I was an avid fan of Vijay TV’s Neeya Naana talk show. I like the constructive discussions between general public. Other debates on TV focus on how well a person can debate. But, I thought Neeya Naana was focusing on facts and public awareness.
While watching the show a month earlier, my husband noticed a running scroll at the bottom inviting participation applications from women professionals So, I applied for it.
A week later, I got a call from Vijay TV. The topic was “Are men having a good time.., or are they toiling hard”? The caller was from Neeya Naana and he asked for my views on this topic. My instant reply was that I cannot generalize men. He urged me to answer it based on my general perception of men. As the discussion progressed, he asked me if I think being born as a man is fortunate and if I would like to be born as a man in my next birth. I do not believe in next birth.. and even if there was one, I am comfortable being born as who I am now. Based on this, he concluded that I think men toil hard. He asked if I can come to Prasad Studios in Chennai the next morning. I confirmed that I would be there the next day morning.
We drove from Pollachi to Chennai that night. We reached Prasad Studio in Vadapalani around 9.30 AM. We registered my name with the Neeya Naana team there. During registration, the topic conveyed to me was slightly different. It was “How do women view men – are men dominating or responsible?”
There was a steady flow of participants till 10.30 AM. There were chairs for participants outside the studio. Breakfast was also served at the Studio. Most of the participants were busy discussing and debating points. A few were calling up friends and relatives to inform of their participation in Neeya Naana. 3 ladies had already participated in Neeya Naana before. We waited outside the Studio till 11.30 AM.
We were finally called in to the Studio. Names were called out and participants were sorted as per their views – Men supporters on one side and Men haters on the other side. Lights were switched on.. the Neeya Naana set was there in front of us. We were allocated seats. But, the seating arrangements were changed again and again for an hour. Reason given for this was participant’s dress colors and appearance should look well spread out when viewed on TV.
The next one hour was extremely boring. We were asked to clap continuously with a smile on our faces. Then, we were asked to look straight for 10 minutes. These were recorded. This continued for around an hour while we waited for Mr. Gopinath, the famous host of Neeya Naana. Mr. Antony, the director of Neeya Naana, instructed both sides of participants. He gave us a list of points to be spoken about, and a list of points to be avoided. After this, his assistants instructed participants on the do’s and dont’s.. like don’t grab the mike, instead ask for it etc.
Finally, Mr. Gopinath arrived. He had a brief discussion with the director, followed by a briefing with the assistants. It was past noon when the show started. Mr. Gopinath introduced the topic as “Women’s view of Men – Carefree or Suffering”. He started with the carefree side. Around 70% of what Mr. Gopinath spoke was prompted by the director. At first, I felt strange that there was an echo for anything he says. Then I realized that it was the director prompting loudly. It looks like Mr.Gopinath or Mr.Antony had specific points in mind. As the mike moved among participants, they allowed a few participants to talk for long about specific points, but gave rude rebukes to a few participants for other points.
For Ex.., the lady who started talking about her personal experiences was rudely asked to stop. Mr. Gopinath instructed her was not to talk about personal “stories”. But another young lady who spoke of her team mates behaviour was encouraged to talk. This young lady did not use respectful language ( her exact words were “thanni adichittu mattai aagiduvanga”). But she was encouraged to continue talking.
After 30 minutes of talking to the carefree side, Mr.Gopinath appeared stressed out. He said he was frustrated because participants were not giving answers as he expected. For the next one hour, Mr.Gopinath picked out participants one by one, and threw questions at them on a host of men related issues. Those who could not give a satisfactory answer got harsh rebukes. At the end of an hour, most of the participants on that side were hushed up.
Only a few were encouraged by Mr.Gopinath to tell their views. These views were countered by a few ladies seated in the first row of the opposite side. Participants in the other rows kept voicing their views from the opposite side. Their views went unnoticed. Ladies in the first row appeared keen to keep the mike with them. Those who dared to shout out their views from the other rows were silenced by Mr.Gopinath. He said that participants in the first row have answered his question and further replies were not needed.
By then it was already 1.30 PM. Lunch was served. Many participants in the men – supporters side were disappointed that they never got a chance to tell their views. They asked the Neeya Naana team about this. Prompt came the reply that they can speak up in the remaining segments. A few others approached the director, Mr.Antony, and asked for a chance to tell their views. We saw Mr.Antony passing on the message to Mr.Gopinath.
Post lunch, Mr.Gopinath’s focus was on the men – supporters side. Mr. Gopinath raised a few points spoken by the opposite team. He asked participants to counter these views. One of the participants in the first row was a lawyer. She was a voracious public speaker. She fiercely guarded the mike, answering loudly in English for every single question. She ensured that no one else got a chance to talk. Many times, Mr.Gopinath had to remind her that this was not a fierce debate, but a public discussion.
By then, other participants had been waiting for long. They loudly demanded for a chance to tell out their views. Mr. Gopinath used the same approach again. His question was about health problems faced by men. He pointed to a lady aged around 45 years to answer this. She said men were responsible towards family commitments and that she wanted to talk about family related issues faced by men. Mr.Gopinath replied in a stern and harsh tone that she had raised her voice asking for a chance to talk, but when he gave her that chance she is not talking sensibly. The poor lady had tears in their eyes.
Mr.Gopinath continued the same with anyone who dared to raise their voice asking for a chance to talk. After an hour, all the participants were silenced. Either they were afraid to speak out, or were tired and had lost hope of voicing their views. After that, it was mostly a discussion between 4 – 5 participants and Mr. Gopinath. But, even this discussion was not interesting or sensible.
A participant in the first row of Men supporters side said that her husband was coming home late due to work, and their sexual life was miserable. This was countered by a young girl in the other side who said that in the fast life today, sexual happiness should be compromised, and it was not really a problem for men!
Another lady who had impressed Mr.Gopinath earlier on was given a chance to speak. She said that if both the husband and wife were working, they never had any interest in sexual happiness. The next half an hour was spent listening to this discussion. Mr.Gopinath and Mr.Anotny appeared quite pleased with the discussion between the 3 ladies. They sat in silence listening with a contentment written on their faces.
After half an hour, Mr.Gopinath was prompted by the director to applaud this discussion. He promptly claimed that he was proud of this discussion. He also proudly announced with this discussion proved how intelligent Tamil women were!
The show was nearing its final stage. Mr. Ram, Tamil film director, was the special guest invited for this episode. Not sure why no psychologist, or thinker or writer was invited to preside over this.. instead, it was a film director. By then, I had a splitting head ache and could not take any more of this. So, I decided to leave during the next break. It was 4 PM when I left.
To summarize the show on one sentence – it is completely mismanaged. Most of the arguments and discussions we see on TV are edited and tailored. Actual shooting happens for 6 hours. This is edited and tailored to a one hour episode. So, the show aired on TV is not a genuine public talk show. It is a highly tailored and edited talk show.
Mr.Gopinath’s reply to lady participants is harsh and insulting. A talk show is one where participants engage in constructive discussions, not one where the host keeps bringing down the participant’s self respect.
Tamil Media and Film industry has a section of people who project themselves as intellectuals. They acquire knowledge about social issues through books or movies. After this, they showcase the same issues in their films and shows. Then they become intellectuals overnight.
In addition, if this issue is related to Eelam Tamilians, or about Fishermen problems in Tamil Nadu, or about Marxist ideologies, etc.., the person is sure to be branded as an intellect in Tamil Film Industry. These intellectuals treat others who are not focusing on these issues as inferior common men.
A Participant’s Anguish:
I understand that the Neeya Naana team has the right to decide whose views to edit and whose views to broadcast. But do they have the right to invite participants and finally do not let them speak a word. Do they understand that participants travel at their own cost (many participants were not from Chennai), spend their time (it was a working day and women professionals were participating).. and finally get insulted by Mr.Gopinath?
Mr.Gopinath and the director appeared angry and tense throughout the show. At one point, Mr.Gopinath yelled out to the crew members, loudly shouting at them to lower the ear piece volume. It took him a minute to recover his pose and talk in a normal tone. Similar incidents kept happening through out.
If this show is well planned, organized and managed more efficiently, it would be a better and enjoyable experience for Mr.Gopinath, the Neeya Naana team and for the participants.
My participation in Neeya Naana turned to be a very bitter experience. I took almost a week to forget the bitter memories. Why invite 50 professionals from across Tamil Nadu, shout at them and insult them, encourage senseless discussions for the sake of TRP, falsely propagate a sense of Tamil pride, include comments that degrade women and alienate migrants in Tamil Nadu, etc?
It has been 2 weeks since this happened. I have not watched Vijay TV since then… I will probably not watch Vijay TV at all in future. It is better to be at peace, rather than to be lured by such senseless media.