We’re all familiar with TV aatmas and bhoots since they make regular appearances in fiction horror shows. For a while, they appeared even more regularly on the news channels, which were brimming over with stories of haunted ruins and cremation grounds. It was only a matter of time before someone thought of doing a reality horror show and now that time has also come (but why?).
Bindass has launched a show called The Chair, where contestants go to a haunted location, sit on a chair and commune with other-worldly spirits. They’re assisted in this task by a hypnosis expert who lulls them into a trance-like state, thereby presumably facilitating their, er, contact with the aforesaid spirits. The episode I saw (shot in black and white) went something like this:
Contestant is sitting in a chair. Everything is a bit hazy.
Contestant (in a frightened voice): Someone is approaching me from the right.
(Naturally we don’t see anyone or anything approaching from the right or left or any other direction).
Hypnosis expert (not in the frame, therefore only a disembodied voice): I’m sending you protection on the top of your head.
(Why top of the head? Why not the right from where the spirit is, unbeknownst to us, apparently approaching the contestant?)
Contestant (still in a frightened voice; she speaks in a frightened voice all through, okay): She’s looking at me. Her hair is very short.
Hypnosis expert: Very short.
Contestant: I’m scared. I feel like crying.
Hypnosis expert: You feel like crying. Do it… you’re helping yourself and the spirit to heal.
(Maybe the spirit has dengue.)
Contestant: She’s feeling sad.
(So are we buddy).
Contestant: It’s quite dark.
Hypnosis expert: Dark.
(At this point, a warning starts scrolling at the bottom of the screen, informing viewers that they shouldn’t do this at home, since it is being done by a professional expert. But what is being done by a professional expert? Sitting in a chair? Listening to someone repeating your words like a chant?)
Contestant: She’s very tense.
Hypnosis expert: Tense.
Contestant starts moaning and whimpering, as if she’s either experiencing intense pain or intense pleasure.
Hypnosis expert: I’m sending white light around you and on her. Can you see it?
(We certainly can’t. Not clear if the contestant can. Even less sure about the spirit).
Contestant: I’m shivering.
Hypnosis expert: Shivering.
Contestant: She’s holding my hand. (Extended moaning and whimpering). Her name is K-k-k-k- (no, no, not K-k-k-Kiran; this one’s clearly not a Shah Rukh Khan fan). Her name is K-k-Kokila.
Hypnosis expert: I’m sending healing to Kokila. Tell her ‘you are healed.’
(If you insist).
And so it went on and on. It was not at all scary. It was — in the best tradition of a lot of horror shows and films, from the Ramsay Brothers to Evil Dead to the Bhoot Bangla features on news channels — rather comical. You wondered what the contestant was doing, why she was sitting in that chair and babbling about a spirit called Kokila. You wondered what the hypnosis expert was doing, echoing everything the contestant was saying. (Maybe she thought we couldn’t understand the contestant, which is not that far off the mark, on account of the constant wailing and whimpering).
Most of all, you wondered what you were doing, watching the show.