Mourning the loss of Indian music channels

MTV hotline with Nikhil Chinappa was my favorite memory of middle school. I remember watching the videos, listening to the callers and being totally mesmerized by this cool-hip VJ who had unique facial hair (he beat Aamir Khan to the goatee) and an extremely chill attitude. The twelve year old me was fascinated by the VJ, the format of the show and equally enthralled by the nice music videos that one got to watch. I will be lying if I didn’t admit to dialing that number a couple of times every other day.

Equally interesting, more for the hosting prowess of the glamorous Malaika Arora was MTV’s loveline. Her all-pink set and heart shaped couch with her endless legs and strappy sandals almost evoke a fond memory, one where she sorted out people’s complicated love lives so easily and the fact people wrote so much of their heart to her made the show very engaging. There was an innocence to it all, from the hosting to the simplified love-letter-reading-problem-solving to the hip Nikhil to knew what to ask every caller irrespective of their age/demographic. Channel V’s Gaurav Kapur and their ‘One Tight Slap’, ‘Bakra’ series were absolute fun and my TV time was largely restricted to Channel V or MTV on repeat. It was where I was introduced to BSB’s songs and Shakira’s impossible moves, George Micheal’s timeless pieces and Bryan Adams. It was glorious.

Cut to today, where thanks to an internet-based subscription of Indian channels, I get to watch some music channels both Hindi and Tamil. While MTV-USA has completely stopped airing music, focusing on some strange Kardashian-esque reality shows and Channel V is nowhere to be found, new entrants like Zoom and Mtunes have taken their place. I wonder if it is the kind of music or the struggle of trying to stay relevant in the age of Youtube and Itunes, but these new entrants don’t hold a torch to the channels of yore.

Hindi music is more Punjabi than Hindi, the videos are headache-inducing with flashing lights, jerky camera movements and extremely glamorous, lithe leads who exercise more than they dance. It is filled with scantily clad extras mouthing lyrics with little connection to the movie or the artist. Rappers like Honeysingh and Badshah have become ubiquitous with any bollywood movie sound track. It is so formulaic – a love song (set in gorgeous locales), a sad Punjabi background score (where the heroine and hero are separated), a disco-party song (loud, bright and obnoxious) and a ceremony song (wedding/engagement/party) and a credits song where the entire cast and crew shakes a leg. The concept of VJ’s has come down to reading off social-media feeds of the bollywood stars with almost zero appeal from the host. There are hardly any shows and channels are just endless playlists of garish music videos,all of which sound the same to me.
South-Indian music channels fare no better. All songs sound very similar with ridiculous budgets and pairing (50 year old men and 20 year old women) who gyrate to tamil songs in Alpine towns as locals stare. Every movie has one or two of these. VJ’s read off facebook posts on their phones and refrain from any original content. No smart comments, no quirky personalities. There is little joy in watching any music channel nowadays.

Youtube, you beauty.