Features Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30
By Mukesh Khanna Entertainment has degenerated into ‘enter-taintment’. In the late 80’s, audiences across India got a clear idea of our hallowed history through the serial Mahabharat – so wonderfully and crisply made by the late Bheeshm Pitaamah of showbiz – the late Mr. BR Chopra. Stupefied by visuals of our epics being tortuously tainted in chic-chiffon fashion parades by human caricatures masquerading as our historical, cultural roots’ mainstays these days; I have stopped watching what passes for entertainment. Those strutting rectangular spaces of small screens are dismal spectacles, enacting contrived, conning, cunning and conjured situations that have little in common with the original real events – all vainly done in the name of aiming at commercial success. When a major production house wanted me to re-enact my epic-role recently, I turned the offer down deriding the proposed work as a ramp walk. Many faulted my commercial sense then and continue to do so. I simply did not care one little bit. The serial made a messy spectacle of itself and has sunk without a trace. Occasionally, when someone asks me the odd question as to whether I watch some of the religious costume dramas, my stock reply is – there are too many of them with too little enjoyable content and all of them are repetitive. Initially I was confused as to which one to watch. Later, what was being shown – confounded me. The modern-day versions of the epics never have enjoyed double-digit Television Rating Points [TRPs]. When the Mahabharat – in which I played Bheeshm was on air, none had to consult TRP data. One look at the empty roads during the telecast and the sounds of the blow of the conch emanating from virtually every Indian home when the clock struck 9 a.m. was ample testimony for its stupendous popularity. The late Dr Rahi Masoom Reza – who scripted the scenario and dialogues for the serial – was a truly secular Muslim – who had found parallels of the Bhagwad Gita in the Bible and the Koran. “Prophet Muhammad – Peace Be Unto Him – had famously quoted The Almighty Allah and said that 124,000 divine messengers had walked the earth – and that the Koran was a compendium of all the good words said by the greats of history and faith. That is the evident evidence of secularism,” I remember Dr Reza saying during our interactions during the making of the epic serial. Some 85% of India is Hindu. A majority of them are proud to belong to our faith. Yet, not one would raise one’s little finger against Dr Reza on the contents of his narrative of a highly sensitive subject. Today, every Tom and/or Dick and/or Harry seems to be penning pompous piffle. In the 80’s India was mature in accepting a version of India’s greatest epic authored by a person who subscribed to a different faith who stuck to facts faithfully. There was relative peace. Today, historical events are being twisted out of shape – by fundamentalist elements on all sides of the religious divide that has led to the exposure of the ugliest face of communalism. In the Mahabharat – when Draupadi – who had been known to have married 5 siblings – was molested in public Durbar by her brother-in-law – Bheem – one of her husbands – vowed to fetch blood from his chest to assuage her insulted tresses. The offender – Duhshaasan was punished with painful death in the battlefield. Despite it being part of a historical text, in spite of some of the characters in the televised version terming it a barbaric act – the audience found the deterrent punishment justifiable. The cultural and behavioural degeneration of today is there for all to see. Now, we have step fathers raping step daughters or school teachers sexually molesting 4-year-olds in the temples of learning. Worse, cops in states like Karnataka – on multiple occasions – have admittedly found it difficult to make-up their minds about the actual identity of the accused! I have no hesitation in linking the depiction of history in the entertainment sector to some of the most reprehensible thoughts and ideas that prevail in society. pedestrian depiction of history on the screens – small and large – be they costume dramas or modern-day social tales – to some of the most reprehensible crimes to what have become blameworthy aspects of enter-taintment!

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