It’s supposed to be a show about modern-day Shravan Kumars. Twelve youngsters from all over the country participate in a show (Mahayatra, Star Plus) through which they hope to realise their parents’ desire to go on a char-dhaam yatra (Puri, Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameshwaram). If that sounds improbable, it is. Along with the pilgrimage, the winner also stands to win rupees one crore. I leave it to you to work out whether the overwhelming motivating factor for these pious families is the yatra or the prize money.
Certainly, the visuals of the youngsters tenderly washing their parents’ feet are touching in the extreme. But even more revealing are the other segments of the show where we see all the participants — the sons and daughters and their parents — shouting and yelling at each other. According to the format of the show, the families are divided into two teams —Agni and Vayu — that have to compete with each other (yes, yes, they are given ‘tasks’). In one of the ‘tasks,’ the two teams have to herd some cows into a sort of enclosure. Team Vayu wins. Immediately, Team Agni cries foul and complains about unfair treatment. First they fight with Team Vayu. Then they fight with the anchor (Manish Goyal). Then they fight with each other. Pure-minded individuals intent on a pilgrimage? Sure.
Theoretically, Mahayatra is a sort of ‘religious’ show (the first episode of the show was shot in Varanasi), but in reality it could be just about any other reality show.
Meanwhile, NDTV Imagine has started two new serials — Devi and Do Hanson Ka Joda. In keeping with the trend of village-based, issue-based shows, Devi is set in a north Indian village, where it hasn’t rained for three years. A little girl is born just when it begins raining and the entire village hails her as a devi, much to the consternation of her mother, even as the father looks on helplessly. The village looks like a village, the villagers look like villagers, the story is apparently a real story, and it’s all too depressing.
The other serial, which opens with a wedding, takes us back to a Hum Aapke Hain Kaun-type extended family (Do Hanson Ka Joda is made by the Barjatyas). Women in glittering sarees with matching jewellery and makeup (purple saree means purple lipstick) rush around with aarti thalis and baskets of flowers as the men look on benignly. The bridal bed is lovingly decorated, the bridegroom delivers a soulful little sermon about joint families, the bride earnestly agrees with him and all seems well and happy with the Great Indian Family. But disappointment lurks just round the corner. The serial is about a young woman who dreams of her Prince Charming (sorry, there’s no other way of putting this), but the man she eventually marries doesn’t measure up (shades of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi?) Also, she is so artless and ingenious, you wonder what planet she inhabits (Planet Barjatya, I guess).
And finally. I saw the first of the film awards of the year — the Apasara Awards — on Colors. Most film award functions are fun if both the hosts and the performances are outstanding. In this case, the hosts were Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal and though the two tried hard to be witty and funny, they were about as witty as you’d expect Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal to be (or was it all the fault of the scriptwriter?). Nor was there a ‘wow’ factor to most of the performances. Waiting hopefully for the next awards function now.