By Sinjini Sengupta:
“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh.
But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.”
Before I launch into why I am suddenly, dearly, desperately reminded of these simple, yet immortal words of Mr. Chaplin, let me begin with the backdrop first.
The promo of a new Bengali serial was launched. It is much like its predecessors, and unless you are insanely optimistic to the point of being unrealistic, it is also likely to be much like its successors. The other programmes aired in the evening prime slots are typically of snake-women and, worse, of saas-bahu dramas reeking of patriarchs. These have been TRP proven for a long time now, across cultures and linguistic cross sections on Indian television.
Talking of this one, from the trailer it appears to be a family drama, based on a supposedly ‘foreigner’ wife and the cultural clashes, conflicts and inclusion-exclusion, she faces in a Bengali family. The show is called ‘Membou’. Coming to the quality, content and techniques now. The way the trailer goes, I would not call it tempting enough for a watch. I’d even like to vouch for my friends (and enemies) whose taste I can only guess.
But, even having said that, does it warrant bringing the beast out of us? More importantly, do we realise that it is so much more about ‘us’ than the ‘it’?
Well, let me come to the point and tell you what it is. Right after, the promo of ‘Membou’ aired, here’s what we did.
Trolled. Hurled. Stoned. Lynched. Cusses. Bitch-calling. Slut-shaming. You name it, we did it all!
No matter how much we try to be innocent and just say, “Ah! It took the internet by storm.” But to be frank, that’s a whole lot of understatement. That’s a mellowed down, smoothened up, neutralised version. What has really happened is this: it unveiled faces, that us humans, guard so secretly and carefully – our primitive instincts.
But we are proud, aren’t we? Or, more than that, careful – maybe?
Yes, we are polished. And so, to make the defence sound intelligent, we used nice phrases. For example, we said, “their marketing strategy backfired”.
Do you need some proof? You don’t have to go too far. You don’t have to go too far anyway, these days. Use the power of hashtag. Type hashtag ‘Membou‘ and press enter, on Facebook, Twitter, anywhere!
They say the saddest is often the funniest. It is both sad and funny how the media houses like Times Of India, Indian Express, Huffpost picked on it, too. And then, we talk about the media shaping our society!
I am offended by the way we have pounced on this poor girl named, Vinita Chatterjee (who plays ‘Membou’) and the rest of the crew. Regressive teleserials are not new in our country. We are not really bound to watch the show, right? It just shows our pathetic state. Us, who claim to be ‘evolved reformists’, it shows our double standards. It gets worse when employees of media houses go ahead and make it into a news article, defending the mass scale trolling. it’s pathetic how it has been going on for 7 days now with the media supporting this primitive cruelty under the veil of internet trolls. But I don’t blame media, especially when staff from reputed media houses promote things like these. You know what to make of them anyway. Poor dears!
But we, the people? We too went on and on and on. A dozen of posts a day. Video tapes of mimicry. Memes. Shames. Stone hurls. We spew venom, all our way. For days together. For weeks together. We went on…
But do we even understand what this screeches of? Are we even aware of our double standards, our dual faces? Do we even realise where the ‘beast’ comes from? Am I mixing up contexts here? Am I trying to act holier-than-thou reformist, and bring in issues of human rights while all they are trying to do is save the public from an ill-made teleserial?
No, no. I am not going to talk about the issues. I am just going to talk about you. About us.
All that has been going on, it warrants a reflection. Frankly, I shudder to think how much filth is there inside us, bottled up and corked tight, that needs to explode. How we do not need the slightest of provocation to come out on all fours, gnawing at – whoever it is – but really, at ourselves. How easily we unleash the devil inside us.
It doesn’t matter who this #Membou Carol is, who Vinita Chatterjee is, how she looks or talks, what she does. For god’s sake, no!
It is not about ‘Membou’. It is about us. And for God’s sake, as much as we love the limelight, it is time to get some ‘flashlight’ on us first. It is time for a careful introspection. It is time to tame the devil.