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THE GR8! MAG 10TH ANNIVERSARY PHOTOSHOOT
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Fright or Farce? - Fear Files (Zee)

There we go again!

For the nth time, the medium of TV is being (mis)used to endorse Occult, Exorcism, Aatma, Apparition, Bhoot-Pret, even Jinn. Problem here is not for using them as gripping ploys in story-telling – any maker is perfectly entitled to use fantasy or myth as a tool for his plots… the problem here is – and a truly alarming one at that – to present it in the wrap of reality!

We do not and cannot have a quarrel with granny’s old-wives-tales of phantoms & fairies, or the witchcraft & wizardry of the Alif-Laila, or even the rubber masks of ghosts from Ramsay Brothers, because they only try to take us on an adrenalin-rushing trip of Phantasia. But when someone plays the smart-alec by tossing onto us the ‘Interviews’ with ‘Real’ people, who, then, swear by the spooky stuff that ‘happened’ to them and this is coupled with the ‘enactment’ of the ‘happening’ while garnishing it with ‘expert’ opinion or explanation – it is time to call the bluff!

The fact is that it means nothing to parade A, B or C who claims an encounter with the paranormal phenomena. Such claims have never ever stood the tests of science. Since nearly 130 years, when Max Dessoir coined the term – ‘Parapsychology’, such claims have always been proven, on stringent scientific scrutiny, as at worst – mostly frauds and at best – just an amalgamation of illusion, delusion, religious bias and the human need for wonderment and the obsession with magic.

People are dying to believe in the unknown – perhaps to clutch onto a meaning of life by confirming the life after life. Hence, just because someone goes on this trip of ‘Ek tha bhoot – maine dekha’ and you flaunt him or her on National Television, doesn’t make ‘Fear Files’ a ‘Docu-Drama’ as claimed on the Channel’s official website.

Just look at the mumbo-jumbo presented on a platter to us in a couple of stories…

There is this one called ‘Vastu’, where a minister moves into a supposedly cursed or haunted house to live there along with his wife, mother and daughter.

Now funny things start happening to the daughter. It so seems that the ghosts residing in the house are suddenly smitten by the girl, Aleena and then, such moronic things happen as the phone ringing and the ghost’s voice drawling at the other end – ‘Ab tum hamaari ho’! Some gadget-savvy ghost that! Why couldn’t he just say it to her rather than taking the trouble of dialling in?

An exorcist type, Tiwariji is summoned and he says the place is constructed with wrong Vastu to serve as a prison for the Aatmas trapped there and the Aatmas are all out to possess the girl.

At this, the family decides to leave this ‘Aatma-Tihaad’ – but all hell breaks loose. In typical B-grade movies’ style, the soundtrack starts shrieking with cacophonous keyboard stuff, while doors keep shamming in their faces.

Finally, the onus of saving the girl falls on the grandma – it seems the Aatmas could settle for swapping the old woman with the young girl. Some drops of blood on a nail and the main gate opens to let the family escape.

The smart Tiwariji has already left with the pretext – ‘Aapke liye praarthna karni hai…!’

This whole thing about jailed Aatmas is self-contradictory in the utmost. In one breath, it is claimed that these Aatmas can do anything – thunder, plunder, murder or whatever… and then in the same breath we are told that they just got trapped by shifting the entrance of the house southwards or some such. Isn’t the very concept of an Aatma borders on the premise that it is beyond time and space? How can East, West, North, South affect them, then?

And this whole thing about treating human bodies as some kind of MHADA flats that can be possessed or lived in by ghosts in patently and pathetically weird and dim-witted to boot.

Besides, the all powerful Aatmas have to shut a door to stop someone from escaping? How much more inane you can be?

And this whole business of the Aatma killing its victim is so ludicrous, if you look closely! Isn’t it so that the Aatma can make a human being’s life hell, because the ‘alive’ are helpless before it as it has supra-natural powers? That’s how it can toss its victims to the ceiling, pummel them to pulp with unseen punches and wreak all sorts of atrocities on the poor, powerless earthlings.

Now, why would an Aatma blunder to change that status by killing a human – because then the human will also become an Aatma and be armed with the same supra-natural powers, himself. In that case, won’t he give hell to the offending spirit?

That’s how erroneous all these beliefs are!

Coming to the second story, ‘Jinn’, we go on an even more bizarre trip when one real life ‘Suhana’ recounts as to how she was stalked by a jinn, who finally killed her husband and came to her in his appearance gushing, ‘Aaj purani aarzoo poori hogi saalon baad!’

So the fella is no more than a sex-starved fiend, who just wants to fulfil his lust. He keeps murdering at will anybody who tries to expose him to Suhana, like Imtiaz who is a friend of her late husband’s. It also kills the exorcist, Jaffrey, who was approached by Imtiaz to rid Suhana of the Jinn’s evil clutch.

Finally, in true filmi style, Suhana sprays kerosene on herself and lights a matchstick before the Jinn, threatening to kill herself (she doesn’t touch herself with the lit matchstick, though – instead, she just keeps holding it while giving the Jinn a long spiel about the evil he has done).

The Jinn turns a hurt lover at her rejection (what made him ever think that she would accept him?) and sacrifices his la amour, the Jinnish so that she may ‘live’!

How touching and what a Majnu of a Jinn!

But if only her will was what mattered to him, then he knew all along that she loved only her husband. So why did he at all possess her? Anyway, why waste time and energy in hunting for rationale in the ridiculous? Also, come to think of it, how convenient it is and how ‘pat’ it fits that a Jinn comes to a Muslim Suhana and an Aatma to a Hindu family. Indeed, what stereotypically racial ones the supernatural are!

As for the ‘expert’, the less said the better, because her (Dr Shrikhande) presence or otherwise on the show hardly makes a difference to whatever you’ve been seeing till she appears on the screen. Like, in the Jinn story, she sheds no light on the happenings therein, but just goes on with such drivel as ‘Aap Sabne Aladin aur Jinn ke bare mein suna hoga… It is said that Allah ne Jinn ko apni worsip ke liye smokeless fire se banaaya tha… blah, blah…!’

What? Did we hear you correctly, Doctor? �Did you say – ‘It is said’? Are you there to tell us what has been ‘said’ in Arabian Nights’ tales et al or to examine microscopically whatever is being shown? She concludes with a priceless gem – ‘Jinn nahin dikhte hain, toh Jinn nahin hain’…! Is she trashing the claims of the so-called real life incident, then? Well, your guess is as good as ours!

In the ‘Vastu’ story when she appears, suddenly after a little while her voice is drowned in a male Voiceover that goes on to say on her behalf that Dr Mehta is saying that, ‘Aisa kaha jaata hai ki Vastu dosh waale ghar mein…’!

So again that ‘It is said’ bit is cropping up here instead of some insights into the outlandish nature of the story. And tell us, why at all a voiceover speaking on her behalf? She is even talking in Hindi!�

Anyway, there are also 5-second disclaimers and mandatory scrolls of ‘not aiming to give a boost to Superstition and Blind Faith’. But that’s exactly what you are doing, guys, by packaging the whole thing as real. And make no mistake about it – it’s far more dangerous and damaging for a country like ours where people at large are even today shackled in these beliefs.

Countless are here who are compulsive-obsessive about believing in the occult at the drop of a hat and at the slightest cue, too, like the one which such stories can easily generate for them. You almost hear drawing rooms buzzing with ‘Dekha, Main Na Kahta Tha, Bhoot-Pret Hote Hain, Ab Toh TV Ne Bhi Dikha Dee Real Stories’…!

Yes, that’ll fill your coffers – but isn’t there a certain something called ‘Social Responsibility’ for content-creators?

Maybe, ours is a cry in wilderness…

But we’ll keep crying!

- Vierendra Bhargav