Comedy shows that bring tears to our eyes through their low-quality jokes and serious ones that make us laugh courtesy of their ludicrousness, define television viewing in India where the lines between news and entertainment are increasingly blurred. As if witnessing the worst atrocities on mankind in Afghanistan, ever-increasing threats of terrorism and expansionism in most parts of the world and real-life crime, rape and domestic violence aren’t enough, we have tearjerkers induced into reality shows. Even the ones intended to nourish the brain with intelligent quizzing like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, where participants make money answering questions alternating between silly and serious are excessively imbued with the dramatic. I was shocked to watch an episode where a participant, supposedly a no-nonsense policewoman, shed tears that came out like an unceasing torrent forcing the superstar host Amitabh Bachchan to remind her that he couldn’t wait all day for her to come to grips with her emotions. When she finally calmed down and sat comfortably in the hot seat facing “God incarnate”, she asked for permission to speak to her husband. What followed was a combined shedding of tears by the husband-wife duo in an embrace as audiences in the studio and in living rooms, reached out for the tissue box. All this emotion, to tell us what semolina is made of, is a tad embarrassing but this is what scriptwriters are paid for.

Some years ago, we watched the spectacle of a news anchor applying glycerine to shed tears on the field which unfortunately for her was exposed by a cameraman who was miffed with her ways. This dramatic gesture was in response to that of a rival who did it earlier although we do not know whether his tears were original or glycerine induced.  I was reading an analytical piece, the objective of which is not clear about social media influencers who broke down during live interaction moving audiences to tears. The copiousness of these tears is beyond me. Are we a nation of crybabies? Is relevant and well-made programming meant to be mushy and tearful? I am trying to figure this out and find it as incomprehensible as the difference between erotica and pornography as suggested by the yoga expert and actress Shilpa Shetty justifying her errant husband’s artistic endeavours. I truly think web series, television or social media have a captive audience thanks to the pandemic. They are merely making ‘hay while the sun shines’. Producers of news and entertainment shows rely heavily on scripting that stimulates the tear glands. The new success mantra today is to weep all the way to profits. The more we weep, the more they reap.