Meet Kannada TV's Kiran Bedi
Domestic violence, abuse at work place, widow remarriage, adultery and homosexuality... the list of issues that host Malavika handles on Baduku Jataka Bandi just goes on.
Her education in law makes her an apt choice for this reality show aired on Zee Kannada.
Baduku... which has even seen celebrities share their problems on the show, is a redressal forum. The show has witnessed marriages and baby showers too. Despite stiff competition from its Suvarna counterpart, Kathe alla Jeevana, the show is well on its way to completing 200 episodes.
Malavika talks about how she passes judgments and handles the emotional outbursts on her show; her political ambitions; spirituality and film career, to Shruti Indira Lakshminarayana.
What made you host the show?
The show felt like an extension of my real life. I am socially oriented and this is why I studied law. I've always had the urge to mingle beyond my family and this show presented me with an opportunity.
Were you not one bit apprehensive about the nature of the show?
These days more than positive stories, it is the sob stories that raise the TRPs. But I'm not a dramatic person. I can't cry or scream. I am restrained, realistic and don't display my emotions. So I was hesitant initially.
'There are also physical fights on the show'
What according to you is the USP of the show?
In Baduku... we attend to the emotional and psychological problems of the parties involved. This is something that the courts miss. In courts people are just 'cases'. The lack of time and innumerable pending cases make courts miss the emotional angle.
This is also a forum for those who cannot afford the court fees. I must mention here that in our country alternate dispute resolution systems need proper recognition.
What are the challenges?
At times I just don't understand how intolerant a husband and wife can be of each other. Some of them are so foul mouthed... I mean my team and I have learnt a whole set of slang words!
There are also physical fights on the show and sometimes you fail to calm people down. They say, "You are like God, so just sit like that and watch, we will fight!"
'People queue up in front of my house seeking help at times too'
What are your reactions to viewers' opinion that violent scenes are unpleasant and that they are staged?
At times, the disputing parties would not have met for years and once they come face to face they behave like they are straight out of a cage! People feel ashamed to watch family problems on TV, but they don't feel ashamed to create such problems.
Also if it is a problem involving celebrities they don't mind watching it on TV, but when it involves normal people they say it is shameful. Why these double standards? And as for fabricating things, sometimes it is the participants who come on the show with planned lies! We show things as they are.
Do the emotional outburst and heart wrenching stories take a toll on your personal life?
People queue up in front of my house seeking help at times too. There is the spillover effect but I can't complain much as this is my job.
If anything, my own problems have stopped affecting me. The fights in my house have come down and if someone says something to me at home, I've learnt to handle it or just let it pass!
'I listen to whoever comes to me'
At a recent interaction programme, you were accused of passing judgments mostly in favour of women. Your comments...
I am not a feminist but a humanist. Before Baduku... happened, I always thought that women were treated badly, but now I realise that it can be the other way round too. We just look at creating spaces for both voices. But a lot of men don't come because of ego issues. Let them come on the show, we'll definitely look into their issues too.
I listen to whoever comes to me. But ultimately people should realise that no family problem can be solved in a day and that I am no end to any situation. I can only moderate. At Baduku... we give the top angle view of any situation.
Which has been your most memorable episode?
The first one. The victim was Neetha, a girl who was sold off by a lorry cleaner. She landed up in Mumbai and was even locked in a wooden box without food and water. She was finally rescued. But when she returned home, she had tuberculosis. Two years later she died of AIDS.
You are a devotee of Swami Nityananda, what do you have to say about the sex scandal that he is allegedly involved in?
A viewer once asked me why I wore his pendant on the show and I told him that I had removed it the day the "scandal" broke out. I am a spiritual person and have been influenced by his discourses. I needed a spiritual anchor to deal with the problems of the people whom I hardly know.
Nityananda's answers were straight and practical. I was introduced to him by late actor Vishnuvardhan. I have not been taken for a ride as a follower. The video comes as a shock. He had given me a bangle and a chain and they along with his books and DVDs are packed and kept in a box. I will decide what to do with them once he comes out with a clear stand.
Do you think there is a decrease in violence against women?
Well there is no freedom from violence until you are free from life itself. Women's Day functions don't define the value for women for me, it's in fact about how we are treated at home that matters.
Image: Malavika at an interaction programme
'Once I become a politician, I'll stop being an actor'
Coming back to TV, you have always played roles that are an extension of your empowered self. Don't you feel the urge to do something different?
I want to play the role of a victim! But well people want to see me as the strong woman so let's keep it that way. But I also act in Tamil serials and there I have played negative characters. I even play this bad politician... the rowdy type. I'm the 'love me' or 'hate me', 'but you can't ignore me' type.
Any ideas of playing an off-screen politician?
I see it happening. At heart I am a socialist, but right now I see no place for socialism here. There is only coalition everywhere. Politics is a mind game. Once I become a politician, I'll stop being an actor. I was always interested in politics.
What are your other interests?
Classical music and dance. I have learnt music and that travels with me everywhere. Books are my other passion. Every bathroom in my house has a book! I'm also into audio books. I like to travel too.
Are you doing any films?
Veera Parampare and Huli are my upcoming projects. I would definitely want to do a serious Malayalam film and also work with Girsh Kasaravalli.
What about direction?
Well, I did plan a film with Duniya Vijay. The script was based on a reality show hosted by actress Lakshmi on a Tamil channel five years ago. I happened to discuss my idea with a boy working on Baduku... The next thing I know, he quits this show and joins director Yograj Bhatt. One day Bhatt came to my place and said he wanted to narrate a script to my husband and actor Avinash.
He considers Avinash his lucky charm. I was also there and few minutes into the narration, I knew where the story had come from! I chose to keep quiet about the incident, but a lot was written about me and my "claims". I've even heard that he had told his friends that the boy had disclosed the idea to him. Finally the movie didn't get made. It was a positive story, something on the lines of Forest Gump. I'll come up with something else soon.
Before signing off, what's your mantra in life?
I never give too much importance to any human being. I don't have knee jerk reactions too. Ultimately I just take life as it comes.
Image: Malavika interacts with guests on Baduku Jataka Bandi