My last post was on the eve of World Laughter Day and I deliberated much on the need to be able to laugh easily. But, au contraire I have observed that humans are more willingly expressive of their other emotion that of sadness, hurt and pain. I do not understand the reason, but we are all drawn towards incidents that make us overwhelmed with emotions just like the gnats are drawn towards the gnus.
Tears, today are the biggest money spinners. Art - Cinema included has always been overtly partial to epic illustrations and narrations of mega tragedy and stories of struggle packed with melodrama strong enough to trigger the flow of saline fluids from the eyes. Sometimes, I have wondered why Pablo Picasso's famous geometrical figurines would fetch such handsome sums of money, may be because the art aficionado recognizes the deep pain of the characters in the famous Spaniard's canvases that are twisted and turned beyond hope.
Well, jokes apart, I do feel that from time immemorial, we have proven ourselves to be deeply emotional beings and we have poured our hearts out over depictions of tragedies on stage and on screen. Shakespeare's greatest compositions have been his legendary tragedies - Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth. These are stories that touch the souls and people just love a clean tearjerker. Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata all end up in tragedy though there is some solace for the protagonists somewhere in the middle.
Irish legend talks about the Leprechaun's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Tearjerker's are the cinema producer's rainbow who gets the pot of gold at the end. Tragedies are not the only sources of tears. There are other emotions too that men of the art try to touch upon such as that of love, separation and war. If you look at the Oscars or the Golden Globes, the artists that walk away with the goods are the ones who have delivered a heart rendering -over the top - emotional performance on screen. I have not seen one comedian or action star take home the golden knight in recent times. Closer home, Bollywood and even Southern cinema houses - Tollywood, Kollywood, Sandalwood and the most recent Mollywood! provide a wide canvas for the actors to prove their acting might in plots filled with tear trigger points.
Quite often we read actor quotes in glossies where they often complain about lack of 'quality' plots by which they mean cry baby movies where glycerin is much in demand & actors exercise their frown muscles to impress the state and national film awards jury members. It is the demand and supply equation. They do because we ask. Television is a sad place. In fact, the countless number of soaps that are aired every day on national TV are all wholesome tearjerkers. No matter how well you treat your wife, she always tends to shed a tear or two watching the poor helpless 'bahu' falling victim to the vicious plans of the evil 'saas'. These are shows that garner the highest TRP (Target Rating Point) on prime time television which translates to stupendous sums of money from advertisements for the channel.
Shows that make us contemplate, introspect and even cry are the ones with the highest number of commercials. They incite our passion and greatly influence our emotional state. Ultimately the producers are the ones laughing all the way to the bank after leaving his audiences in a pool of salt water. Obviously, they have not taken on a responsibility of creating much needed awareness or eradicating the humongous social evils prevalent in Indian society, but they only choose to capitalize on the emotional quotient of Indians. The most popular shows on American national TV are the talk shows, the now ubiquitous 'series' such as 'Glee' , 'Dexter' ,'Lost', 'Heroes', '24' etc, whereas the most popular shows on Indian TV are the typical 'Saas - bahu' serials that are made in literally all major Indian languages. Our TV is full of them. There is just no respite. I am talking about prime time TV which enjoys maximum viewership.
A much hyped and anticipated TV show, whose theme and content was kept in wraps by its promoters was a major kill joy. While the whole of India, expected a repeat of the extremely popular 'Surabhi' series that was aired on the state broadcaster Doordarshan, were disappointed, well at least I was greatly let down. The show's theme is a tad too heavy for a Sunday morning and it does not take a departure from many similar themed shows. This show is being hosted by a hugely popular Bollywood actor who has in recent times assumed the role of a social crusader. While it could have been appreciable if these shows genuinely made significant strides in bringing about societal reform, I pity the commercial interest of the producers in making such shows. The recent Government directive to all corporates to earmark 2% of its profits to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has hastened many corporate megaliths to grumble & loosen their purse strings and start contributing for the society of which they too are a part of. I am not against this new show, that has tied up with an Indian petrochemical major's CSR arm, but I am against the idea of capitalizing on misery. I guess, I would be pointing fingers if I took the show's name, but I am sure you would have realized by now. I however, salute those other corporates who silently work in the background, away from the media glitz and glare, making a genuine difference to the society, much before it was made mandatory for them to do it.
Then there are the so called 'reality shows' where highly talented dancers and singers portray their art in front of a large TV audience. I thoroughly enjoy these shows until they reach a point where the participants and the judges start shedding rivers of tears during an elimination round or when a favorite is voted out. The cameras zoom in on guys and girls alike crying like crazy at the sight of their 'dear friend' leaving the show. Obviously, it is all scripted. I may sound bad, but I wouldn't cry if my competitor was leaving the show and I remained. Hell! I would be the happiest person on earth. What's all with this melodrama? These are for the TRPs no doubt!! I don't remember similar reality shows of yesteryear when losing contestants would make a scene out of losing. They were more dignified in their defeat and the judges were also not encouraged to try and break the participants. Why is it that we have developed such a fetish for tears these days? I have no clue!
At home, I make it a point to avoid tearjerkers and senseless reality shows, I rely on the fourth estate for my dose of heavy drama. Rising petrol & food prices, the deeds of our politicos and the feats of our national cricket team are reasons enough for me to cry.
I do however love shows that provide a platform for hundreds of superbly talented Indians - be it dance, singing, performing stunts or acting. I only hope that some exorcist drives out the ghost of daily soaps from my dad who seems to have gotten hooked to these numerous tearjerkers on TV.
I suggest, open a book, read a fantasy, become a child. There is no hurry. We have the rest of our lives to sit and worry about. But we have now, to be happy. No point in washing it away in tears. They are precious. Do not waste them for some idiot on TV.