Believe it or not: The strange power of reality TV

24 September 2007

Official India loves to call the seven northeastern States the Seven Sisters.

In reality, it’s more like Seven Step-Sisters.

Closer to Bangkok than Delhi as the crow flies, stricken by separatist violence, and waiting for the rest of the country to wake up because of a silly time zone which keeps them behind metaphorically and figuratively, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura—and Sikkim—have long felt ignored, cut off, out of beat with the mainland, and out of sync with each other.

But the Indian version of the American Idol reality television show has apparently done what countless politicians, bureaucrats and “packages” haven’t done. The finalists of the third edition of Indian Idol last night were both from the northeast, Amit Paul from Shillong and eventual winner Prashant Tamang from Darjeeling, and the entire region, in a rare burst of unity and even rarer recognition from the mainstream media, was rooting for them.

More importantly, as an editorial in The Hindu pointed out, Paul bridged the divide between the Khasi-Jaintia-Garo tribes and the non-tribal population, and Tamang is said to have forged “an unprecedented unity” among Nepali-speaking folk in the swathe of hills that comprise Darjeeling and Sikkim.

As the sound of music reverberated before last night’s finals, ministers were exhorting people to click “send” on their cellphones and telephone booths are springing up.

“In other parts of India too, the programme, which is now in its third and most popular season, has got everyone—adolescent, youthful, middle-aged, and elderly—glued to their sets. This cannot but make one wonder. If only this power of television could be harnessed for the social good. If only people took a similar interest in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. If only our idols were more than singing or dancing sensations.”

It takes a village to rear a child, goes an African saying.

In Marshall McLuhan‘s global village, it could well take a reality TV programme to unite it.

Read the full editorial here: The sound of music

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One Response to “Believe it or not: The strange power of reality TV”

  1. Gaurav Says:

    one has to o understand the reason that north east just went breserk with the idol fever was primarily due to the fact that people there dont feel part of mainland and Indian idol provided them an opportunity to integrate with rest of India. None of our politics has been bale to do that so for. So show had served a huge purpose for vast people of hills who feel alienated from mainstream…


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