Narrating the uncommon

Narrating the uncommon

When a show comes riding on a mega brand or on a superstar's grand appeal, it drives great expectations, content-wise and intent-wise. TED Talks India: Nayi Soch  on Star Plus thus invites intense scrutiny as a talk template, one for being the Indian version of the mega global brand that TED Talks is; secondly, for boasting a famous face as host in the form of King Khan, Shah Rukh Khan. Hence, the million-dollar question is: what sets the narrative of this talks template apart from the other similar cloned-chat formats?

First, the famous face. Shah Rukh Khan is known to have been on board TED Talks in its Canadian edition in Vancouver. Hence, it was perhaps but natural that he be the choice for an  anchor to lend this show visibility. The 'Khan' factor naturally also drives comparisons with a chat format hosted by another Khan - Aamir Khan, who added much value to this template with his Satyamev Jayate, some seasons ago.But that's where the comparison more or less starts and ends, too.

Save for the 'Khan' tags as the face of the shows, there's not much in common between these two Khan shows, content-wise and format-wise. It's like two colas, both oozing the commonality of fizz, but having their own distinct flavours.

TED Talks India   is a platform for showcasing innovative thinking and out-of-the-box stories of change culled from commoners. Hence, its narrative is scripted by the extraordinary emanating from the ordinary. There is a speaker, Dr Bhan, who spells new perspectives on slum rehabilitation; there is another thinker, Shubhendu Sharma, who talks about growing forests as if they were child's play ­- a micro-forest on a small patch at the cost of an iPhone; then there is an amazing music composer, Sneha Khanwalkar, who showcases the wonders of virtual music. One very interesting story is scripted in the ink of innovation indeed, for Anirudh Sharma and his team talk of turning the bane of pollution into a societal gain - by deriving ink from polluted air!

The narrative is further scripted by this confluence of out-of-the-box thinkers from different walks of life. There is an education researcher Sugata Mitra talking of a "school in the cloud" or an astrophysicist Karan Jani telling about India developing the third LIGO processor, entrepreneur Ambarish Mitra enunciating the benefits of Blippar, or neuroscientist Dr Shubha Tole dwelling on tapping the potentials of the brain. Other ordinary voices with extraordinary scripts are those of Anju Kadam, chief nurturer at an innovative sari-designing venture, or medical professional Ramindar Dhillon, photographer Samar Jodha and more.

As far as content goes, these ordinary speakers with extraordinary ideas stay the stars of the show. As King Khan himself puts it: "The bigness of TED Talks lies in being a huge platform for the smallest of ideas."

Even as the stage is a confluence of all these small stars, twinkling in their own orbits are some showstoppers such as Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Javed Akhtar and Karan Johar. As Pichai participates in the platform virtually, the promos have King Khan teasingly telling him to stand behind him on stage so that he can boast that Pichai is his "follower".

The only minuses here and there are certain speakers like author Manju Kapur, who're the odd ones out as they don't really make for voices of innovation in a predominantly path-breaking narrative, or too divergent and scattered a cast of speakers in an episode without an underlying thread to spin the narratives into commonality. Even as the voice of the people makes up this narrative, the show's vocabulary veers a tad towards technicality here and there.

Overall, this talks template toasts the uncommon in the common without letting the bigness of the brand or the 'Badshah of Bollywood' overshadow the smallest of voices.

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