Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Of dubbed drama and ‘sophistication’

“Did you watch last night?

“Watch what?”

“What do you mean watch what? Don’t tell me you didn’t you see how that Atez guy fooled Bahir!”

What the he…

“Oh! You are talking about that Turkish TV serial drama…”

Everybody seems to be talking about those dubbed Turkish TV dramas! Though it seems the passion has ebbed somehow over time still many households television is on that channel by default.

“He made me so angry I almost broke the TV set. Can you believe it; the guy already has a son!”

One thing is sure; this TV channel, almost entirely airing dubbed dramas, made quite an impression the moment it hit households. It isn’t always that we see foreign films with Amharic dialogue. A new experience, indeed!

But that isn’t the whole story. While the channel got audiences of practically millions, the applause wasn’t anywhere near to universal. It didn’t take long for opponents, many of whom were in the entertainment industry, to come out with blazing guns.

“It’s poison to corrupt the minds of our youth!”

“It is a deliberate threat to our culture and traditions.”

And when one of the calls to arms came it did so with a bang.

“It should be banned!”

What!  Did they use the word ‘ban?’ Yes, they did.  

While the arguments, though many of them slim in reasoning, were interesting to listen to, the call for ‘banning’ the station left many with hanging jaws; a very disturbing call to arms, indeed. I mean, if there were any legal grounds the smartest thing to do is appeal to the courts to take action. Nothing could be simpler. Did I hear some top-placed officials saying there weren’t legal grounds for banning?

Some indeed have genuine concern and they meant what they said. Their concern for the welfare of the youth prompted them to make their voices heard.   For others it was a commercial scare. It was about audiences turning their backs by their droves. Unluckily, (who is anyone to say ‘unluckily!) that seems to be what happened. Either way emotion seems to have clouded any viable reasoning behind the arguments, if there were any, and the Efsuns and the Hazals of dubbed drama still seem to have quite a following. In fact, there is talk of another such channel with dubbed Hollywood films.

There are also those of us who seem to shudder at the mention of Amharic dialogue films, dubbed or otherwise. We seem to have a very strange way of telling the crowd we were ‘too civilized’ for such things!

Several weeks back a few of us were talking about the issue of dubbed films. One guy nuked the channel with all the adjectives he could muster. “I tell you there is an international conspiracy to corrupt the young!” Now, anyone with such ‘patriotic passion’ must have legitimate reasons to support his/her argument.  He was asked to come up with specific examples.

“Specific examples of what?”

“Tell us the serial dramas and the particular scenes you find so offensive.”

His face turned practically lifeless like some of the brass we saw on live TV some days back. He tried to change the subject, no one took the bait.

“I don’t watch those films.”

Ha! Here comes another one of them!

“Which films don’t you watch?”

“I don’t watch any. In fact, I don’t watch Amharic films or TV drama.”

What! Isn’t this the same guy who just seconds ago raised the red flag claiming of some clandestine conspiracy to corrupt the mind of the youth! Believe me, there is another one of ‘them’ at every corner.

“I don’t read Amharic books.”

“I don’t listen to local radio.”

“I don’t buy local products.”

“I don’t read local papers.”

“I don’t…”

The list goes on.

“Then what do you read?”

“To tell you the truth I don’t read much. I prefer surfing the web.” And ‘surfing the web’ these days means one and only one thing – Facebook!

There is a funny thing; saying that you don’t read local books and don’t see local movies is, for some, a mark of sophistication. Ha! And some of us wonder what is meant by this world being weird!

Several months back there was quite a steer in town when it was revealed some privately run schools, posted the sign, “Throwing stones and speaking Amharic is forbidden.”  (Someone should come up with a book titled, ‘The Creepy Side of Addis.’)

I was recently part of a small group talking about books. I have to admit it would have been a more rewarding afternoon if we discussed about, say, the latest single that filled the airwaves.

Of course we were the kind of guys who though Danielle Steel should have been given the Nobel Prize for literature! (The classic books? What classic books!)

Talk turned to Amharic books. Those of us who claim to have read our share of Amharic books mentioned a few titles. Then one among us, who, just for the record, almost always settles our refreshment bills, was disgusted;

“How can you read Amharic books?” I told you they were at every corner!

“What do you mean?”

“Amharic books make you dumber!”

Now, wait minute. Unless we’ve missed something while we were asleep (a time lapse that stretch three thousands year back) we haven’t heard of any research finding claiming as such.

Certainly the guy wasn’t a lone ranger when it came to belittling anything local. There are many in that league.

Coming back to dubbed TV drama, I’m one of the regular guys tuning to the channel we were talking about most nights. Sorry to say it, but most other channels have a lot of homework to do to force us go for our remotes. As to the pro/for arguments, I think we should keep them up minus the uncalled for emotions which usually mar the real issues. Until then, we’ll see where the Atez and Bahir sometimes a little boring story takes us.


Contributed by Ephrem Endale


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