Shailesh Kapoor: Mahabharat at home, Grand Masti outside home!

27 Sep,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


Two weeks ago, Grand Masti, an adult comedy packed with double entendre jokes (the kind where there you get only the “second meaning”), opened to phenomenal box-office, registering Rs 400 million on its first weekend. This huge opening made Grand Masti the fourth highest Bollywood opener of 2013, ahead of several A-list starrers.


There was little doubt that Grand Masti will open well, but I was personally caught off-guard by the degree of its wellness. Evidently, a population of youth came out in big numbers to watch “sexy jokes”. It’s safe to say that many of them are not even regular moviegoers: The idea of watching verbal porn got them to the theatres as an exception.


Three days after Grand Masti released, Star Plus launched Mahabharat at 8.30pm. The show has opened to very good ratings, with the first week’s average of 3.1 TVR making it in the first instance of any fiction launch crossing the 3-TVR mark in its first week since (at least) 2011.


It’s well-known that TV viewing is largely a family affair in India, and the youth are involved, actively or passively, too. I’m, thus, intrigued by a 19-year something young boy from somewhere in Chandigarh or Indore, who watches Grand Masti on Friday with his bunch of college friends, laughing his heart out at every joke, and then joins his parents to watch Mahabharat on Monday. And probably enjoys that too!


Several media observers and social commentators will label this behaviour as hypocritical. It’s been argued for ages that there is a cultural hypocrisy in India, where we, the second most populous country in the world, can’t just get ourselves to talk about sex comfortably. In turn, it leads to a sexually suppressed population, especially the teenagers and the youth, an audience Grand Masti instantly caters to.


But there’s more to it than just the sexual suppression. The more we study the youth, the more we realize that there home v/s outside separation is a well thought-out one. It has been created by their generation as a legitimate method of functioning in a society where family values are still paramount. And it goes beyond just sexual expression.


For example, more than 80% Indian youth who smoke would hide it from their parents. The number is equally high for those who consume alcohol. And I suspect the number doesn’t change much even when you enter your late 20s and the 30s. Parents, after all, shall always remain parents.


From the appropriateness of language to dressing to habits, everything has a home-version and an outside-version (or friends-version). The former is designed to run the institution of family smoothly (and not grudgingly so, at all) and the latter to have some legitimate fun at the right age.


Now one would expect that as these youngsters grow up and became parents, this dichotomy would perish, as they will be more “open-minded” and “approachable” as parents. No, it won’t. Because it’s not about approachability anyway. It’s about the voluntary adoption of family values, when in a family context. It’s an inbuilt mechanism that triggers off at the right situation, like it does when they are with their family even today. And it will trigger off in its full glory when they get married themselves.


Most of the television success stories (fiction) over the last decade have been created around the importance of the institution of family in India. When Grand Masti is telecast on TV, it will be censored beyond recognition, and then rate poorly. But even if they allowed it to be telecast uncensored, it would have rated poorly anyway. Because the big television rule remains: When at home, do as the home-members do!


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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