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All for raising a few laughs



MUKUNDAN A

A WELL DRESSED, elderly gentleman collapses on a busy street. Unable to speak, he desperately gesticulates at passers-by. Many hurry past with nothing more than a curious stare. One man drops to his knees beside the stricken man and tries to help him. A couple of others pitch in. They prop the man up, while one rushes off to hail a taxi, another brings water from somewhere. They bathe his face and pour a few drops down his lips and spend the next few minutes in feverish ministrations. This flurry of activity that would have put an emergency room to shame has by now gathered a circle of onlookers. Suddenly the `dying man' shrugs off his rescuers and agilely jumps to his feet with a mocking ear-to-ear grin. It has all been for a TV show. While his bewildered `rescuers' are still gathering themselves, the astonishment on their faces is projected to be disbelief in their good luck. So the prankster dances around, laughing all the while, vehemently assuring them that they are on TV. He mentions the TV channel's name as if that should send torrents of spasmodic thrill down their spines. He points to the hidden camera with an air of bestowing on them some fantastic good fortune in which they are expected to exult and attain nirvana. They are in reality aghast at their own gullibility and amazed at how low people can stoop for the sake of a few laughs.

Once bitten, twice shy

After a sprightly round of banter, a few compliments are pompously handed over. The victims of the joke good-naturedly accept the gifts and walk away - perhaps never to take the lead again when such a situation really arises. We all have a good laugh at their expense. Reminds me of the boy who cried wolf! These TV shows, instead of poking fun at the virtuous and noble qualities of human nature, should target its darker side. Avarice, selfishness and all the other cardinal sins are at large but we can find only the laudable qualities to laugh at. We often lament the loss of virtue and yet we are singling it out for ridicule. We should respect and encourage those who still exhibit these rare traits and try to coax back some of the virtues that are fast vanishing from society. To give the devil his due, not all episodes are like this. In one instance, the TV crew posed as a foreigner and a tout. The foreigner's bill was inflated by a shopkeeper at the behest of the tout, with the understanding to split the profits later. The shopkeeper was finally taken to task, and it was fun to watch him wilting before the camera. Such shows have all the thrill of a sting operation; and you don't feel sorry for the victims. But sadly, most of the time the victims are the good samaritans. They are rewarded with a statewide telecast of their `blunder.' Perhaps, the wicked and the crooked are not so easily fooled. Many channels have chosen this mode to buy a few laughs, but it is earnestly hoped that some of the established channels would alter the course and lead the way.