Digging up 'past lives' for a TV show

Courtesy: Mail Today December 27, 2009
Reality television in India scaled a new level of unrealism with Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka that was telecast on NDTV Imagine last week.

The show reportedly uses past life regression therapy to explore the previous births of ordinary people as well as celebrities who participate.

The episodes aired so far saw clinical psychologist Dr Trupti Jayin conducting the therapy on actor Shekhar Suman, besides two regular participants - Bhopal- based Swati Singh and Mumbai- based Shivesh, who works as an executive in an MNC. Dr Jayin made each participant ' visit' their previous births.

Past life regression therapy does not have a scientific approval and the show has therefore invited criticism for promoting superstition.

According to the format of the show, whatever problem a participant may have - physical or psychological - actually has a link to his or her past life.

So, we had Shekhar Suman finding an explanation in his past life for his late son Ayush's fear of fire.

Suman, it seems, was born a soldier in London. And his son, named Steven, had died when a fire broke out in the house.

Similarly, according to the therapy on the show, Singh's fear of heights and fear during the take- off and landing of a plane was the result of an accident in her previous life. Singh apparently was a flight attendant in her past life and had reportedly died in a crash.

And Shivesh, who had a fear of crowds, was apparently killed by a mob in his past life.

Shivesh was apparently born a labourer in a backward community who worked in the stable of a king.

While the format of the show seems staged, even the explanations seem to be contrived.

Also, psychiatrists have reservations about using the therapy to cure mental and physical ailments.

Psychiatrist Samir Parikh says, "If a therapy is used in a reality show only to thrill the audience, it is fine. But I have reservations if the therapy is being depicted as a cure for physical and mental ailments, and is being used to 'explain' phobias. The reason is that there is no scientific evidence to support such a contention. This show should just be viewed as voodoo fun." However, Dr Jayin says, "This is a holistic therapy that involves mind, body and spirit. Past life regression therapy gives an access to the subconscious mind. Since human mind has the capacity to save excessive memory, the therapy helps people in overcoming phobias that are related to their previous birth." In another episode comedian Lilliput underwent the therapy to find out the reason for his being born a dwarf.