And now, Puja selfies on prime time

BY TERESA REHMAN| IN Regional Media | 23/10/2016
Assam’s TV channels have come up with a new gimmick to increase television rating points at festival time,


"Selfie Puja, Puja Selfie, Puja Selfie, Pindhim jeans, pindhim skirt, pindhim kurta, Sandhya porot devir agot uthim ami selfie..." (we will wear jeans, skirts, kurtis and in the evening take selfie in front of the goddess) goes the song "Puja Selfie" composed by the  editor of the TV channel Assam Talks, Atanu Bhuyan. He composed the song to popularise a Puja time  selfie contest on television few years back.

What is Puja celebrations without a selfie or a groupie? When much of Eastern India was immersed in Durga ­­­Puja celebrations, could our television channels be left behind? Selfies of young girls and boys in attractive attire popped up on the television screen of one channel as a colourful panel comprising fashion designers, actors and beauticians debated who was looking the best. They were judging an interesting contest – Best Puja Selfie (Male and Female) and the best Puja Pandal in the state. And this was on Prime Time for five days!

Another channel dedicated one side of the screen to ‘puja selfies’ where these scrolled down. And a ticker ran, “You can click your photo and whatsp it to our channel”. Another channel was not to be left behind. They ran a Puja Groupfie contest. As selfies and groupfies came in, there was also a musical interlude with a puja song. Said one of the judges about the winner, “Her eyes are very bright. She looks like a goddess. She drew her eye-liner so well.”

Inane as it may seem to many, the contest was a big hit with young people. Selfies poured in,  more than 60,000 of them. And the judges had a tough time deciding the best one. Fashion designer Meghna Raimedhi (Mehzabin) said, “I had the privilege to be one of the judges in the contest. Thousands of selfies had come and it was a tough job for us but indeed we loved judging it. And being a designer for two decades I observed in my journey in the fashion world that the people of Assam have become very disciplined and graceful in their attitude compared to the early 2000s.”


"Inane as it may seem to many, the contest was a big hit with young people. Selfies poured in, more than 60,000 of them."


Taking selfies and posting it on social media has become a big favourite among people nowadays especially the youth. And our television channels cashed on this obsession. Guwahati-based psychiatrist Nahid Islam said, “While an occasional selfie sounds okay but for some it becomes almost an obsession. From the psychological point of view there are two opinions on it. At one end of the spectrum is the extreme narcissism of flaunting oneself in all one’s glory whereas at the other end may be individuals with poor self-esteem and lack of confidence trying to boost themselves by posting their photos.”

Also some people suffer from body dysmorphic disorder where they are not happy with some part of their face like the nose or eyes and so on. “These people often become selfie-obsessed trying to get the perfect photo and approval of themselves from others with their imagined deficits,” says Islam. At times one may get addicted to selfie taking, spending increasing amount of time on this which is not very useful activity.



Islam cautions that selfie competitions promoted by media if taken just for entertainment is fine but caution should be exercised in hyping it among young people who may get obsessed with it spending valuable time and resources for the perfect photo. “It may lead to mental health related problems at times like depression and anxiety if not done judiciously. My advice to the young would be to focus on their priorities which will help them go ahead in life and it is important to strike a balance between their real world activities and the virtual world remain grounded and do not get carried away by media hype of beauty and glamour,” says Islam.

But what prompts these contests? A young producer of a regional TV channel says, "These contests are purely for TRP! At the end of the day, for every channel, it's about the TRPs you generate! Maybe it did when it was a new concept and the selfie craze was in the air. However, now if people have to upload selfies, they will choose a better medium like Facebook."

And not  all TV producers agree that these contests are necessary.  A producer of  a regional TV channel  says, “No, we did not have a contest, but our editor did put up a request for selfies and they were aired all 10 days on screen. Just the contest part was missing unlike other channels. Such contests are a meaningless proposition which does not appeal to the greater section of our target audience.”

She  rues that these selfies blocked a full screen view of the lovely Puja images. “As a bulletin producer, I was disturbed by the on air look constantly blocked by low resolution selfies. And this was a trend started by one of the local channels two years ago. I still don't understand why the trend is blindly adopted by all channels thinking it contributes to TRP,” she says.

She  recalls a happy incident while these contests were on. “We did invite selfies and I could see one of my colleagues calling up her maid asking her to quickly send a selfie - that was a sweet gesture because she said she wanted to make her feel happy on Puja as she didn't get a chance to go pandal hopping. But, as a producer, I do not support such silly ideas of fetching TRP - our core viewership has matured too much over the years to accept such propositions! And asking an elitist class of studio guests to judge 'selfies' is a breach of standards,” she says.

Apparently, a selfie contest might seem harmless and a means of entertainment where everyone can have their share of moments of fame. However, Asha Kuthari Chaudhuri, Professor, Gauhati University who specialises in Theatre and Performance Studies, Film Media, Women and Gender Studies feels, “I have nothing against these contests. It could even be fun, especially for young people. But we must be careful and steer clear of body shaming/stereotyping, fairness issues, and other unethical practices.”


Teresa Rehman is Managing Editor,




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