Bills, amendments, defection, election – things you read and hear about regularly in the news, but how much do you understand about how they actually work?
Yes, these are complicated concepts and procedures of an even more complex democracy that is our country.
And the language used in our Constitution to explain them? It makes it a daunting task for a layperson who even wants to try to understand it.
Enter Consti-tuition, which, as you can guess by the name, tutors you in the all things which matter to you in a democracy in simple language and a fun format.
A web show by Newslaundry, Consti-tuition is hosted by Meghnad S, a public policy professional who takes you through the complex procedures in a fun, peppy and relatable way (cue memes, animation and lots of political puns).
The 10-episode series seeks to explain how a democracy works – your role, your elected representatives’ role and the relationship between the two.
The first episode starts with the topic of voting. Sounds… boring? Wait till Meghnad starts to break it down for you. “This is the first step of your relationship, where he gets down on one knee, brings out his manifesto and asks, will you be my vote bank?” And with these words, the episode delves right in.
The format of the show is quirky and social-media friendly. Meghnad confirms that the show is directed at a younger audience. “This content was written for the new voters, not the older ones who have already made up their minds. We are actively trying to create more informed citizens,” he says.
What also sets apart the five-episode-old series is that it provides you with plenty of political commentary and anecdotes from recent events. This, Meghnad tells TNM, was a conscious decision. “The idea is to make the content contemporary and relatable. For that, we needed to make sure that examples from the recent past became a part of the script. That would help the audience relate to the otherwise theoretical concepts which were taught to us in school,” he explains.
The writers of the show — Shibesh Mehrotra, Vikram Bhattacharya and Meghnad — took three months to write the episodes. It helped that all of them were able to fall back on their existing expertise in the area of politics and governance, which made brainstorming a constant process.
“Once we bring it all together, it is a matter of arranging it in a simple narrative that is easy & also funny,” Meghnad says.
The executive producer of the show, Abhinandan Sekhri, is also the CEO of Newslaundry. “The idea behind the show was to simplify and demystify governance without dumbing it down,” he says. “As they say, if you don't understand it well enough, you can’t explain it simply enough. Vikram, Shibesh and Meghnad, with their expertise and wit, were able to do that brilliantly,” he adds.
The team has received positive feedback for the show, mostly from the younger demographic. The evidence is quite visible in the comments section on YouTube, where viewers have said things like the show is a must-watch for everyone over 16, and wished that there classroom civics lessons were as interesting.
“It's heartening to see people get interested in their government & what elected representatives do, regardless of party lines,” Meghnad says, “Parents have been informing me that they make their children watch our show! That is a total win for us and we are now constantly thinking about the school-going audience as well!”
He also notes that the show may appear more interesting to youngsters than classroom lessons because of the lack of differentiation between lawmaking (the process) and the lawmakers (the people) there. The show not only differentiates between the two (the closing line of each episode is, “policy is not funny, but the people definitely are!”), but also wants to show democracy as an ongoing process irrespective of the players in it.
“The way we approach lawmaking today is through the eyes of politicians whose singular goal is to get re-elected,” Meghnad explains. “Government is all about continuity and not short-term political gain. Through this show, we are trying to zoom out and explain what role the Parliament as an institution plays in our lives, rather than just those who get elected & sit in Parliament,” he adds.
Making Consti-tuition has been a learning process for the team as well. For Meghnad, there have been three major takeaways.
“I think one thing that I have personally taken away is that an experiment like this — to forget party lines when talking about our democracy and just focusing on the processes — is possible. Another big learning has been how difficult it is to make complex theory like governance more relatable for our audience. And I've gained massive respect for YouTube creators who put in so much effort into creating these 5-10 min videos,” he says.
So far, the episodes have covered voting, bills, speakers, communities and the complicated Union Budget. “After this, we are going to touch upon more umbrella issues like Executive, Judiciary, participative democracy, anti-defection and more,” Meghnad says, signing off.