Mythology And Storytelling

By Sunil Kumar

A point raised by somebody recently got me thinking; “Do all stories in Indian soaps have their basis in the rich mythology of the country?” In the increasingly glam world of soaps that intrude into the nation’s national identity(incessant streaming for the female population primarily); television writers have to dip into a narrow but time-tested resource; feuds and the saas-bahu relationship. Not to mention that this could be torture for some of the other viewing population; but then that’s 24X7 primetime manufactured for your viewing pleasure.

Going forth with the analogy; the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are two very different epics; the latter being grander in scope and with more intrigue. Modern Indian television and films are reflective of the country’s changing but consistent aesthetic; child brides and glamorous vixens. So, how far do they match up to the million epics in the country; from the Ramcharitmanas to the Tamilian poet-bards in the South? In my humble opinion, not exactly.

Religion and mythology have been a male bastion; created in a different age; and perpetuated in a large part by women; aunts, grandmothers and other interest groups who use this in a ritualistic way,sometimes without much thought and at other times exalted beyond belief. At the other end of the spectrum; we have sociologists or activist groups blindly critical of ancient tales as regressive and a thousand other disgusting epithets.

The truth then probably lies somewhere in between. In a country where oral tradition held sway for thousands of years; we are undoubtedly influenced by our old epics; but a new mythology is being manufactured everyday; the dialectic of television. Opinionated shrill television anchors; reality shows and armchair thinkers influencing mass movements; impacting collective destinies in more ways than one.

If a Muslim country like Indonesia can adopt one of Hindu India‘s national symbols; the Garuda; then look at the abundance of riches our ancient civilization has. Strictly speaking; I don’t think the pseudo-secular socialist republic with capitalist aspirations today gravitates towards its ancient stories; but smart repackaging and themed tourist attractions could probably change the tide. For a country like the United States; a new mythology has been spawned to devastating effect; with Hollywood, video games and a million gun-toting retards changing cranial connections.

With the maximum number of television channels in the world; Indian producers should get bolder and experiment with different concepts rather than the present day circus. My thought for the day!


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