A final thought on AIB Roast

I arrived on the “Roast the AIB Roast” scene a little later than others, so obviously I am going to write about it for slightly longer than others. Here’s a list of questions that a lot of people put to me as well as to others who said there was something wrong with AIB’s show and, more importantly, the way AIB responded to criticism.

Nobody asked you to watch the show. Why did you watch it?

I look at Karan Johar’s disclaimer as AIB’s first and final line of defence. Ignoring it taught me a valuable lesson: never take any warning lightly, even if it comes from a seemingly harmless man, even one with a history of producing films so impossibly sweet you can still feel some of it lodged between your teeth.

(It was like clicking “I agree” on the internet – I may be about to promise them my soul, but damn that won’t stop me.)

So yes, I didn’t take the disclaimer seriously; I wouldn’t have gone beyond it otherwise. But apart from the disclaimer, AIB did all it could to draw in as many people to watch all the instalments of the show.

AIB Roast wasn’t a private party that the public gate-crashed and then trashed. When AIB shared the video with the public (and they share a video because it brings them money – always remember they are in it for the money) they really, really, really wanted the public, and not just those who bought tickets to the show, to watch it.

People watched AIB Roast not only because AIB advertised it heavily (I clicked it after at least three days of its ads and “shares” plastered all over my social media walls), but also because they had done some interesting work (which had their own problematic bits but more about that some other day) in the past, so the show held promise.

Also they roped in Arjun Kapoor and Ranvir Singh, two mainstream Bollywood men who are popular beyond AIB’ s niche audience, which made ignoring the show practically impossible.

“Nobody asked you to watch” is not and can never be a valid defence for any film/book/ show in public domain, particularly one which is virtually begging and screaming to be read or watched.

Almost everything in the show is part of normal, everyday speech these days. From ma-bhen ki gaali to making fun of a person’s dark skin to gay jokes – we are all increasingly comfortable with all of it. Also, it’s just comedy. Why must you take comedy so seriously?

Not everyone uses cuss words or indulges in sexist or racist jokes. Even if they do, it shouldn’t necessarily become an absolute standard to follow and approve of.

In fact while there is a sort of general agreement on regulating media content for children, an adult who expresses misgivings about foul language or abrasive humour has to face ridicule, hatred or unsolicited suggestions to return to the dreary world of Hindi television shows.

A general assumption about grown-ups is that they must abide by a single, immutable code of grown-up behavior. This code includes the ability to not once flinch at foul language when we come across it in normal conversations and also in popular media.

This licence goes completely unchallenged when it comes to the sacred art of comedy even if so much of it is rooted in and perpetuates historically bigoted views about what is essentially normal and what is abnormal, what deserves to be mocked and what doesn’t, and what’s attractive and what far less so.

Failing to adhere to that code of conduct draws derision. Overly sensitive, prude, boring, “butthurt” and Feminazis are some of the terms swiftly bandied about at the hint of a discordant voice.

It looks like a few laughs is too big a price to pay for even beginning to realize, for example, that laughing at “dark enough to be screened for Ebola” destroys whatever good we do by signing up for Nandita Das’s “dark is beautiful” campaign.

Humour has a deeper, more lasting impact than most other kinds of speech or writing. Ideas and ideologies spread faster through crisp, bite-sized jokes, pictures, tweets and FB updates than through detailed discussions. In fact, I have half a mind to dump this article and generate a “Batman slaps Robin” meme instead to drive across an insult if not a point. But I also think it isn’t such a bad idea to take a genre so powerful a little more seriously. Not ban the video/block the channel/burn the cinema hall down kind of seriously, but carefully enough to see through the average comedians’ “we are mere clowns, neutral observers, with malice toward one and all” kind of harmless looking persona.

AIB’s humour is informed by its members’ worldview, which isn’t perfect even if they have mastered the art of delivering their message effectively. Tanmay and company have many things to say and some of them are funny and evolved. Others, however, are regressive and shocking simply because they couldn’t think long and hard enough to draw upon, say, racial quirks in a funny yet inclusive way. A line exists between edgy and vile humor – it is often blurred but is still there – and recognising it is simply a matter of common sense and not really a body blow to free speech as feared by so many.

If you don’t like it, why do you have to talk about it? Why can’t you just shut up?

Because it is really difficult to shut up about things. Just look at my Facebook newsfeed, for example. People who found criticism of AIB Roast unnecessary are also responsible for an endless stream of complaints and opinion on everything. By everything I mean everything, including people who send others Candy Crush requests, people who complain about those sending them Candy Crush requests, traffic jams, bad music on FM while stuck in traffic jams, clingy friends and indifferent friends, hot summers and cold winters, ridiculously happy people and people who drag you down by their endless whining, meddlesome Delhi and rude Bombay, and so on.

All of us talk about stuff we don’t like. It’s human nature. I actually enjoy all of it. It takes all sorts to make a world, and my Facebook newsfeed as well as all other discussions happening online and offline are just a reflection of that. There’s got to be some kind of give and take here. And if it’s too much to ask for, then there is always the “unfollow” button to be considered.

I am still going to insist. Why could not you ignore it?

As a matter of fact I did. Twice.

The first time was when I watched the show and decided, not unlike most others, that it was funny in parts but not extraordinarily so.

The second time was when I casually scrolled down to the comments section. This was when I (half) sat up and (barely) noticed about 200 AIB fanboys attacking a woman and saying pretty nasty stuff about her, mostly along the lines of how she is “an ugly s****h I****n darkie” who “deserved to get raped in her ugly dark c***”. Her fault? She said she enjoyed the show but didn’t like “dark people” jokes.

There is a line of argument which says that it is normal for cult followers to use violent language against those who do not whole-heartedly endorse the specific area of culture they worship so ardently. Most of us avoid corners where we aren’t welcome, but your heart does go out to those who learn the hard way the importance of lying prostrate before a cult leader and pledging eternal allegiance to him.

Anyway, I finally decided to write something only after AIB released their letter which proved that quite like the actors/studios they criticized they were a smug, hypocritical and understandably scared little bunch of young men.

Smug because they went on and on about the support they got from a mob-like fans who got far more hurt than those who criticized the show.

Hypocritical because AIB had no word of advice for their angry, mob-like supporters. As a group of people who make a living off telling others to take the proverbial chill pill, AIB’s silence reeked of double standards.

And cowardly because for all their bravado they were also quick to pull off the video without even being asked to.

They could not do all of that and hope to get away with it with not even a polite blog or two about it all.

Why should I listen to Amir Khan? He was associated with DK Bose.

Once upon a time, Amir Khan backed a song called “DK Bose.” And that makes some of us think he has double standards because now he has a problem with AIB.

If Amir found AIB Roast offensive then he should have ideally apologised for DK Bose as well. But here’s a little something to jog your memory. Even before “DK Bose” Amir did movies such as “Dil” which set feminism back by a thousand years. He has said sorry for all of that and now he does Satyamev Jayate.

While we are at it, Shahrukh Khan played a stalker of women, an eve-teaser, a stalker and killer of women and, once again, a stalker and killer of women in Darr, DDLJ, Baazigar and Anjaam, respectively. He is now talking about setting a good example for his kids.

Amitabh Bachchan’s “Jumma Chumma” became the anthem for a generation of road Romeos. The man now wants the nation to save their girl children.

If we dig up dirt on every Bollywood star every time he says a remotely good thing but still annoys us because we choose to be weird like that, then we are perhaps letting our myopic, small-minded whataboutery overwhelm our better judgement.

Like it or not, Hindi film actors have great influence over your kids and your neighbours’. So we could consider stop being such all-knowing dirt-diggers and shaming them on the rare occasion when they are not being completely insensitive and are saying the right thing after all.

There are more important matters in the world that people should worry about.

Predictably enough, there were those who suddenly decided to discuss GDPs, violence against women and low allocation toward education in a strange, unrelated sort of defence of AIB.

Well, the mind is capable of entertaining more than one thought at a time. It can reflect on real-life crime and online crime, violent actions and violent words and bankruptcy of states and bankruptcy of ideas.

I gladly gave those who were outraging over what they felt was needless criticism of AIB (as opposed to valid criticism of child labour) the benefit of doubt that they must be quietly doing their bit for the society in the form of donations, volunteering and backing social awareness campaigns.

But I also wish that the same faith could have been shown by them towards those who expect better from popular media. It’s unfortunate that matters of poverty or underprivileged children erupt most forcefully in public discourse as a way to drown out uncomfortable noises against a trend or cult or industry that one is personally fond of or has a stake in.

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तुम किसी के जरखरीद गुलाम नहीं हो, ए.आई.बी के भी नहीं

शार्ली एब्दो के एक कार्टून में एक अजीब, असंतुलित सी दिखने वाली, भागती हुई नग्न मुस्लिम महिला की ass में बुर्क़े का एक छोर धँसा हुआ था और दूसरा हवा में लहरा रहा था। उस चित्र पर मुझे बिलकुल हँसी नहीं आई। पूरी कोशिश की कि हँसी आ जाए पर नहीं आई (पर्दे से इतनी सख़्त नफ़रत है कि अपने विवाह में भी सर ढाँपने का इरादा नहीं है, लेकिन उस दिन न उस कार्टून को समझ सकी न ही उसे बनाने वाले की इज़्ज़त कर सकी)।

ठीक उसी तरह ऑल इंडिया बकचोद (ए.आई.बी) का “रोस्ट”कार्यक्रम भी मुझे कुछ खास मज़ेदार नहीं लगा। एकाध चुटकुले अच्छे थे। तन्मय भट्ट की भाई-भतीजावाद पर चुटकी से कुछ तसल्ली मिली (हमारा एक तरफ़ डेमोक्रेसी की बीन बजाते-बजाते दूसरी तरफ़ अर्जुन कपूर और आलिया भट्ट जैसे बुरे कलाकारों को तबतक मुँह बंद कर झेलना जबतक वो रो-धोकर थोड़ा-बहुत अभिनय नहीं सीख लेते, दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण है)।

लेकिन अगर आपको ये लगता है कि ए.आई.बी की आलोचना का सवाल ही नहीं उठता तो मैं आपसे सहमत नहीं हो सकती। सबसे पहली बात तो यह कि “आप इतने काले/मोटे/भद्दे हैं” वाले जोक इंटरनेट पर सैकड़ों-हज़ारों की तादाद में फ्लोट करते रहते हैं। इस तरह के घिसे-पिटे व्यंग को नई शैली का ह्यूमर मानकर ए.आई.बी की ओर हमेशा-हमेशा के लिए कृतज्ञ या नतमस्तक हो जाने की ज़रुरत नहीं है।

दूसरी बात ये कि शो में गे जोक्स और माँ और बहन की गालियो की भरमार थी। लेकिन अगर गे जोक्स, माँ और बहन की गालियां (और शार्ली एब्दो के कार्टूनों में मुस्लिम औरतों की ass में बुर्का) मेरे तथाकथित प्रगतिशील मित्रों को अच्छी या क्षम्य लगती हैं तो इसके दो ही मतलब हो सकते हैं|

एक यह कि वो बोलने की आज़ादी छिन जाने की सम्भावना से बुरी तरह चिंतित हो गए हैं| बोलने की आज़ादी छिन जाने की घबराहट वाजिब है लेकिन उस घबराहट में सोचना बंद कर देने का क्या तुक है? चाहे सेंसर बोर्ड की मनमानी कैंची हो, चाहे किसी मुस्लिम धर्म गुरु द्वारा जारी किया गया फतवा या फिर किसी हिन्दू साधू की बेकार धमकियाँ, कोई आपकी वैचारिक स्वाधीनता पर विराम नहीं लगा सकता। डरिये मत; बन्दूक की गोलियों से शरीर छलनी हो सकता है, जज़्बा नहीं|

दूसरा मतलब ये हो सकता है कि शायद आज़ादी छिनने से ज़्यादा डर इस बात का है कि कहीं कोई आपको उन फतवा-प्रेमी या चड्डीवालों की तरह दकियानूसी न समझ बैठें या आपकी प्रोग्रेसिव छवि न खराब हो जाए या कोई आपके “सेंस ऑफ़ ह्यूमर” पर सवाल न कर दे| इसलिए आप अपने उन्हीं उसूलों को अनदेखा करने के लिए फटाफट तैयार हो जाते हैं जो आपको एक दो-पोस्ट पहले तक इतने प्रिय थे। अगर आप इतनी जल्दी डरकर अपने उसूलों पर यू-टर्न मारते हैं तो वो उसूल कभी आपके थे ही नही। आपकी तो बस एक इमेज थी जिसे आप किसी भी कीमत पर बचाना चाहते थे, चाहे वो कीमत आपकी अपनी विचारधारा ही क्यों न हो।

अगर माँ और बहन की गाली जायज़ है, तो कल लोग रेप जोक्स को भी जायज़ ठहरा सकते हैं। अगर एक बड़े गे निर्देशक की फिल्मों में काम करने के लिए मर्दों को अपनी पैंट उतारते देख आपको हँसी आ सकती है, तो आप तथाकथित “लूज़”, “चालाक” और “अपनी शकल और देह के सहारे आगे बढ़ने” वाली औरतों पर कटाक्ष करते लोगों को आड़े हाथ लेने का अधिकार भी खो देते हैं। अगर आप मुस्लिम औरतों का अभद्र प्रदर्शन देख कुछ ख़ास परेशान नहीं होते तो आपका नारीवाद बेहद खतरनाक रूप से खोखला है।

शार्ली एब्दो के हत्यारों से मुझे घिन थी और उनसे भी जो उन हत्याओं को न्यायसंगत सिद्ध करने में लगे हुए थे। धर्म, धार्मिक कर्म-काण्ड या फिर धार्मिक पुस्तकों के प्रति गंभीरता मेरी समझ से परे हैं। लेकिन मेरा मन दुखी भी हो रहा था क्योंकि उसे पता था कि इस बर्बरता के बाद “शार्ली एब्दो” की निंदा नामुमकिन हो गयी थी| चलो धर्म भूल जाओ पर उस पत्रिका के पन्नों पर हो रहे नारी के अपमान की, रंगभेद की और होमोफोबिया की चर्चा तक की सम्भावना ख़त्म हो चुकी थी|

शार्ली एब्दो की आलोचना करना भारतीय बुद्धिजीवियों के लिए कितना इनकनवीनिएंट है, ये मैं समझ सकती हूँ। पर ए.आई.बी से डरना तो हद ही हो गयी। मैं मानती हूँ कि तन्मय भट्ट ने आपको हँसाया होगा। मैंने भी उसके शो देखे हैं। मैं दिल से आज भी ये दुआ करती हूँ कि तन्मय और गैंग फले-फूले और ऐसे लोगों को मनोरंजन के विकल्प दे जिन्हें न सिमर की ससुराल से सरोकार है और न डॉली की डोली से। लेकिन तन्मय की हिम्मत से इतना अभिभूत न हों कि तन्मय के औसत दर्जे के ह्यूमर की आलोचना के हक़ के नाम तक पर आप बौखला जाएँ और खुद गाली-गलौज, पैसिव-एग्रेसिव अपडेट और “आमिर ने खुद क्या किया” जैसी whataboutery पर उतर आयें।

याद रखिये राह चलते हर लफंगे के मुँह से निकलने वाली गन्दी बात भी कई लोगों को हिम्मत वाली और मज़ेदार लगती हैं। बुरा मत मानियेगा (और कुछ लोग तो वैसे भी फ्री स्पीच की इतनी कदर करते हैं कि मोटी-मोटी गालियों कहे या सुने बिना उन्हें नींद ही नहीं आती होगी) लेकिन आपका ह्यूमर “ह्यूमर” और राह चलतों का ह्यूमर “ट्यूमर” समझना अव्वल दर्जे की मूर्खता और दोहरे मापदंड का उदाहरण है।

On a scale of 0 to ‘Gunda’, ‘Mardaani’ almost breaks the chart

In hindsight, the makers of ‘Mardaani’ could’ve regurgitated a far worse film and got away with it.

Despite its proudly inept and evil treatment of a subject as deserving of sensitive handling as human trafficking, Mardaani will never attract anything worse than mild, token criticism for some insignificant slip-ups here and there.

It is above criticism because it is a Yash Raj Films movie. Now, the banner doesn’t necessarily protect it from being called stupid or pointless (Dhoom, Neil and Nikki, Dhoom). But, it does give a movie the sort of legitimacy that protects it from being labelled sick or depraved like, say, a Kanti Shah production or similar vulgar cinema of the 90s.

It is above criticism because it calls itself Mardaani and it claims to be about empowerment of women. It has Rani Mukerji in a police uniform speaking Mardaana language, doing Mardaana stuff like raiding red light areas, breaking bones and speaking Mardaana language loaded with innuendo. As a nation starved of strong female leads, we are ready to lap up whatever comes our way in the name of feminist cinema, isn’t it?

It is above criticism also because it is about a <quote> social issue <unquote>. That makes the movie untouchable. Its faults must be forgiven even if it treats the issue in the most inhuman, insane and unappetizing way possible. Pradeep Sarkar is the Kanti Shah of 2014, (who also raised grim social issues, no?) but it is all good, because it is all done for a good cause – that of letting the dumb masses know something as horrifying as this is happening out there somewhere.

Here’s a conversation I had with me while watching the movie. It was a conversation I forced myself to forget because even I was almost convinced that to question Mardaani is simply not the done thing.

 Almost.

TWENTY MINUTES INTO THE FILM:

Holy inappropriate, Batman. This is in bad taste.

This is making me uncomfortable.

Why is the camera lingering on those girls’ uncovered bodies for so long?

That’s several seconds too long.

TOO long.

What’s with the camera angle? Right where her skirt ends, several inches above her knees?

How MANY times will these girls be made to drop their towels before their kidnappers?

Inch by painful, humiliating inch?

Again?

Again??

Why is that rape scene so detailed?

I know they they have all been abducted and brought to a brothel. You have made that amply clear. I don’t need a depraved, sex-starved, pedophile client’s point of view, Mr Director.

No, I don’t.

Stop it already. This is sick. This is twisted. This is the work of a pervert.

This is Gunda all over again.

This is worse than Gunda.

MIDWAY THROUGH THE MOVIE – 

Why am I so uncomfortable?

Why did these questions even arise in my mind?

Am I prudish, backward and incapable of understanding art?

Am I a weak, delicate Janaani and not Mardaani at all, because I’m bothered by the ugly reality?

Does this prove I prefer escapist, candy-floss cinema?

Or am I just a cinema snob who scoffs at the attempt of the humble commercial filmmaker who can’t make a half-decent movie but shouldn’t be reprimanded too much because he can only be that good? *shudders in horror*

(I mean I have enjoyed masala movies. I have watched movies so masala they stopped being movies at some point and turned into Vindaloo curry on big screen. Curry so spicy it gave me dysentery. Dysentry so intense I couldn’t return to Masala movies for a full week and had to stick to boring vegetarian fare that arthouse cinema is. But all that means nothing because of this one mainstream movie that leaves me bothered.)

Curry banned for forever. Dammit.

Anyway, is this sick or am I just stupid?

This is a posh multiplex after all (Okay, almost as posh as a hall on the outskirts of Noida on the outskirts of Delhi can be.) This isn’t a single hall theatre in Ranchi or Patna, the kind where Udaan-type boys go to watch ‘Kanti Shah ke Angoor’.

It’s a YRF production.

YRF gave me clean fun, right? They gave me beer-guzzling-hero-who-turns-sanskaari-at-the-right moment kind, right?

So sanskaari that parents brought their children to an A-rated movie

They are vintage, trustworthy and cannot possibly be vulgar or perverted.

So clearly I’m wrong.

There’s still the climax anyway.

DURING CLIMAX:

Ooh the climax.

Some smart thinking by Rani. Must remember this and forget everything else.

Wow, that’s a ridiculous fight scene with no continuity at all.

Why are they playing that funny song in the background when Rani is trying to look like she’s beating the crap out of that pedophile?

Anyway, Mardaani Rani has left the sicko among the wronged girls!

Super. Now come revenge and catharsis!

Take your pointy heels off, girls! You don’t need to wear them anymore!

He’s half dead. Kneel down and strangle him! Gouge his eyes out!

Wow. You are doing nothing like that.

So hang on. The director leisurely trains his lens on the girls when they’re weak, barely-clothed and vulnerable, but chickens out and makes them stand and wobble, balancing themselves on those impractical shoes and merely nudging and gently kicking that horrible man?

Why, because too much blood will make audience squeamish? THAT will make them squeamish? Did the director forget his portrayal of underage girls just a little while ago?!

Is it because once all the cheap erotic-sherotic was done, Mr Sarkar was bored and in a rush to wrap a movie he secretly hates?

I feel cheated.

Even Damini was better than this.

Damini was so much better than this.

Has Indian Media broadened its Reach only to Narrow its Focus?

Small Screen. Big Strides. Bigger Challenges:

The current phase in the evolution of television in India is in many ways an improvement over the one that it followed- the time when Doordarshan was the only channel available to Indian viewers. The owners of TV media have realized that in a country of over a billion, the audience cannot possibly be a homogenous lot. Today, with so many channels already on air and so many more ready to be launched in the near future, the viewer seems spoilt for choices. As rival networks vie with each other to occupy the top spot in TRP ratings, competition between them has intensified and resulted in an inundation of programs. In a way, the attempt of the media has been to cater to the diverse needs and interests of their collective audience. From 24- hour news channels to 24- hour cartoon channels to 24- hour science and technology channels- television in India shows it all. Also, most major private networks have diversified and are running many channels at the same time, each airing programs of a genre different from the other. In India alone, the STAR TV network, for example, runs as many as seventeen channels that include Star Plus, several regional language channels, and Star Cricket.

And yet, there are more than a few voices that have expressed dissatisfaction with the way television in India in shaping up. They say that while the number of programs has multiplied many times over ever since the inception of the cable age in India, the quality of the same has remained stagnant.

The most vociferous protests against the narrowness of focus of TV programs have come against two widely popular genres of programs- News and general entertainment. In a recent interview, Sevanti Ninan, media columnist and editor, the Hoot, said, ”Liberalization has led to the media targeting readers as consumers rather than citizens. There is a burgeoning of frothy supplements, loads of newsprint devoted to non-issues… Media is increasingly targeting the upwardly mobile consumers in their cities. It’s a serious issue because agriculture, education, employment and health need more coverage than they presently get. We have lots of space devoted to food as a lifestyle thing. None devoted to hunger which stalks substantial sections of the population.” What applies to print journalism holds true for television too. IIMC professor Pradeep Mathur says,” Television media has actually started catering to the needs and interests of only fifty per cent of the country’s population. Their focus is almost entirely on the middle and upper class, urban and educated people of India, which has rendered invisible the issues and concerns of the vast majority of the poor and the voiceless Indians”. So like the current boom in economy, the expansion of the media’s reach is limited to certain segments of the society. High profile arrests and scandals, Bollywood, cricket and the stock market hog most of the space on television news. In a lecture to the Radio and TV students of IIMS, media personality Suhasini Haider articulated a disheartening fact- the Aishwarya Rai- Abhishek Bachchan wedding got around 1200 hours of media coverage, while farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha, even at their peak, got less than 200. Lifestyle and movie based shows run uninterrupted for the whole year, while the Uphaar Cinema fire, the Kanishka Bombing, and the Bhopal Gas tragedy get media attention only on their respective anniversaries.

Ironically, the coverage of even the few favorite subjects of the media lack critical and in- depth analysis, and remains superficial, predictable and one- sided. Most TV channels fail to focus on more than just a few aspects of a person or issue. Rakhi Sawant is almost always portrayed as a loud- mouthed, shallow opportunist. Shah Rukh Khan is always the adorable, down- to- earth superstar. All of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s directorial vetures are pronounced flawless and average around eight and a half stars out of five in most film review shows. Tendulkar loyalists all but convince viewers of his ability to dominate international cricket till 2038. Very few channels have the ability (courage?) to explore previously ignored angles that might lead to uncomfortable questions to revered individuals or institutions. Most prefer paying lip service to ‘heroes’ while simultaneously entrapping and maligning non- entities like Shatki Kapoor.

Graham Greene once said, “Media is a word that has come to mean bad journalism”. As far as news channels are concerned, the mad rush for high TRPs, which in turn result in better revenues, have resulted in many of them focusing less on the authenticity and relevance of news stories, and more on how to captivate the attention of the viewers, even if it means sensationalizing an issue or misrepresenting/ doctoring facts. Investigative journalism that once exposed, say, miscreant politicians or botched government policies, has now given way to cheap, sensationalist sting operations whose success depends upon how well they can stimulate base, voyeuristic tendencies of viewers. The recent Uma Khurana fiasco is a case in point. Today, all know the truth that Ms. Khurana was the victim of a ghastly conspiracy. Yet, what nags our conscience is that the mental and physical torture of an innocent woman could have been prevented had Live India bothered to first check the validity of the accusing reporter’s allegations before airing the false news. In fact, the growing dependence of TV news media on sting operations highlights the disturbing fact that between the challenging path of smart investigation, focused research and objective analysis, and short cuts that involve deceit and entrapment to grab damning audio/ visuals, more and more media people are opting for the latter.

Television news on the whole has become so cluttered with superfluous non- information that the search of a viewer for relevant news on TV often becomes an exasperating exercise. A viewer who switches on his/her TV to get information on, say, the current stand- off between the BJP and the JD (S) in Karnataka might first have to suffer a slew of senseless ‘news’ stories such as those on Sai Baba’s miraculous, self- elongating garland, the ‘reincarnation’ of Kalpana Chawla as a little girl from Khurja, or the existence of ‘ghosts’ in a locked room of a police station in Jaunpur before being obliged with a coverage on the Karnataka government issue.

Amidst this pandemonium of important and frivolous news, true and fabricated sting- operations, and biased and judgmental coverage, the focus on truth or the larger picture often gets lost. The coverage of, say, police’s arrests of sex workers invariably project sex workers as criminals to be shunned, instead of looking into the grim reality of the situation that forced these women to the margins of the society.

American advertising executive William Bernbach once said, “All of us who professionally use the media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” As people involved in the business of TV programming in India, we need to realize this. It is important for us to get rid of our myopic visions and broaden our reach in the true sense. If we resolve to reach out to the masses of the nation and develop a critical, multi- perspective take on issues, we can rest assured of the present success of television to sustain in the long run.

Anupriya Kumar