HYDERABAD: First there is a disclaimer that all parties in the show are participating willingly. While the background music echoes an emotional tone, veteran actress Sumalatha enters the screen followed by the title Samsaram oka Chadarangam on MAA TV. This is followed by a soothing voice giving us a a little background about a couple (on the screen), who fell in love, eloped, got married and two years and two children later they decided to split. Reason: The wife was unfaithful claims the husband and the husband is violent claims the wife. Amidst family members, a lawyer, a counsellor, and a few cameras and millions watching them, they decide to come up with a solution.
Sumalatha is the moderator. The man begins to speak and five minutes later he says, “He caught the wife intimately involved with someone else.” As the episode progresses, the counsellor declares that the husband is a ‘ violent psycho’ and a ‘liar’. They have to seek psychological help, he insists. The lawyer says that they are both lying and need to speak and resolve the matter. “Move closer to her. Come on, tell her, assure her that you will change,” insists Sumalatha. Man hold the wife’s hand and says, “Nenu manchiga marutha.” Children come back, hug the parents and it is a happy ending.
Not just this one. Jeevitha Rajasekhar hosts Bathuku Jatka Bandi designed on similar lines and Andamaina Jeevitha that has a host of celebrities is another.
Are the endings as happy as they show them to be?
“I doubt it,” says psychologist Dr Radhika Acharya. Going only by what is shown on the screen she justifies, “The hosts are judgemental and the solutions that they come up with are not neutral.” She also points to the fact that when people are in front of cameras, they are not their usual self. “First, they are being judged, so they will get defensive and that will be of no use. Then, there are on camera, which means they are not in their comfort zone and also can be manipulated,” she explains.
Another counsellor Dr Vasuprada Kartic feels that in certain ways it is an advantage. “A number of people, especially parents are coming forward to talk about problems their daughters face. Earlier they wouldn’t want to fight for anything. Involvement of families was a taboo,” she says. Dr Vasuprada herself has come across people who would want to take their cases to these shows because they think there is justice. “This is like instant social justice and these people generally do not have the financial back up to fight their case in the court of law. They seek help from here,” she explains.
But she also agrees with Dr Radhika and says that there is definitely a flipside to it.
“They are on a TV show and they hold the anchor, who is a veteran actress, in high esteem. So their judgement is likely to be clouded. That responsibility lies with the host,” says Dr Vasuprada. Both the doctors also point out that children, who are often brought to the sets are the most affected of the lot.
“Even if the father is a drunkard and the mother is stupid to let her husband abuse her, they are their heroes. That image is being tainted when they are made to sit in front of people judging them,” says Dr Radhika, while Dr Vasuprada says, “They will be left traumatised. Children generally are not allowed to witness such discussions because they cannot comprehend what is happening. It will leave deep impressions on their psyche,” she explains. Dr Radhika is also concerned about the approach of dealing with problems. “There have to multiple sessions and counselling is about showing people the reality. It is not about telling them that you are bad or good. That is precisely what is happening on the show,” she rues.
Though the shows educate women about their legal rights, for example how the Section 498A works against domestic violence, it is still flawed, agrees Dr Vasuprada. “Children will want to take one side, see one parent as good – these things need to be dealt with carefully. But people are seeing something good coming out of it,” she feels.