How real is reality?

A scene from Bombay Chanakya's TRP, Tamil play. Photo: K. Pichumani  

Who is the bad guy of the modern world? According to Bombay Chanakya, it is the electronic media, as he argues in Kalamandir’s play ‘TRP’ (for Kartik Fine Arts at the Narada Gana Sabha) concludes that it is the media. Through the story of Janani, he shows the cynical manipulation of the gullible by television channels, which have their eye on the TRP ratings of every programme, because the ratings indicate the money spinning potential of a programme. Reality shows are dangerous charades, designed to exploit the viewers’ desire to have voyeuristic peeps into other people’s lives. Nothing is sacrosanct. Prurience sells.

Tambaram Ratnavel Purushottaman - TRP (Bombay Kumar) - is the villain, but the real brain behind the villainy is Ananya (good performance by Sangeetha). Janani falls prey to the desire for fame and money, and participates in a reality show. Ananya steers the show in such a way that Janani is made to appear as an immoral woman. Unable to bear the humiliation, Janani loses her mental balance. Damayanthi (Dr. Sharmila), a distinguished lawyer takes up the cudgels on her behalf.

The theme is the callousness of the media, but the story itself is wafer thin. Chanakya aims many well-deserved barbs at the media. Damayanthi traces the evolution of television entertainment, early days of DD being the starting point, and the degeneration that has set in.

The absence of a judge on stage in the court scene and Sharmila addressing the audience instead was a nice touch. Meenakshi as Janani portrayed fear, shame and shock so well, that it was hard to believe that this was her stage outing. Baby Ritvika as Bharati, was perfectly at ease on stage.

Why was most of the important dialogue in English? The hard-hitting lines against the procrastination of the Central Government in acting against the corrupt were pertinent. The description of Kapil Sibal as the “Defence Minister” because he is forever defending his party on various television channels was met with a roar of approval from the audience.

The conclusion was that the media is quick to pass judgment on others and anyone who takes up the challenge comes a cropper. The end, however, was rather tame, with a person running up to the stage from the audience and saying that he will no longer watch programmes that are exploitative and dishonest. Can that stop reality shows, and the selective presentation of news? And for want of better options people end up watching programmes that they would rather not. How will we break the vicious cycle? No solutions offered.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 5:50:16 PM |

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