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.