Last week, Jai Arjun Singh, in his terrific blog Jabberwock, described the current television version of Krishna in the new Mahabharata, as a “smug, forever-in-control avatar, constantly manipulating events towards the Greater Good”. The Krishna character’s conceited smile gets under my skin too, often making me want to just shake him hard to get that smug grin off his face. Nevertheless, the actor plays a God and Gods can afford to be smug and superior to the rest of us mortals, this interpretative conceit forgiven in the context of an entertainment television show.
The problem is when lesser mortals adopt this God-like conceit.
I am sure most of you have seen the advertisement that has been playing on television for the last couple of weeks that has Mr. Aamir Khan, well into the late night, looking out the verandah and betting on who will stop at the red light. There is a straight line drawn by this and the other ads that have been airing along with it; those who stop at the signal when it turns red are the ones who will watch Satyameva Jayate II and by inference are the only ones who love their country!
…that assumes that SJ II is anything more than just another voyeuristic reality show, like all others, eventually geared towards garnering eyeballs and advertising revenue.
…that disingenuously brushes aside all factual errors with the specious argument that Mr. Aamir Khan is just an anchor presenting the show and not really responsible for the contents that “his” team puts together.
…that assumes that those who watch or will watch SJ II are the only ones interested in bringing about the right kind of change in this country.
Smugness eventually becomes creepy and makes us question everything that a person stands for, especially when we can’t figure out that person for what he/she really is. WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), a big deal in the early days of Windows and the later days of DOS is equally important in real life.
Coincidentally, the February 18 edition of the New York Times has an op-ed piece by Mr. David Brooks titled “The Prodigal Sons”, where he talks about a father’s two sons, one who “takes his inheritance money early and blows it up on prostitutes and riotous living” and the other, who is upright and works hard and takes care of the father. To the hard-working son’s horror, when the errant son returns for good, the father runs out, embraces and welcomes the prodigal son back. When confronted, the father reasons that his long lost son has now been finally “found”, whereas his hardworking son has anyway always been with him and will always be around.
The father’s disconnected but instinctive behavior has a deeper explanation. Those who claim to live righteously unfortunately are also often conceited, smug and rude, the way Mr. T N Seshan once used to be and the way Mr. Modi is these days. This conceit is a mask by itself, a layered veneer that hides the real person, unlike the WYSIWYG individual, the errant son, who is what he is, nothing more, nothing less! As I mentioned to Jessy when she was upset with someone…we tend to easily excuse an honest idiot’s consistent idiotic behavior, but become suspicious of even the most innocent action of a conceited person.
Krishna can get away with being smug, because he is a God. The rest of us mortals…we can only fool some of the people and ourselves some of the time.