Ranjona Banerji: Sad, as newswallahs have a blast over Dutt

22 Mar,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


As expected the whole news cycle became about film star Sanjay Dutt after the Supreme Court ruled on the sentences handed out in the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts case. Never mind that 257 people died in the serial blasts or that over 700 were injured or that this was the worst such attack the country had ever seen until then or that the blasts were a reaction to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the riots that followed. What can all that matter when a film star’s conviction was upheld?


There was little new there either – Dutt had been given six years by the TADA court in 2006 which was upheld by the Bombay High Court and now the SC had reduced it to five years. The chance of a pardon was slim given the enormity of the entire case. But did our esteemed TV colleagues care? Having spent an hour or so cursorily examining the death sentence to main accused Yakub Memon, it soon became all about Dutt with Bollywood celebs weeping and bemoaning their fate. It took film critic Rajeev Masand to put things in perspective on CNN-IBN: “Bollywood does not think logically”. Indeed.


Many channels also ran retrospectives of Dutt’s life in the movies and pulled out old interviews with him, including with Arnab Goswami being so sweet and nice on Times Now unlike the fire-breathing dragon he turned into last night. Odd, because Goswami’s interview with Dutt was also after the star had been convicted…


Kudos to Headlines Today for digging into the Living Media archives and pulling out a video interview with Yakub Memon in the days before Headlines Today or indeed private TV was invented in India. Some excellent news sense on display there and a break from the boo-hooing over Dutt.


What does one make of Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju’s letter to the Maharashtra governor begging for clemency for Dutt? Katju thinks that since Dutt quoted Mahatma Gandhi in his “Munnabhai” series of films, he deserves the sort of mercy described by Portia in Merchant of Venice. Even I who knows nothing about Bollywood might venture that it was the film-maker who came up with the famous “Gandhigiri” concept. Still, here it is: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/katju-seeks-pardon-for-sanjay-dutt/article4535084.ece


Also as expected, most newspapers barring The Times of India’s Mumbai edition fell short. The reason in simple — most newspapers in India have done away with institutional memory and got rid of (or refused to higher) anyone above the age of 45. This means that few staffers were around when the bomb blasts happened 20 years ago and for all I know their best source of reference is the film Black Friday. I have worked with these bright young people with no more than about seven years experience in journalism in 2006 when the TADA court pronounced its sentences, many of whom have tried to teach me about the events based on viewing the film. I hasten to add that I was in Bombay on March 12, 1993 and I did cover the aftermath for Mid-Day. And I haven’t seen the film. I reckon most people incharge today were either being fed Farex in their mummies’ laps or drinking Bournvita on their way to school when the blasts happen. TOI for all its faults and unlike the rest usually hangs on to some old fogeys.


I was surprised to see that the Indian Express also led with the Dutt saga. Also, I would have thought that someone would have pulled out Bollywood reporters of yore to recount all the exciting love drama that happened around Dutt at the time. Possibly all those oldies have also been put out to pasture.


Almost no one mentioned the mysterious circumstances under which Yakub Memon returned to India, which did cause much comment at the time.


Well, you can’t have everything and when it comes to the Indian media, usually you won’t.




Siddharth Vardarajan, editor of The Hindu, has gone where (almost) no man or woman has gone before. He has directly taken on Arindam Chaudhuri of IIPM for falsely using an advertorial article as an endorsement. The clarification states that IIPM paid for material which was put into a special supplement marked “advertorial”. It then used the so-called article in an ad, claiming that the Hindu had called the institute a “B-school with a human face”. Vardarajan contends that this article was written by IIPM and therefore Hindu had nothing to do with it. The clarification ends with these words: “The Hindu hereby would like to make it clear to current and prospective students of IIPM that it has not made any such editorial endorsement of the institution. We have now formally written to IIPM asking it to refrain from repeating the claim, and putting it on notice of our intent to proceed suitably against it if it persists in doing so.”


It is well-known that because IIPM advertises heavily in the media, most media organizations are wary of criticising owner Chaudhuri. There have been several instances where editorial has been forced to hold back articles and comments. Chaudhuri also has the habit of filing cases against media houses and journalists all over the country to harass them.


It will be interesting to see whether this clarification will mean that Vardarajan spends a lot of time now in Sikkim! http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/iipms-claim-on-the-hindu-a-clarification/article4530742.ece




The Mumbai Press Club has for some time now been at the forefront of several journalistic initiatives and is setting itself up as an institution of some repute and meaning – beyond the excellent cheap booze!


The talk by editor-in-chief of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger on journalism in the digital age on Tuesday was an eyeopener for the Indian media on how the online world has to be embraced and enhanced by mainstream journalists and organisations. As a result of its ground-breaking efforts, The Guardian which is the seventh or eighth most read paper in the UK is the third most read paper online (in the world that is) fast catching up on the New York Times. It also gets some 25 per cent of its revenue from its digital efforts. Rusbridger’s speech was witty, informative and revelatory. And a warning for the Indian media of getting lost in the wilderness if it keeps snoring in the digital space for much longer.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are own. You can post your messages below or reach her directly via Twitter at @ranjona


Post a Comment 

2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Sad, as newswallahs have a blast over Dutt”

  1. Vasanthi Hariprakash says:

    Spot on! Thanks Ranjona. Glad arent we that we still have those journos who werent being fed farex while being their mommies’ laptops, when there were bombs going off all over the place..

  2. Guest says:

    Good journalists like the columnist age like wine.

Today's Top Stories