Slice of Life
Contrary to the initial trepidation, the judges came in droves. Familiar faces, new faces, some confident, some tense, some vituperative, some gentle: this was a unique chance to see them all under the same auditorium roof in the rare near-mortal avataar. The judges were there to participate in the preliminary round of the 'Judge Supreme' contest, the brainchild of yours truly.
But first, a bit of a background. Until a few months ago, I will not lie to you friends, I was feeling like the most worthless creature on earth. Here we are fortunate to be born in South Asia, the most talented region of the world, where young people can sing, dance, gyrate, act, mime, imitate, expose, become DJs-VJs-RJs, ride motorbikes and trucks, undercut, even sabotage, all in the genuine belief that they have been sent on earth only to perform. But there I sat before the television, week after week, thinking I was the only one not good enough to be up there.
So I thought of a novel way to get noticed: organise a talent hunt for the best judge in the region! Now that's a tough call. The veteran judges frowned. Some said it is unethical. Critics and television industry experts said that judges are next only to God; they can make you or break you, you can't sashay them down saying one is worse than the other.
"No, no, I will just show that one is better than the other." I explained, giving the programme's stated policy.
Will not work, they retorted. The judges will go on strike. What will happen to the other programmes? And you will be finished for life.
"No, no, you don't get it. I will not judge them. The viewers alone will vote them in, or throw them out. No malice, trust me, only a faceless mass's verdict." I had to make it work, for my sake.
You are finished, the experts said.
I thought about it at length. The judges couldn't have done anything to me personally because I don't possess any of the above talents. And as far as the other producers getting negatively impacted by my programme are concerned, well, it is their headache. Fingers crossed, the contest was announced with much fanfare in all the South Asian countries simultaneously.
And the demi-gods actually came! They queued up, they filled up, and they arrived on the assigned date. Who doesn't want to get noticed? And the already-noticed don't mind getting further noticed. Moreover, I also saw people like me, who were not already a Someone, but wanted to be one, and therefore, had come to audition.
You must appreciate the fact that it is not easy to handle so many contestants at the same time: all of them established or prospective epitomes of meanness, and all with bloated egos to match to boot. Trouble ensued when we requested them to take their seats. Used to being seated in a way that the spotlight falls on them alone, all thousand of them vied for the first row. Chaos erupted, as they resorted to grandiloquent invectives over essential matters like occupying the right seats. I suggested they stand on top of one another, but again, no one was ready to be the ones at the bottom. Then I suggested they show us their halos; the ones with the largest would occupy the first row. But alas! They had nothing to show. So I arranged them alphabetically, surname first. Few among them did try changing their surnames on the spot, but then, we had the entry forms to check back with. This initial crisis tided over. And peace, thereafter.
The process of elimination was simple, and enlightening. We couldn't have made the venerated lot go up and do a jig; it is far too juvenile. So they were each given a paragraph to write on 'My Nastiest Best with the Contestants…' Some answers were spectacular for their sheer vividness. Few misunderstood the topic, and wrote in context of their co-participants in the hall. But I must say, all the write-ups were straight from the heart.
Impossible as it was to make the final selections (you can't assign more weightage to one form of meanness, or one invective, over the other). So back stage, we just did our inee, meenie, myna, mo, and had our finalists ready in a jiffy. These few made it to the TV rounds.
The show topped the popularity charts. As I had envisaged, viewers from all South Asian countries tuned in to vote. SMS' poured in from all regions, our six dedicated land lines were busy all day (we had calls coming in at even four in the morning!). The format we followed was uncomplicated. Rather than having live performances to judge, these contestants were shown unidentified clippings from movies which they had to mark on some prefixed parameters. Being constantly used to public scrutiny, the actors featuring in the clippings didn't think it necessary to react to the criticisms.
The programme was such a success that all the big Market Research companies jumped in with their (independent) surveys. Mind you, none of these was sponsored: I swear by my principles. They asked me for my personal preferences, but I declined. Ethics didn't permit that.
The studies revealed some startling trends. My show had spawned an entire industry of by-essentials. Language-speaking classes saw big-time enrolments; the emphasis was on the correct use of words for laudatory comments as well as for sharp criticism, delivered politely in conjunction with the appropriate use of fingers (a marginal rise in the sale of nail paints and rings was also reported). Fly-by-night publishers started circulating booklets like the "1001 Best Questions For Judges" at major crossroads. Lounge Bar-cum-addas opened especially for the dejected judge-clientele, the ones who had been voted out. Theatre groups started sending me bouquets, as the contestants felt a need to perfect their theatrics, and thronged to these groups. The specific areas of interest were the dramatic use of eyes, flaring of nostrils, rotational movement of the head for the different reactions expressed non-verbally. Being a judge is not easy; having to compete for being the best, even more difficult.
Weeks rolled by, and we had the first ever 'Judge Supreme' in our midst. I made my millions in the process. The gala finale had one final question for the viewers. "Would you like to see your chosen one judging any of your performances?" Within twenty four hours, we had 10% aye, ayes, 70% nay nay's, and 20% not sure's. This final category, I'm sure would have seen my programme only in snatches.
But the Judge Supreme is buoyant, and unfazed, to say the least. I've heard she is planning to start the 'Institute of Judging as a Fine Art' soon. She requested me to promote her institute in the second series of Judge-hunt that started getting aired from last night, but I declined. I remain, as neutral as I was, before sudden stardom kissed me. And I'm no longer feeling useless.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005