BREAKING NEWS: SMS poll gimmick kills ‘Mukta’

SUMERU S. RAJU writes: Let me confess. I watch Mukta, the primetime Kannada serial on ETV regularly. For people whose idea of a soap opera is defined by Ekta Kapoor‘s garish K-series or the tantric-twist Tamil serials and their remakes, T.N. Seetharam‘s Mukta is a balm for the eyes and the mind.

It engages you, looks at the institution of family in a more realistic socio-economic context, brings in issues of contemporary boiling (globalisation, corporate ruthlessness, CET admission, underworld dealings, real estate business etc) to the fore and offers an opinion, that is mostly in tune with the saner pulse of the masses.

The only thing about which Mukta seems off-the-mark is when it routinely romanticises the judiciary, but still one could pardon it as that is the most entertaining and popular element of the serial.

At a time when newspapers and TV have become instruments of propaganda for the moneyed, reactionary middle-classes, failing largely to take note of larger social rumblings, Mukta is an exception.

Something that offers a 23-minute catharsis five nights a week and injects mild doses of optimism to a heavily depressed living.

But last night I was in for some disappointment about the serial and its director and lead actor.

T.N. Seetharam alias Chandrashekhar Prasad alias CSP appeared just before the show began and made an announcement.

It went something like this: “Thank you all for watching Mukta. Of late I have been thinking of winding up the serial as we have reached close to 600 episodes.

“But there is immense pressure both from ETV and the viewers on us to continue. I am in a dilemma, so please SMS us and let your opinion known. If you want us to continue the serial type ‘MUKTA Y’ or if you want us to discontinue it type ‘MUKTA N’ on your cell phones and send it to us.”

I forget the number he mentioned.

This, I instantly thought, was unbecoming of the director and all that he made us believe his serial stood for. If this man lacks the independent judgment to end the serial when it should, then, I asked myself, why did I waste 23 minutes of my time every night to watch what he was showing me?

With this one announcement I think Seetharam has shot himself in the foot. He has admitted that the world he created was a make-believe one. The closer-to-reality trust that it had created has been shattered in a minute.

Everything was a mirage after all, he seemed to say. It is a stategic error for a man who had grown in stature and nourishes political ambitions. It was better to sign off as someone who understood the world than as a man at the street corner asking for direction to reach his destination, that too through a cheap SMS poll.

It would be foolhardy to expect a serial to solve the problems of the world but what I mean to say was that I trusted that abstract halo of commitment and integrity in the man. His worldview was more acceptable than others. Even if he were telling lies, he was more convincing.

One has to have faith, at least for therapeutic reasons, or else there is every chance of growing too bitter and mad about life. But by this one act, Seetharam, an intelligent man, has metamorphosed into a moron in my eyes.

The crass commercial purpose of SMS polls is well understood. So, now let me urge you not to participate in this poll, let the director enjoy his dilemma or Trishanku Svarga, that’s if it is true that he has reached that point of suspension.

At least I won’t give you the number that you need to send your SMS to.