It was my unfortunate lot to be witness to a nauseating abuse of power and human degradation the other day on an episode of “Anupam Kher Show” where two senior actors whom I happened to admire until that point of time decided that they would gang up and have some fun at the expense of a poor, hapless young member of the audience, from a less privileged part of society than his glittering inquisitioners, who had won an ill-fated lottery for the opportunity to meet these dazzling stars of the firmament on stage.
Kher hit the ground running, mocking the poor chap’s apparently indifferent reaction (which might have just been startlement at being selected) as severely lacking in enthusiasm. A few cheap laughs were duly elicited from the hired audience. Kher then gave the fellow a chance to ask the guest, actress Vidya Balan, a question and duly gave himself another opportunity to run him down for the time he took to think, remarking that the silence was worrying himself and Vidya. Balan, taking the cue, started laughing uncontrollably at the wretched soul’s predicament, thereby irretrievably deepening it.
The poor wretch, by now, drowning in a sea of public humiliation, managed to squeeze out a question regarding Balan’s hubbie and whether she was happy the first time she met him. This duress induced inquiry was sufficient trigger to send Balan into uncontrollable paroxysms of frankly, hideous laughter, ringing with unmistakeable insinuations of a lack of intelligence and confidence on the questioner’s part. Kher, at this time, felt the uncontrollable urge to chime in with his expert comments, further degrading the questioner, the gleam of the kill glinting in his sinister eyes. Balan of course was in hysterics by now. Rather macabrely, both the inquisitioners seemed to be reveling in their prisoner’s discomfort, which was by now rather acute.
Kher now bizzarely wanted to know what kind of wife the fellow wanted. The poor guy, by now, utterly dazed and bewildered, couldn’t get a single word out. Kher, undaunted, proceeded to interrogate him on his love life and ridiculed him for not having a girlfriend. Balan, like an opportunistic jackal prowling alongside an attacking lion, interjected with a question of her own. What would he even do if he met a potential girlfriend, she wanted to know, since he surely wouldn’t be able to say anything to her.
Kher plowed on, relentlessly obnoxious. He wanted, nay, demanded to know what type of girl the guy wanted. He had, for all intents and purposes, morphed from a talk show host into a sleazy pimp. Balan, now vibrating on Kher’s precise wavelength, delivered the punch line for him this time, megalomaniacally remarking that he ought to simply say, a girl like herself. And promptly proceeded to dissolve into peals of laughter.
Kher was far from done though. He wouldn’t rest until he had ripped his writhing prey to shreds. He persisted with his demand to know what kind of girl was needed. By now, any answer the pitiable chap could have squeezed out would have been turned by Kher the masterful, Kher the obnoxious, into a mocking insult. No words were forthcoming as a result of this predicament.
Kher, by now determined to blast the last atom of self-respect out of the fellow, proceeded to openly berate and taunt him, mocking him for his silence, remarking that his parents, even his grandfather would be watching on TV, and what would they say if he didn’t speak. Finally, apparently either satisfied with his conquest or more likely due to lack of time, he ended the gory ordeal by having Balan present the chap, by now a mental wreck, with a gift-wrapped box. Balan of course couldn’t resist the opportunity to get one final dig in about the box possibly being empty. No points for guessing that she giggled like an uncontrollable teenage idiot at her own joke.
These may be ultra-successful individuals inebriated with the elixir of fame who have scaled the Everest of commercial success. However, to me they are below sea level as far as being good human beings is concerned. A good human being would have had the good grace and generosity of spirit to alleviate the unfortunate participant’s nerves and put him at ease rather than mocking and aggravating them. Like Spielberg, who as Balan herself remarked on the show, made her, a Hollywood non-entity, feel at ease on their first encounter. Regrettably, Balan couldn’t sufficiently elevate her spirit to pass the favor on, pouncing instead on the opportunity to boost her own considerably inflated ego instead. As for Kher, the less said, the better. He is a soul absolutely beyond redemption.
These mega personalities are understandably very comfortable in the limelight. Would it have been asking too much of them to make someone not as comfortable facing the cameras feel at ease in this asymmetric encounter? Were the discounted laughs they enjoyed that day really worth the lifetime of mortification the wretched participant now has to endure? Did they really have to push this guy to the brink and debase his self-worth in order to assert their own superiority and pump up their own bloated egos?