22 December 2010

The Image of Gandhi in 'Gunga Din'

In a most significant display of contempt and cynicism the 1939 Hollywood film 'Gunga Din' cast the 'mad guru' in the physical mold of Mahatma Gandhi. From his slight physique to his austere sartorial look wearing just a loin cloth and a chaddar (a large cotton shawl) draped over his shoulder or head, the demented villainous guru recalled the unmistakable figure of Mahatma Gandhi. Except for the head gear (turban), this was the dress which Gandhi wore during his visit to England for attending the Round Table Conference. Adopted from 1921 onwards, this dress contributed substantially in endearing him to the peasant masses of India. It was widely familiarized to the Western public through the visual media.

15 December 2010

Television as a Selling Machine

In 1922, an American farmer and electronics tinkerer by the name of Philo T. Farnsworth invented a scanning device that would lead to the development of television. Farnsworth’s ‘image dissector’ solved many of the problems faced by European and American technicians who sought a way to electronically transmit images, and control of Farnsworth’s invention would chart the course of television development. In 1939, Farnsworth licensed his device to American media mogul David Sarnoff of RCA. At the time, TV was a novelty but by the late 1950s it had grown into a powerful form of mass communications. When later asked what he thought about how his invention had progressed, Farnsworth, who died in obscurity in 1971, said he refused to watch TV and expressed disgust at its crass commercialization and the manipulation of the medium by the advertising industry. During Farnsworth’s lifetime, creeping commercialization came to infect every aspect of TV, and consumerism had become a way of life for most Americans, and increasingly the world over.