Ranjona Banerji: Debauchery UnLtd on News TV

10 Jan,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


There are few things in the media as amusing as the manufactured outrage of TV anchors as they work themselves into a state over some burning issue of the day. In this case, the case was that of freezing but the anger was far from cold. Imagine this list of horrors: people freezing in riot-relief camps in Muzaffarnagar, UP. Children dying from the cold. And UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav got Bollywood stars to dance at a function at their village, Saifai. And 17 UP legislators including several ministers skipped off on a “study tour” of Egypt, Venice and the UK amongst other destinations in spite of strict proscriptions from news channels.


The sheer disobedience of these politicians is not to be countenanced. It was not for nothing that Arnab Goswami informed a Samajwadi politician from Mumbai in stentorian tones: “It is time you politicians learnt to listen.” The “to me” was implied and not missed by anyone.


Arnab Goswami, I have to say, was at his best. His lip curling, his constant use of the word “debauchery” to describe Bollywood dances, the utter contempt in his voice as he spat out the phrase, “nagin dance” to describe the “snake dances” so popular in Indian cinema: these were all gems that had the making of a classic News Hour debate. In fact, debauchery was the word du jour as it was repeated across channels to explain what was happening in Saifai, with images of Madhuri Dixit and random starlets (at least I think they were starlets) wiggling their hips and bosoms across our TV screens.


It is true that the extravaganza at Saifai was inappropriate and deeply lacking in compassion in light of what was happening in Muzaffarnagar. But everything that happened in Muzaffarnagar was an abomination from the riots to the post-riot reactions. The song and dance at Saifai was just one more example of this.


It was intriguing though that there was no Bollywood rep on the Times Hour debate to explain just why stars like Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit had agreed to dance for Mulayam and son. And I have to say I have seen senior TV anchors (and this includes Goswami) just snivelling and grovelling in front of Bollywood’s most vacuous and vapid “stars”. If they were so angry with Bollywood for going to Saifai, there’s no point shouting at politicians. Get the whole of civil society involved in the discussion and ask Bollywood point blank why it is so brainless and lacking in compassion. Or even common sense. Don’t just expound on the issue. And try and remember a bit of this outrage the next time you make some movie star your guest editor for the day just in time for the release of his or her new movie.


Watching News Hour and some of Rahul Kanwal’s Centre Stage on Headlines Today, you have to feel for these star TV anchors. What they really want is a platform where they can share their opinions with the world. Instead, they’re stuck in a format where they have to ask other people for their opinions. I would advise Indian television news once again to watch the film Network and craft programmes based on Howard Beale’s long rants (so brilliantly played by Peter Finch). That way, these TV stars will not have to be forced to listen to other people’s opinions when all they want to do is editorialise. I must say us print-wallahs have it much easier because we have platforms available where we can share our opinions.


Of the shows in this format, Karan Thapar’s Last Word on CNN-IBN and Nidhi Razdan’s Left Right and Centre remain the least hysterical. The others? Well, they’re all mad as hell and don’t want to take it any more. So let them tell us freely and openly, no?


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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Debauchery UnLtd on News TV”

  1. Guest says:

    Since our masters speak – and sermonise – so little, someone has to fill the vacuum.

  2. dxer says:

    “The sheer disobedience of these politicians is not to be countenanced.”

    Hahahaha!! I love it when you do this take on Godman, AG…!!

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