Bangalore #16: Screen time

March 16, 2009, midnight | By Sonalee Rau | 13 years, 5 months ago

Indians aren't heavily into sports. In Bangalore, it's mainly just cricket, badminton...and surfing. Channel surfing, that is.

Indian television is almost like American television, except sans WETA phone-a-thons and with a few twists. Like you can only watch it during certain time slots - between 9 and 10 a.m., 1 and 5 p.m., 7 and 11 p.m. - when the power hasn't gone out.

Photo: A tense moment during a soap opera on ETV, the most popular Bangalorean entertainment channel, plays out. Picture courtesy of

So what do people watch? Well, there are a plethora of child talent searches on TV, usually for Indian vocal music or dance. You've got American channels, like Star World and AXN, which carry shows like "Top Chef" and "The Amazing Race" (mostly old reruns, but who's complaining?). And Nickelodeon - "Drake and Josh" doesn't lose a bit of its charm translated into Hindi.

And then every night at 7 sharp, if you walk down the street in Bangalore you can hear the sound of Kannada soap operas resonating in every home. They run all day in marathon fashion and they're particularly popular with the Indian grandmother subset. Boy meets girl, marriage is forbidden by family elders, squabble ensues, police get involved. Some things never change.

But the best part of Bangalorean TV is the advertisements. Anything will sell in India if it's edible and/or contains a cute poster child to represent it. Also, Indians are crazy about chocolate-flavored energy drinks - Ovaltine, Bournvita, Horlicks, Complan and Boost, to name a few - and companies go to great pains to advertise for them. Each ad features a happy family playing with a toddler and concludes with a peppy jingle; I know how to say "friend," "free" and "look" in Hindi thanks solely to these slogans. "Buy Complan and get a boomerang FREE!" Tempting, isn't it?

Finally, cricket can be seen once in every five channels of flipping.

One could spend an entire indecisive day surfing through all these channels and marveling at the vast array of choices which Bangalorean TV offers. But inevitably, I decide on "Wizards of Waverly Place." Then, just as the show's about to start…bam. There goes the power.

Sonalee Rau. Sonalee (suh-NAH-lee) is a chipper Chipper and a would-be magnet junior. She spends a great deal of time playing tennis (Blair is red hot), doodling, reading, quoting famous people, quoting not-so-famous people and lamenting her inability to play the piano. She is also a big … More »

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