Bees Din Baad: May 23 Beckons

03 May,2019

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Twenty days from today, the grand election event will come to an end (though many believe the days that follow May 23 will be highly dramatic). Over the last two months, the General Elections have owned the mindspace of people at large. “Will Modi come back?” is 2019’s why-did-Katappa-kill-Bahubali type of question.

The media coverage of these elections has been nothing remarkable, to put it mildly. These elections lack a big idea like the previous one, where anti-incumbency and the projection of Narendra Modi as the face of a new India created a narrative laced with optimism and joy. Even the BJP campaign this time doesn’t have the punch of simple but memorable phrases like Achhe Din, Ghar Ghar Modi, etc.

In the absence of an inherently strong narrative, the media has struggled to find a peg on which to cover these elections. Hence, what we have got is a series of individual stories, which lack a larger missing thread. The only somewhat constant idea in some of these is the alleged toothless-ness of the Election Commission, but that too has been covered only by select sections of television, print and online media.

The absence of creativity and imagination is also apparent. Are there any marquee election shows that have stood out as first-of-their-kind? Is there one programming idea that can genuinely be called “new”? Far from it. There have been the usual debates (and more debates) and the usual coverage from the ground. Politicians give fodder and media debates and dissects it. That’s been the default position.

One particular irritant that stands out is the absence of comedy and light-heartedness in the coverage of these elections. Political satire has traditionally been a popular genre of content. But over the years, it has faded away in India, perhaps because everyone is too sensitive and in a perpetual apology-seeking mode nowadays. Barring an odd OTT show, there are no proper attempts to do stand-up or sketch comedies around the elections.

This collective bankruptcy of ideas, which all major media houses are guilty of, is baffling and saddening, both at the same time. It cannot be that we have slowly lost the ability to think creatively as an industry. It surely has to do more with the brief itself. It seems that “curb creativity, go after the tried and tested” is the operating mantra across the board today.

The good thing with elections, like sport, is that it provides adequate drama and entertainment on its own. As a viewer, you will still find that one ridiculous quote, that one goof-up, that one shoe-hurl or black ink and that one pants-dropping moment that would make you chuckle, sometimes cynically.

But the mediocrity of coverage is too apparent if one goes beyond the bizarre and the dramatic. Come May 23, I predict exactly the same panels, the same graphics and the same studio set-ups as all the major elections since 2014. And if I knew who was winning, I’d have even predicted the headlines!

 

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