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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 5, January 21 & January 28, 2023

Is Bachchan show Kaun Banega Crorepati perpetuating a Hindutva mindset? | Radhakanta Barik

Saturday 21 January 2023

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by Prof Radhakanta Barik *

KAUN BANEGA CROREPATI (KBC), the Indian version of the American TV show, ‘Who Will be Millionaire’ has run for long years. It started in July 2000, has had fourteen seasons and 1,027 episodes. In current times, the immensely popular KBC appears to be tailored to a broad framework of conservative ideology in sync with a Hindutva worldview. The show-makers present as given the belief in Hindu religious tenets (of karma and dharma) in life. Those who do karma get rewarded with big money in their lives. This belief structure suits the KBC’s funders, paving their way to cultivate a new right-wing patronage.

This sort of belief guided the Nobel laureate, V S Naipaul, to write in his novel (1977), India: A Wounded Civilisation, Indira Gandhi’s ‘Garibi Hatao’ project as ‘going against the tenets of Hinduism’. Suffering in poverty is the net result of deeds done in a past life, he reiterated. State intervention to counter poverty was opposed by Hindutva thinkers. Naipaul got the highest praise during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure. But Naipaul’s thesis never went uncontested. (With the Mumbai Literary Festival in 2012 honouring Naipaul for ‘lifetime achievement’, Girish Karnad had stood up at the same forum and critiqued Naipaul. Gita Hariharan, reporting the festival at the time wrote, ‘Girish Karnad was absolutely right to speak up at the venue where Naipaul was honoured. Karnad has reminded us that for writers, all texts, literary debates and political questions form a continuum. As for propriety, why is it that great men like Naipaul are allowed departures from propriety, but not the great and not-so-great writers at home?’ She recalled, ‘In a festival session at Neemrana in 2002, the Great Man threw darts at two of his fears: women and Muslims. He said women writers are banal; he finds them boring. In response, Shashi Deshpande said she found Naipaul’s preoccupation with the loss of an imaginary India boring.’) And the KBC show is, unfortunately, treading the same path.

The same underlying philosophy drives them to package the KBC show on television, keeping Hindutva’s tenets in mind. Here Dalits are being shown as ‘oppressed due to their wrong deeds’ in their previous lives. This is clearly anti-Dalit and reinvents the caste hierarchy.

Kaun Banega Crorepati, presented by the great Amitabh Bachchan, is designed to satisfy the caste-based biases if we go by the questions asked in the programme. In one of the recent episodes, a Mrs Mishra (married to a certain Tripathi) spoke of Shiva, Hanumana, and a host of other Hindu gods, explaining her knowledge of information floating in her caste. And this got her the much sought-after ‘crore’ of rupees as prize money.

A Brahmin woman was being socialised in the context of High Hinduism, which works wonderfully for Hindutva. She knows from her caste tradition of naming children, Aditi vs Diti. The KBC question was: Who is the mother of the Asuras — Diti or Aditi? As she is socialised in the Brahminic ideology, she answered, Diti. It is interesting to note here that she admitted to her caste tradition of naming a girl child Aditi and not Diti.

Then another KBC question was regarding God Shiva letting pigeons hear his secret tête-à-tête with Parvati at a place. Mishra said, she knew about Amarnath in Kashmir where Shiva had given secrets to pigeons. Amitabh Bachchan elaborates it further by explaining how. She admitted in her answer that she knew about the stories of Shiva passing information to pigeons at Amarnath from her cousin. At least a dozen of these questions asked in KBC episodes recently were set on caste-based issues.

It made a viewer like me wonder if the show is designed to make crorepatis only from the high castes?

Furthermore, the RSS ideology works in a subtle manner that women need to be kept within the four walls of the home and they need to take care of the children and not earn money by using their labour productively. Mrs Mishra is a housewife and turns into a crorepati in one episode to justify the philosophy of women according to Mohan Bhagwat.

KBC seems to these days be carefully crafted to fit into the ideological contours of Hindutva and is neatly propagating these in a hugely popular entertainment forum. It is obvious to viewers that at times, the dialogue between the one sitting in the hot seat and Amitabh Bachchan is geared to speak for Modi and Shah. In the hot seat occupied by Rajni Mishra from Bihar, the questions were formulated to speak within the caste ideology which is a substructure of Hindutva. Bachchan being an important figure from the Hindi film world, when in dialogue with those sitting in the hot seat, thus plays a subtle role in propagating the ideology of Hindutva and furthering Modi and Shah as a part of the BJP’s election campaign. Let us examine this further.

A question regarding ‘who is not a chief minister’ in the list of four pictures showed photographs of three BJP chief ministers and Amit Shah, who is not a CM. The lady answered Shah, but Bachchan went on to elaborated on the subject in his dramatic style, which helps the BJP’s cause greatly.

Yet another question was about ‘Where is the bridge named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee located?’ She answered, it is in Ahmedabad. It should have ended here but Bachchan went on to elaborate that it is after Modi became the Prime Minister that the bridge got inaugurated. This brings to the fore the truth underlying the KBC programme, presented by Amitabh Bachchan, which has perhaps begun working for the BJP, the ruling party and is helping with spreading the ideology of Brahminism and Hindutva.

It is troubling to hear the stories and content being aired on KBC, sponsored by a popular television channel creating an illusion for the public in a particular ideological framework. This needs to be exposed.

(Autor: Prof Radha Kanta Barik retired as a member of the faculty of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi.)

Edited by Papri Sri Raman

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