Dipped in Witriol
We all know actor/activist Aamir Khan does not rest on his laurels. The success of the first two episodes of his Satyamev Jayate (SJ)—a talk show which brings to light social issues—has only egged him on to think of new projects for the idiot box (his wife Kiran Rao refers to it as the idiot-in-chief). Predictably, over 600 channels nationwide have been wooing the Khan with lucrative offers. One of them even approached him for SJ-2. But, not quite the one for sequels, Aamir turned it down despite the bonus offer of free lifelong supplies of kathi rolls and advice every quarter from the international consultants Earnest & Jung. Kiran shot down the offer with “Mr Khan works for peanuts anyway.” She was obviously referring to the Rs 3.6-crore production cost of each episode of SJ.
Anyway, that apart, according to insiders (who have been in touch with outsiders) the Khan-Kiran (KK) duo has been at it playing the game called ideas with their thinking caps on. And their effort has resulted in several new concepts emerging which could shake and stir TV programming. In fact, such is the expected impact that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund in separate emergency meetings in Fontainebleau, France, and Washington respectively, deliberated on whether the species homo sapien (anchora-hosta-idiot boxa) should be declared as endangered in India. “Mr Khan’s entry may mean an existentialist crisis for several anchors and TV hosts who focus on social and current affairs,” said one of the IUCN speakers pushing for funds to save the species. He even suggested setting up “protected TV channels” similar to wildlife reserves which would guarantee at least three square programmes a day for those facing extinction.
So what does the KK duo have in store for viewers? With their minds churning out ideas like a protozoa multiplying it is difficult to keep track. But friends in the intelligence agencies (those shady guys who keep track of things of national and notional interest) have managed to get a sneak preview of notes made by Aamir during the late-night think sessions. So here goes a sampling in Aamir’s own words:
The (Black) Buck Stops Here: In this serial on poaching (senior journos/ scientists stealing/ killing story ideas of their juniors included) I turn the scanner on those evil men and women who wield the gun and the pen. The surprise element will be co-host Salman Khan who has himself killed a few bucks in his good old bad days. The show will feature other real-life killers of wildlife and journalists who confess (for a consideration) to being guilty of their own brand of poaching. A segment every week titled Real Wildlife will be devoted to Sallu and Katrina dancing and freaking out at parties with the message “Drink. But let your driver drive,” scrolled below the visuals. Production cost per episode: Rs 9 crore. Profit: zero.
Devil’s Devil: In each episode a knotty kid----chosen through an elaborate selection process which involves gauging the child’s ability to provoke anger---is let loose on Karan Thapar. And I sit through and smile intelligently (only I can do that!) and watch the fun. To give it a national and international flavor, the interviewer is allowed to fire questions in his/her mother tongue. Pure comedy as we see Kiran (oops Karan!) grapple with Tamil, Assamese, and Chinese. The show will bring to the fore the fact that there are many questions that have no answers. For example, why does the sun rise in the east and was it ever given a choice? Or do rats actually take a catnap? And if they do, which brand of cheese do they dream about—Amul or Kraft?
Seedi Bakwas: Here, your’s truly and Rakhi Sawant (I must keep her happy in case she alleges I lifted the idea for the show from her) question the renowned editor Prabhu Chawla on things trivial. Of course, I ask the more intelligent stuff: How many idiots are there in my film The Three Idiots? What is the specific gravity of steel and how does that help bank robbers? To stop a train during an emergency you pull the chain, so to start it do you push the chain? and whether being aware of the speed of light (186,282 miles per second) helps the postman deliver letters faster? Predictably, the more bakwas stuff will have to be taken care of by Rakhiji: Will the Manmohan Singh government complete its tenure? Is Rahul Gandhi ready for the big job? Can the BJP survive the power struggle in its ranks or would it do better by distributing Cadbury’s chocolates?
We Under The People Tree: In a rustic setting, I am the tree (you’ll agree, a novel concept) who moderates a discussion between film stars acting as TV anchors and editors. Topics will include the coverage that SRK actually deserves and should Delhi’s Khan Market have been named after him?
God’s Own Religion: A show dedicated to that national passion--cricket. I host the show as the god of cricket (as in the insect) who is secular and above all religion. And the team from Lagaan gives its take on the outcome of IPL matches and its philosophical and psychological impact (since cricket is a mind sport) on moths who struggle to fly under lights. It will also focus on several key issues: should light boys be allowed to diversify into spot fixing and if Bollywood should script matches to ensure that the right team wins.
Saare Zameen Par: Though the title has unfortunately become an SMS joke, this serial will look at the woes pilots of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines. Inspired by John Updike’s A Month of Sundays, the idea is to show viewers pilots on strike and how they spend their time—the music they listen to, the newspapers they read, and the amount of peanuts they consume. An out-of-the-box idea for a topic that requires more than a flight of fancy.
Chill in the Time of Adjournment: Exclusively for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV. What is envisaged are capsules which can be telecast whenever there is a disruption or a walkout in either House. Inspired by Extraaa Innings T-20 (which comes before and after every IPL match) our show will feature the likes of Navjot Sidhu, Lalu Yadav, Meira Kumar, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, stars from the Great Indian Laughter Challenge, cheerleaders and a DJ. The fun, music, and drama will come as serious relief after the comedy in the Upper and Lower Houses…
So, after all that Aamir-speak, it’s back to the channels, which understandably feel threatened and challenged. Several notes have already been exchanged between TV honchos on the possible KK threat. No one is clear on what line of action must be taken. One suggestion is that since Aamir is a trend setter, there is the distinct possibility that other stars will follow in his footsteps. In which case more actors will turn anchors. Will that be the light at the end of the tunnel--can anchors then turn to acting? Will we see Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Sonia Singh, Arnab Goswami, and others star in a Ram Gopal Varma horror film? Well, as the cliché goes—only time will tell…