Neeya Naana entertained a new level of absurdity this time.

A Tamil TV debate on ghosts and witchcraft is cracking people up but is equally disturbing
news Entertainment Monday, June 20, 2016 - 13:57

Vijay TV’s Neeya Naana, a debate-show that pits people and experts from opposite ends of an argument, is famous for bringing to life insightful arguments, but also infamous for the absurdity some of its guests bring along. 

On Sunday night, this absurdity reached new levels when ghost hunters and exorcism experts were seated opposite to psychiatrists and psychologists. The argument? Possession or mental illness.

As it is, Neeya Naana is a popular show which spins out a lot of chatter online after each show, but this time, Neeya Naana was the top trend on Facebook. It was a lot of fun, but it was also disturbing.


 

Here’s a slice of what happened. A prominent psychiatrist was led into a dark room for a half an hour ‘ceremony’ to witness a ghost. What followed was loud chanting, dogs barking, flickering lights and an imitation of blood that was simply a mixture of vermillion powder and lime juice. 


“What we expected: Ed and Lorraine Warren
What they are: Kanchana Manobala and Mayilsami." 

Here are the memes that followed. 




Translation: That Neeya Naana aunty has some serious guts!
 





The psychiatrist was lauded for being clear sighted and calling the nonsense out of the ritual. But the verdict was left open ended. "As long as people will believe what they want to believe, we must respect them for it," a prominent writer on the panel said.

This might all seem funny, but mental illness patients often face the brunt of such quacks as the show evidently made clear.

SCARF Head and Chennai psychiatrist Thara said, "This is not restricted to this. This is a predominant socio-cultural belief, not merely restricted to health issues. If anything bad happens, a debt or a death, evil eyes have been cast on us.  When you externalise a source, it becomes easier to handle. Culturally and socially, it becomes easier to explain, instead of saying he has depression, you'd rather blame it on an evil eye."

As for making sense of the phenomenon of witch doctors, "It is not evidence based at all. People's perceptions of a ghost are cultural stereotypes like, say a white saree. In psychiatry, we call this an explanatory model for an illness. It can be biological, can be medical, can be socio-cultural, these are all belief systems to explain behavioral disturbances. In short, it is futile to go on confronting them, because they cannot give you evidence."

But Neeya Naana's creators know it's not great discourse that makes for entertainment. The biggest feat was managing to get an audience glued to a half hour possession ritual through and through. Probably something even ghosts can't manage.

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