The Kashmir Show

This from 2009 but now enter Shah Faisal!

Carin I. Fischer

I was thinking last night of a movie I watched many years ago while still living in the US. It is called The Truman Show and the hero of the story is Truman Burbank. Everything Truman Burbank does is witnessed by a global audience of millions. Whether he’s eating, sleeping, heading off to work or taking a bath, the world is watching – and he doesn’t know it. At least not at first. Truman has been brought up inside a giant Hollywood dome, inside of which is a made-for-TV town. Everyone he knows – his neighbors, his workmates, his parents, his wife, and even his best friend since childhood – are actors hired by a media mogul for the planet’s biggest and most intricate one-man gawp-fest. The trouble is, Truman gradually starts getting itchy feet. He wants to travel the world in search of his one true love, an actress quickly pulled from the show for attempting to tell him the truth. And, when things start going wrong in the make-belief town, such as giant pieces of production equipment falling from the sky and he is accidentally picking up a radio frequency describing his every movement, Truman finally begins to smell a particularly large rat and tries to escape into reality. 
 
The story corresponds to life in Kashmir. Most everything one does here is watched by entertainment censors and directed by show producers. All that is projected is choreographed to suit the taste of a specific audience. A media mogul has been put in charge of creating a sanitized set that hardly reflects reality and is aimed to show outside viewers a make belief world. Much money is spent on the set to assure that no accurate picture of events, more complicated undercurrents, or the true nature of the leading actors is projected in print or on television. No criticism of the producer or main script writers is allowed. Anyone who attempts to tell the truth is quickly removed from the set.
 
As I am looking at the front pages of today’s local press, I am stunned by the remarkable distance between the choreographed and the real. But like most of the audience of the Kashmir Show, I willingly force myself into a daily suspension of disbelief.  There are reports of the young and dynamic Chief Producer attracting crores in private investment soon to be spent on the set of the show. A former and much more seasoned Chief Producer is depicted inaugurating make-belief tourism venues while interacting with larger-than-life actor officials in a surprise return appearance as though he had never been cancelled from the show. Then there is a statement of a rebel chief actor from another set across a nearby border saying that militancy would remain very much part of the plot as violence always sells and assured a continued worldwide viewership. Other actors portraying forensic experts in a nearby locality have all over sudden changed their story-line on their own, proclaiming that one victim previously believed to have died of rape and murder had in reality been a virgin and that the script would need to be adjusted to reflect that new turn of events. A fictional pro freedom leader, portrayed by a young and  independent actor, is urged by older more seasoned independent ones, who have refused to join the national actors’ union, to stick to the story line of previous episodes and to stop revising the script on his own. Meanwhile another former Chief Producer is making the rounds, while handing out previews of his own parallel plot, insisting that his script was the only one that was acceptable to the local audience and that the current program was bound to be discontinued for lack of creativity. Then there is a small subplot of some small-time actors playing bad guys and who continue to loot the forests of the set with full knowledge of those cast as forest protection officials. Undoubtedly, it pays more to play a bad character than one who is cast to uphold the law. In a different part of the show, award winning actors from other movie sets are reportedly enjoying a game of golf with discarded Chief Producers. Meanwhile members of the independent local script writer guilds are contemplating strikes aimed to project a different kind of drama to the audience at large. They are hoping that broadcasting a more accurate reality show might be appreciated by a more analytical and sophisticated viewership. However, past and present reviews of the Kashmir Show clearly demonstrate that truth never qualifies as entertainment, and as bubbles burst ratings also plummet.
 
Having been rejected as both a main character or even an extra in the Kashmir Show, I wonder if I can still aspire to one day participate in a different story line, or whether I have  permanently lost the plot? 

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