Of Un-Saif celebs & hysterical cricket journos

23 Feb,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


The happiest two Indians in the world right now must be Mahender Singh Dhoni and Virender Sehwag. The alleged fracas between film star Saif Ali Khan and a South African businessman and his family has pushed the apparent rift in the Indian cricket team to second or may be even third priority in the breathless world of Indian news television. We started Wednesday debating every small eyebrow lift made by the Indian captain and examined every snort by Sehwag to try and determine whether it was derogatory or just plain bacterial.


But by the middle of the day, there was some terribly plaintively hurt gentleman, Iqbal Sharma, telling us in self-righteously hurt tones how Saif and friends had beaten him and his father-in-law up at Wasabi, probably Mumbai’s most expensive and best restaurant. Sharma sported a band-aid on his nose and told us it was broken. His father-in-law said he was punched in the face with a glancing blow (or something that sounded like boxing terminology) but even my flat screen hi-definition did not catch any visible marks on his smooth cheeks. Whatever. The duo appeared on any number of TV channels (all exclusively) and repeated their story. Saif Ali Khan said nothing. But the rest of the day was spent in speculation about when he would arrive at Colaba police station, when he would be arrested, what it would mean and so on. Maybe someone even discussed what he would wear, but I missed that.


This drama went on and on although meanwhile some CPM cadre were killed in West Bengal, presumably by Trinamool Congress workers and Kingfisher’s fortunes continued to dip.


But nothing was as big as the imminent arrest of Saif Ali Khan. Every TV channel accepted the version given by Sharma and family. The objectivity of there being two sides to a story seemingly goes out of the window when a celebrity is involved. As for the celebrity – he or she is either the worst person in the world or the best. I’ll qualify that, if the journalist is an entertainment journalist, the celeb is the best person. If a general category journalist then the celeb is the worst. The price of fame, presumably.


Sadly, when the arrest happened, it lasted only a few moments and the film star was then out on bail. This also caused outrage. But regardless of whether Saif Ali Khan is a film star or not, I would like our TV reporters to investigate the last time someone was not eligible for bail for having a little late-night fisticuffs in a restaurant. If everyone was given seven years rigorous imprisonment for this crime, we would have to build thousands of new jails.


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Anyway, the big news of the day appears to be the resignation of Mumbai Congress chief, the controversial Kripa Shankar Singh. Not only did the Congress do miserably in the recent elections but Singh has also been charged with corruption on several counts. I thank the newspapers for this.


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Meanwhile, Dhoni and Sehwag must still be holding their breath. Because the hysteria of sports journalists and TV commentators, when it comes to Indian cricket, knows no bounds. It is completely unrestrained by logic, rationale, practicality and other such mundane notions.


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RIP Marie Colvin, veteran journalist, with the Sunday Times (London), killed in Syria.


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