Ranjona Banerji: Is it okay to blame TV for Suhel Seth’s insulting comments on Viren Rasquinha?

09 Dec,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

The outrage on Twitter the past couple of days was over the comments of adman and TV personality Suhel Seth at the Times Literary Carnival over the weekend. Those without media-sponsored short-term memory problems might recall that an invitation to editor and rape accused Tarun Tejpal just a few weeks ago caused huge anger on the social media circuit. The invitation was withdrawn in a huff by the festival’s curator, veteran editor and columnist Bachi Karkaria.

Sunday’s sessions at the festival included one on the future of sport, which included as a panellist former Indian hockey captain Viren Rasquinha. Suhel Seth was part of the next session and in his introductory speech he said (about Rasquinha), “Don’t know what that bald guy is doing on a panel on sports. What’s he done?”

This caused immediate mayhem with Rasquinha furious and tournament director Karkaria had to go up on stage and apologise. I spoke to veteran journalist and India’s best known cricket writer Ayaz Memon who moderated the session with Rasquinha. He said, “Seth’s comments were nasty, unacceptable and symptomatic of the complete ignorance about sport in India.”

So just what has Rasquinha to do with sports? He is not just a former India hockey captain, he is also an Olympian and an Arjuna Award winner. He is chief operating officer of Olympic Gold Quest, India’s best agency for sporting (and spotting) talent, which has had much success with the sportspersons it has nurtured at successive Olympic Games and other world events.

Seth on the other hand worked in advertising, owned an advertising agency and is also known for general schmoozing and networking in Delhi’s social and political circles. He has done bit roles in a few films here and there. Not in the same league as Rasquinha (no Olympic status, please to note) but his connections, his fluent and smart-alecky language, have made him a regular on TV news debates. Clearly, he was trying to be too-clever-by-half and it backfired.

Rasquinha tweeted his anger. Seth finally apologised. But only after he was attacked on twitter, which Seth also referred to.

The carnival (how else to refer to it?) itself is not to blame here. They could not possibly have known that Seth would insult a guest on another panel. Seth stands along here, wallowing in his cleverness. He is known for a particular kind of behaviour. His ignorance about Rasquinha is excusable. No one can be expected to know everything. But the reason – if indeed it is fair to use the word reason in such a context – for such comment is unfathomable. Rudeness is a more appropriate word than clever. Or perhaps this was an attempt at humour.

Some people feel that any publicity is good publicity and that the carnival gained from the Tejpal notoriety and will only benefit from this as well. All that may well be true. But it is no less distasteful for all that.

Once again it is Twitter which has flexed its muscles and made its presence felt. The power of social media can be over-estimated and blown out of proportion especially when you consider the number of people who are not on it. But nor can its power be denied. It is very tempting here to blame television for making heroes out of, dare I use Seth’s favourite word here, dolts.

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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Is it okay to blame TV for Suhel Seth’s insulting comments on Viren Rasquinha?”

  1. Sandeep Araujo says:

    Suhel Seth is a rude and foul mouthed muppet who is a creation of a clever PR plan. Even if Rasquinha was a nobody how do you react to someone like Suhel being such a BULLY? Its high time people write to his sponsors and client and let them know what an ass he is.

  2. ramesh chandran says:

    Suhel Seth is not only rude but arrogant. I do not know why and how he gets invited to any event. He should be blacklisted from all public forums.

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