. What better delight can a cineaste expect? If affording
this becomes a big issue for television channels (which I highly doubt, well knowing how
much money they freely spend in creating ‘family serials’ from the perspectives of maternal
cousin twice-removed, grandfather’s brother’s wife’s daughter-in-law and the like), they
could slot this as a weekly affair. But oh, what an affair to remember and relish it would be!

1 comment

Murali said...

Director's cut or its equivalent is still shown on DD. In fact, i have cut out private channels from my viewing. Try and catch DD Bharti and DD Lok Sabha. All those programs which you relished are still around. They are as delightful.
On saturday morning, 9.00 am, Open Frame. An hour dedicated to any documentary (both indian and imported). No ads.

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