Ranjona Banerji: Life Before Narendra Modi and Life After

29 Dec,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

This is the season of “yearenders” for the media and I must confess that even I have succumbed to a couple. Sometimes they can be fun and sometimes they are routine for the sake of tradition. Ah, well. Moving on.

 

The year for the media in India can be divided fairly into two categories: life before Narendra Modi and life after. And more shamefully for the media, those who decided to be part of the fan club and those who decided to stand apart. The first category is large in number and loud in voice. Which only means that the shameful lack of objectivity is on display in neon lights. Who knows who they think they’re fooling.

 

It will evidently take the media and the jaw-jaws some more time to figure out that the Congress Party is not in power at the Centre and in most of the states any more. Therefore, the constant sneering reference to “Congi journos” paid by the Vatican and the mafia to support Sonia Gandhi (no really, that’s how stupid rightwing hatred can make you) will soon find no traction. The Congress Party is hardly to be seen or heard these days after all. The media that is not pro-Modi is just being itself. And there were a few who were always critical of Modi and most of those are still standing too.

 

Until the media on the whole realises that its primary role is not to make excuses for the government in power, we will be treated to the cringing sights of famous news anchors calling the PM a “rock star” (you can work out if that’s a true compliment by googling the life story of Keith Richards if you know who Keith Richards is) or taking selfies with him and other Cabinet ministers.

 

Oddly, as the year ended and what the media rather embarrassingly and without self-consciousness refers to as the “honeymoon period” is over, it was former fan columnists who started showing their talons. There are only so many speeches, hats and NRI dances that anyone can take, apparently.

 

So what does the crystal ball I don’t have say? More of the same for a little while more until the next Budget…

 

**

 

Since we’re looking back, the oddest trend this year was the attention paid to cricket. Usually, cricket takes centrestage over everything else in India, even and especially politics. But for the first time that I can remember, cricket took second place not only to politics but also to other sports. And these are shockers: athletics, badminton, kabaddi, hockey, football and tennis. I mean kabaddi? When was the last time who even heard the word until Star Sports decided (an excellent idea in my opinion) to promote it?

 

Of course, Sachin Tendulkar had retired and perhaps cricket writers felt the enormous gap left behind by a supernova. And much as they tried, no one else could fill that space although we do have a veritable galaxy of stars.

 

But for me the funniest phenomenon in media and sport this year was the International Premier Tennis League. India has done very well in tennis over the years and we have some big international names today, Grand Slam champions among them albeit in various doubles categories: Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devvarman.

 

But the arrival of the IPTL (conceptualised and organised by Bhupathi) in Delhi in December put the media into a tizzy. This is the non-tennis media because as they know, big stars including Rafael Nadal come to Chennai ever January for the Chennai Open, one of the first events on the ATP Tour. Also, Vijay Amritraj’s Champions Tennis League, with its own cache of international tennis stars, had just played in India to half-empty stands and perfunctory media coverage.

 

So what made the IPTL such a media sensation that every journalist who knows nothing about tennis jumped on to the bandwagon?

 

I’m guessing it was the glitz, the professionalism and it was, more than anything else, it was Roger Federer. I confess I have followed the tennis player since when he was a player and not a star and I can safely say I have never read so much breathless half-baked rubbish about Federer as I did when he reached Indian shores. I get Google alerts about Federer and even I confess that I did not read half of them because they were so much frothy nonsense.

 

The conclusion: Whether it’s Narendra Modi whom I don’t like or Roger Federer whom I adore, media fandom is deeply embarrassing!

 

See you in 2015.

 

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