The thing with certain questions is that only specific answers award them the right cogence. So if an opinion poll were to tell you that Amitabh Bachchan is the greatest Indian actor of all time you wouldn't have any trouble accepting it. But rather than 'correctly' revealing the answer, the response, more importantly, manages to attach some seriousness to the exercise. With such an influx of social media and a million platforms to voice an opinion how seriously should one take an opinion poll?
A few years ago when Bachchan was voted the greatest actor of the millennium he beat the likes of Marlon Brando, Sir Laurence Olivier or Robert De Niro and just about everyone else. Not that Bachchan, with due respects to his histrionics, isn't worthy of being in such august company but let's be serious for a while. His being voted over the others is nothing less than a miracle but had it been someone else we wouldn't even have bothered discussing the results. Besides Bachchan being the best what that BBC poll really confirmed was the overwhelming Indian presence on the Internet. The timing of the poll also makes a huge dent on any opinion poll. A few years the same Indian poll would have had Dilip Kumar as the greatest Indian actor and Shah Rukh Khan would have followed the thespian and Bachchan neatly perched at the second slot. But Aamir Khan and his post-Satyamev Jayate oeuvre see's him at number 2 behind Bachchan. The fact that Aamir in 2012 has dislodged Shah Rukh from the number 2 position isn't as surprising as the fact that he's number 4 lagging behind a certain Salman Khan. Just two years ago SRK could have won the poll hands down.
For a poll to suggest greatest Indian actors and not consider Kamal Hassan or Naseeruddin Shah or Balraj Sahini is reason enough to be overlooked. And the fact that these results were derived from a sample size of just 30,000 people only adds to my hesitation. There are people, non-celebs in the manner of speaking, on twitter who have more followers than total number of participants who pronounced the verdict. In a world where thoughts and outlook change in the time it takes to refresh a webpage, the term great is attached faster. Just like the right answer makes certain questions correct, sometimes an opinion poll becomes more interesting if it throws up unexpected answers. This small size of the sample would have not mattered if the one of the names in the list were that of say a Sivaji Ganesan or Soumitra Chatterjee. Opinion polls and their results are only valid depending on how one views them. Also they are only significant, however limited, till the next one comes knocking. Sometimes it's not the results that matter but the results that could have been that make them worth discussing. Such reservations ascribed to opinion polls are what make them interesting but to think that one would go ahead and announce the results derived from 30,000 people as an opinion is, well in my opinion…stupidity.
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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