This appeared in The South Asian Times on August 29th.
When Gandhiji wrote about the significance of truth in his book 'My Experiments with Truth' and widely preached people to incorporate this concept in their lives, I doubt he would have seen this coming despite the great visionary he was. Our scriptures would perhaps refer to this phenomenon as the absolute peak of Kalyug.
If you are tuned to the Indian television, you've invariably heard about this show. With the Splitsvillas, Is Jungle Se Mujhe Bachaos and the Rakhi ka Swayamvars of the world behind us, I thought we as a nation were so done and over with the shock factor from reality shows. But I was merely underestimating our media's ability to strike the conditioned mind again in an unprecedented manner.
My latest dose of shock value comes from 'Sach Ka Samna', the newest reality show to hit the Indian media with overwhelming TRPs. So much so that I've altered my evening kick boxing routine to indulge in bold-Indians-washing-their-dirty-linen-in-public act. It's controversial, extremely personal and at times sleazy. But it's my guilty pleasure and I'm hooked, just like the rest of the 30 million people who tune into it daily.
It's ad has Rajeev Khandelwal holding fire in his palm and with immense sincerity, he looks into the lens and poses a question to the world "hain koi aisa jo sach ka samna kar sake?" I imagine a teenage girl popping a giant bubble she blew from her gum saying "not me" to that. The reaction can't be much different if it was an insurance agent or a pujari or a mother of three responding to that question. Not because it has anything to do with truth, but because it's on TV. So it baffles me that there are contestants from all strata’s of society, famous and otherwise, who're willing to be virtually stripped as their family and friends witness their private lives becoming a public spectacle from just a few feet away. Don't they fear judgments? Are they hoping for sympathy? Whatever happened to the confession box in churches or a quiet introspection on a river bank? No tangible payouts there I guess.
What ensues is a series of deeply embarrassing questions that are meant to titillate and stun. The probing questions touch upon various aspects of one's being from relationships with family members, unethical acts at work, disreputable acts in the society, indulging in vices, infidelity and bedroom drama and spares no contestant irrespective of their age. It takes the notion of privacy and buries it deep into some faraway land.
It has caused many a controversies and furor amongst people in general. Indian society has been pretty good about suppressing intimate details or disturbing truths so far. And it is no easy task to confess your wrong doings, acknowledge your guilt and share your darkest secrets in the open where it might live in pubic memory or at least in DVDs forever. Every Indian is blessed with the peeking-into-neighbor's-house-when-neighbors-fight syndrome so it is only natural that the show is a super hit. But it is giving the moral police sleepless nights and despite causing rage in the parliament, the show continues with full glory.
Is it reality for real? Perhaps not. Is it a reflection of a mature, growing and positive India? I doubt it. It is a wake up call for those of us who are hypocrites with high double standards? It better be. It is about redemption? I have no clue. It is addictive entertainment at the very least? For sure. Last but not the least, does it have an adverse effect on the society? I'll let the viewers decide that one.