KBC trailer breaks new ground

The bold new trailer highlight prejudices against the north east.
JAYANTA MADHAB TAMULY applauds the social responsibility of the producers.

In the hot seat is Poornima, a young woman from the north east. Amitabh Bachchan, host of the quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) asks her whether the city of Kohima is in China, Nepal, India or Bhutan. Poornima’s family looks on anxiously while she thinks. Two men watching in a bar snigger at her ignorance.  To everyone’s surprise, Poornima opts for an audience poll. Bachchan conducts the poll and tells her that the audience’s answer is India, and adds, with a touch of condescension, that everyone knows that Kohima is a part of India.

“Everybody knows,” she asks. “But do they accept it?”

KBC is one of the most watched programmes in India because of how it plays with the dreams of the middle class. Until now, KBC was all about money. But the promotional trailer for the new season shows the producers demonstrating a sense of social responsibility by highlighting the discrimination and alienation of the north east, as represented by Poornima. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVLyDOW2jC8)

By going for an audience poll, she shows how people of this region still have to convince other Indians that it is an integral part of India. The snide comments made by the two young men symbolize the contempt of many Indians towards people from the north east.  Poornima’s beautifully simple point – that knowing something is one thing but accepting it in your heart is another - packs a punch. After all, school children all over India learn that Kohima is a part of India, but do they accept it?

The timing of the trailer is perfect, given the recent incidents of racial discrimination, frequently in the form of physical and mental harassment, that have been seen in Delhi and elsewhere. Amazingly enough, a senior government official filed a complaint with the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, saying the trailer was offensive, embarrassing and in extremely bad taste from the point of view of the government.

He asked the Council to ban it. After watching it on 18 July,  the Council dismissed the complaint and called  (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/tv/news/Kohima-question-promo-of-Kaun-Banega-Crorepati-upsets-Government-official/articleshow/38977901.cms) the trailer “an awareness campaign in the right direction.”  In fact, the trailer is praiseworthy given how the media neglects or totally ignores both the people and the issues of the region. At the time when the capital city witnessed the brutal attack and later deaths of two young men from the north east,  the TV news channels were busy with the Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia squabble. Starting from the death of Nido Taniam from Arunachal after an attack on January, there are numerous cases of rape and physical attack till July, rape of a Manipuri girl by the son of her landlord on February, the attack on Ricky Saharani on July 11 or the attack upon a couple from Northeast in Gurgaon on July 28 to name a few. How often do we get a fulltime panel discussion on this sensitive issue in our English or Hindi news channels, despite having Arnab Goswami, the anchor of the influential The Newshour from the region?

Not a single news channel covered the tragic self-immolation of a protester against the land policies of the state of Assam on 24th February (which later led to a prolonged protest and countless human rights violations in the name of law and order). Yet the very next day they were happy to cover every detail of Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Assam.

Amid this widespread indifference in the media, the KBC trailer is sincere in trying to make viewers realize their prejudices and does it with a very light touch. It has created a buzz in social media where it is being shared furiously. If nothing else, this gesture by the KBC producers will go some ways towards restoring the faith of the north east in the power of the media to tell some unpalatable truths. Way to go, KBC……

(Jayanta Madhab Tamuly is a Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies and Management, Sikkim University).

Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More