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How Public Culture is Shaped


Roshni Sengupta

TELEVISION AT LARGE IN SOUTH ASIA
Edited by Aswin Punathambekar and Shanti Kumar
Routledge, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 269, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 2 February 2014

In 2008, Nalin Mehta1 wrote about satellite television being not only a marker of the progress of the idea of India, but also being a fundamental contributor to it. Earlier in 2001, Robin Jeffrey2 had written about regional language newspapers being vital hinges on which the nation as a whole was supported. Satellite television, as it made its way into the Indian imagination through the 1990s—the country possessing a single state-owned source of entertainment—became the frontrunner to the cultural amalgam that could be simply categorized as television—a coming together of ideas, ideals, ideologies, images and imaginations across time and space. Arvind Rajagopal3 and Victoria L. Farmer4 have commented extensively and conclusively on the impetus given by the telecast of Hindu epics on state television to the development of right wing, Hindu nationalist politics, most significantly observed in the transformation in the public iconography of Rama. The essential contribution of television to larger cultural projects could be gauged by the availability and accessibility of the television medium—24 hours a day, 7 days a week both within and beyond the boundaries of South Asia. Television, therefore, represents the collective imaginations of its audiences in the same way as political representatives are deemed to represent the collective will of the people ‘at large’.   Satellite television in its current form represents Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson’s5 phrase ‘television after TV’ where the media landscape is no longer defined by the technologies, industrial formations, government policies and practices of looking that were associated with the medium in its classical public service age, the major reference point being the case of Doordarshan in India.   Rajagopal’s observation regarding the focus of television studies being mainly on audience impact resulting in an endemic disregard for representation and its forms comes to mind as one reads through Television At Large in South Asia, edited by Aswin Punathambekar and Shanti Kumar.Further, television’s role as a site for cultural production given its emergence as a new force in social life, largely as a result of the spread of electronic media, in the context of rapid flows of resources, images, and persons across national boundaries, as delineated by Appadurai and Breckenridge6, remains one of the key views that runs through the essays contained in the book. Much similar to the rather step-motherly treatment meted out to cinema, particularly Bollywood, by members of the academia, preferring to remain confined ...


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