Friday, 26 October 2012

Jaspal Bhatti – the first crusader against corruption and representative of common man

A man is disgusted with his tenant and wants to throw him out. But he is helpless as his tenant is too smart. The man has forgotten that he possesses Aladdin’s lamp. His wife suggests he should take help of the genie to get rid of the tenant.  

As the man rubs the lamp, not one, but two genies jump out. They are quarrelling. The man asks his genie about the other genie and why are they quarrelling. His genie, pointing to the other genie, replies, ‘This genie moved into my lamp as a tenant and is now demanding Rs 1.5 lakh to vacate it.’

The scene was from Flop Show, a serial, in Jaspal Bhatti’s own words was misdirected by him. Of course, Jaspal Bhatti was also the lead actor of the serial.

A mother-daughter duo recently set themselves ablaze in Kanpur after they were unable to evict a rogue tenant from their house. The tenant had been living for decades and was paying only a pittance as rent. The daughter died while undergoing treatment while the mother is still in a serious condition.

We saw Flop Show in 1989 but the issues raised and highlighted by Jaspal Bhatti are relevant even 23 years later.

Today nobody watches Doordarshan. But ask anybody who is in his thirties or older and he will say that the golden period of Indian television was in the eighties of the last century; when Doordarshan being the only channel was the king.

People like Shyam Benegal, Prakash Jha, Ramesh Sippy and Shankar Nag directed serials for Doordarshan.

9 p.m. of the weekdays was strictly reserved only for the serial.

There was variety.

Hum Log and Buniyaad appealed to those who wanted something serious.

Yeh Jo Hai Zinadgi and Mungeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapney made us laugh.

Katha Sagar and Khazana introduced us to the works of the greatest writers of the world.

The World this Week was our window to the world.

There were comedy serials but Jaspal Bhatti’s Flop Show was unique as it was the first serial that attacked the systems that harassed the common man. And the way he attacked was inimitable.

It was only in Flop Show that you saw contractors holding a conference to discuss how to build houses without using cement or a civil engineer using his knowledge to break into houses to steal.  

Not only Jaspal Bhatti’s creativity even his vision was par excellence. 

In one episode of Flop Show, Jaspal Bhatti showed how government officials hold meeting after meeting but the end result is always zero.

Officials of the Kanpur Development Authority for the last several years have been holding meetings to find some solution to the problem of lack of parking space for vehicles in Kanpur. The solution is yet to be found and the problem is only aggravating.

Jaspal Bhatti not only had the audacity to mock at the Indian Babudom but also at himself. Otherwise why would he misdirect a serial and name it Flop Show?

But it was not Flop Show that made Jaspal Bhatti famous throughout the country. Much before Flop Show, it was Ulta Pulta that had made Jaspal Bhatti a household name. Today, can we imagine a person becoming famous throughout the country for the programme that was a filler?

We remembered Jaspal Bhatti even when Flop Show had gone off air.

He continued raising issues that troubled the common man – rise in the price of onions or corruption of government officials.

Once, Jaspal Bhatti suggested that government officials who are honest or not able to indulge in corrupt practices should be given a special allowance so that their income is at par with corrupt officials.

Today, many feel Arvind Kejiwal is fighting against corruption and representing the common man.

I feel that Jaspal Bhatti was the first crusader against corruption and the first representative of the common man. His way was different. He used his creativity, humour and wit instead of fasts and sit-ins.

I cannot identify myself with Arvind Kejriwal but I was able to identify myself with Jaspal Bhatti.

I felt it was a personal loss as I heard the news of his death on television – the same television on which I had seen Flop Show and Ulta Pulta. I think that those who grew up with me also feel the same.

Jaspal Bhatti is dead. May his soul rest in peace. We will always remember him. But it will be a bad thing for India if the issues he had raised through Flop Show and Ulta Pulta remain relevant in the country even 25 or 50 years. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

What irks Sonia Gandhi more – a non-functioning air-conditioner or rapes?

Sonia Gandhi a few years back went on a two-day long visit to her constituency Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.
She was to stay at the guest house of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) during her visit.
Her first day in the constituency was quite hectic. She attended many public functions, met several people and addressed a couple of public meetings.
As an exhausted Sonia Gandhi retired to the guest house at the end of the day, she found the air-conditioner of her suite not working due to power failure. She was furious.
She straightaway phoned and chided Sushil Kumar Shinde who was the power minister at that time.
There were two reasons for Sonia Gandhi calling Sushil Kumar Shinde. Being the power minister, it was his duty to see that the country got sufficient power supply and as the ultimate boss of the NTPC he was responsible for the maintenance of the NTPC guest house at Rae Bareli.
The phone call had the desired effect and within seconds, the air-conditioner in Sonia Gandhi’s room started working.
Sonia Gandhi a couple of days back was in Haryana to meet the family of a rape victim who has committed suicide.
Was it necessary for Sonia Gandhi to visit Haryana where rape incidents have become a routine affair?
What jolted Sonia Gandhi out of her complacence and make her visit Haryana after as many as 12 women and girls had been raped – assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh? 2014 general elections? Charges of corruption against the Congress in general and his son-in-law in particular?
The way Sonia Gandhi called Sushil Kumar Shinde for power failure; she could have easily phoned and rebuked Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda when the first incident of rape had been reported from the state.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a known loyalist of the present Gandhi family. A phone from Sonia Gandhi would have definitely worked. Had Hooda taken stern action after the first incident of rape, 11 more rapes could have been checked.
A 15-year-old girl was raped some time back in Jind district of Haryana. The victim later committed suicide. Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday met the family members of the dead rape victim. She has promised that apart from money and police security, one member of the family will also get a job.
Let’s shift our focus to Uttar Pradesh and rewind a bit once again. Mayawati was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at that time and Rita Bahuguna Joshi was the Uttar Pradesh Congress President.
Rape incidents were rising then in Uttar Pradesh and Mayawati was announcing money as compensation to the rape victims.
Rita Bahugana Joshi had made unsavoury comments about Mahaywati offering money to the rape victims. The Bahujan Samaj Party members were incensed and had attacked Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s house in Lucknow.
Now that Sonia Gandhi is offering compensation to the rape victims of Haryana, would Rita Bahuguna Joshi make some comments or express her views?