Making Good Programmes about India: Building on Channel 4's Indian Winter Season
So Channel 4's Indian Winter season met with some pretty harsh critical reviews: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/13/channel-4-indian-winter-season
Overall, I feel the author's viewpoint has some truth to it: the season didn't show much of interest about India as a whole: it was less an Indian Winter season and more a "bits and pieces related to Slumdog Millionaire season."
The commissioners missed a fabulous opportunity to show us new and unseen items about India. 4 of the 7 programmes in the season were about the slums and poverty. Whilst it is important to show that poverty is still a huge problem in a country regularly touted as an emerging superpower, there is much more that could be shown to build on the interest in India which Slumdog Millionaire uncovered.
India has an enormous pool of subject matter which would interest a British audience (1.5 million of which are of fully Indian heritage): history, culture, art, religion and spirituality as general fields; cricket, yoga, meditation, Buddhism, non-violence, Hindu nationalism and the Bombay Mafia as more specific subjects. Finally there is India and Britain's unique and cultural link through the East India Company, the Raj, Partition, the migration of Indians to Britain and the Hippy Trail.
The appetite for these topics exists, as Michael Wood's excellent Story Of India and Dan Cruickshank's brilliant item on Varanasi show.
The presenters in the Indian Winter season did not have any particular relevance to India. Surely the producers could have found young talent with a more personal interest in the topics and subject matter at hand. This would have made for far more interesting programming and a more enthralling experience for the viewer.
So what can Public broadcasters do to make better programmes about India that show new places and subjects that viewers want to see? Firstly, material that hasn't been done before, but is relevant to the viewers: the cultural and social significance of Britain's ties with India, from Raj through the Hippy Trail to the IPL cricket of today. Secondly, having presenters who are relevant to the subject material and who really care about the stories they are telling.
Now, I wonder where we could find a marriage of those two criteria?....