Yesterday, Zee TV telecast a program called Little Champs Sa Re Ga Ma Pa , with Anna Hazare as a guest. I am no TV enthusiast but I switched on the TV yesterday as a gesture of support to the meaningful and well-intentioned anti-corruption movement that Anna Hazare is leading. Moved by the simple, down to earth, warm manner in which Anna exhorted the audience to do their bit to rid the country of corruption, I requested FB friends to switch on their TVs as well. It was a delightful program -----Anna spoke with simplicity and humility and a great deal of emotion, the children sang outstandingly well, and it was hard not to get tearful at the beautiful rendition of such songs as " ae mere watan ke logo".
However, not everyone liked the idea of Anna appearing on television in this kind of a program. Was the appearance akin to,say, Amitabh Bachchan appearing on Little Champs ahead of the release of Aarakshan?
Amitabh Bachchan is an actor, he uses the public media to enlarge his audience and generate higher profits for the movie's producer who has paid him the crores of rupees that AB gets paid for starring in a movie. Anna Hazare is a social worker, who uses the public media to spread the message that Indians must step forward and save their country from certain ruin. He does not gain personally from the message, unless one counts greater participation of people in an anti corruption movement as personal gain for Anna.
What Anna and Amitabh Bachchan have in common is that they both use the same medium to spread their message. Does the fact that Amitabh Bachchan uses public media for pecuniary gain preclude Anna from using the same medium for public good? I think not.
There was a time when TV meant only educational programs or agricultural extension programs or news broadcasts. We have traveled a long way from those days, and today TV is probably the most significant source of entertainment for millions of Indians. We cannot lose sight of the fact, however, that TV can and should also educate. Were Amitabh Bachchan to hesitate to appear on TV to make a plea that more and more people watch his movie so that he can earn more, for fear of being considered mercenary, while the likes of Anna exploited the massive reach of television to awaken Indians from their deep slumber and remind them of their duties as citizens, we'd probably be a better nation than we are today.