Ranjona Banerji: Dissecting the discussions on telly…

01 Feb,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

“Well Mr Arnab Goswami, now I know why they say you’re a dangerous man,” said actor-superstar Kamal Haasan to Mr India-Wants-to-Know on Times Now on Thursday night. India’s most celebrated TV anchor (NDTV’s Barkha Dutt was ousted from that position a while ago, regardless of what Hillary Clinton may believe) demurred shyly at the charge, honoured though he may have been. However, in spite of all Goswami’s promptings, Haasan maintained that he would leave the country if pushed in the future and the secular nature of society was threatened.

 

Haasan in fact mentioned two things which are at the forefront of discussion in India – in roundabout ways – neither of which Goswami picked up on. The first was that all this happened to Haasan on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary. And the second was that the demolition of the Babri Masjid did more damage to us than we have fully understood.

 

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The arrest of former Madhu Koda aide Anil Bastawade (for some reason Times Now reporters also insist on using his middle name which is Adinath) has excited Times Now more than anyone else. The mining scam under the former Jharkhand chief minister is estimated to cover about RS 4000 crore (also according to Times Now) but one cannot determine how far Bastawade’s involvement goes – somewhere near Rs 250 crore which seems a little meagre for so much excitement.

 

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Karan Thapar’s Last Word on CNN-IBN discussed freedom of speech and the capitulation by governments to threats from fringe groups in view of recent events. The problem was that Thapar and three guests all had the same viewpoint – that the Tamil Nadu government had infringed on freedom of expression with its ban of Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam. The only man who disagreed with Kumar Ketkar, editor of Divya Marathi, Aryaman Sundaram, lawyer and Najeeb Jung, vice-chancellor of Jamia Milia, was AN Krishnan, advocate general, Tamil Nadu. Krishnan kept referring to TN CM as “Amma” which sounded even more incongruous than his arguments about a possible law and order situation if the film was released.

 

This makes for a non-argument since Krishnan was the only opponent. And while Thapar’s show is one of the few on Indian television where guests behave themselves, a discussion requires various points of view.

 

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The Lokpal bill was threatening to overtake television again – or so I gathered from Twitter and a reasonable discussion on Rajya Sabha TV. Friday morning’s newspapers as usual took a wider view of life. But they were depressing in their own was as they were full of molestation of teenage girls, upper caste murders of Dalits in Maharashtra and rapes…

 

CNN-IBN by the way has to be commended on its coverage of the murder of three Dalit youths in Maharashtra over a love affair with a Maratha girl. We clearly need to be reminded over and over again of our low and base nature and how outdated traditions continue to cause more harm than good.

 

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This is just an observation but Firstpost, the news and views website of TV18, which was well-received when it started and has become very popular, has now started to pick up a fair amount of flak on social media. I am not sure whether this is because of its somewhat waffling political opinions or the ill-considered comments on Shah Rukh Khan by my former colleague Venky Vembu or the natural attrition which follows popularity… A reality check is perhaps in order?

 

 

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