Monday, March 25, 2013

Of archers, arrows and political cantata

Channel surfer

Randeep Wadehra

Thrills and chills, comic and tragic, profound and farcical, wholesome and crass… they purvey it all, our news channels; giving the entertainment channels more than a run for their respective monies.

Witnessing the spectacle of Aussies on their knees in the ongoing test series gives one a high, matched only by Shikhar Dhawan’s twirled up mustaches. News clips showing cops raining lathi blows on women and children in a village – with a lonely woman armed with a rickety wooden stool standing up to them – send chills up the spine no “dayan” serial can match. If the aam aadmi (or rather aurat and bachche) were at the receiving end of cops’ violent attention, then in Mumbai a cop got the taste of similar medicine, courtesy some Maharashtra MLAs. And, that is not the only place where politicians have been savaging policemen. Nevertheless, apart from chills, other elements (or rasas) too formed part of onscreen political dramas.

The anti-rape legislation pushed the budget proposals, and the fate of various reform bills, off the channels’ radars. More heat than light on the issue was generated in various talk shows. Haggling over semantics (“sexual assault” versus “rape”), arguments over the age of consent (16 years versus 18 years) and omission of marital rape from the list of cognizable offences would have gone on ad nauseam had not a series of political cantatas burst forth on the idiot box.

All of a sudden, the DMK rediscovered its fervent concern for Sri Lankan Tamils, and the party’s need for reviving, and adhering to, its ideology. Did the approaching general elections have anything to do with this dawning of the enlightenment? What no anchor asked the worthies was, “Would it in any manner have mitigated the misery of the hapless Sri Lankan Tamils if the word “genocide” was included in the resolution?” But, such concerns do not drive our politicians’, or media’s actions. However, with DMK walking out of the UPA, one thought it was curtains for the cantata; but the CBI discovered illegally imported cars in Stalin’s garage. “Vendetta!” cried TR Baalu across the news channels, “Due course of law” retorted assorted sarkari spokespersons. But the “due course of law” skidded to a halt in less than an hour when political bigwigs vocally distanced themselves from the raids.

The cow belt decided to enact its own farce no less riveting than the one played out across the Vindhyas. The Beni Prasad Verma versus Mulayam Singh Yadav verbal duel turned into a rigorous exchange of invective, leading to the possibility of another ally flouncing out the alliance. Multi-threaded scenarios sundered the political air; some TV talk show experts predicted withdrawal of Samajwadi Party’s support to the UPA; correlatively SP spokespersons gave assurances to the contrary, even as the party Supremo demanded Verma’s sacking. Although Kamal Nath escorted Verma to the waiting media for recording his regrets it obviously was not enough in terms of the action’s effectiveness as palliative to Netaji’s hurt ego, who swiftly discovered positive traits in Advaniji contrasting with the UPA’s warty visage!

Echoes of the tragic blast from the past rippled through the Supreme Court’s hallowed precincts, bringing relief to many an “arrow” even as the honorable judges frowned at the absconding “archers”. But news channels preferred to latch on to the Sanjay Dutt story – as if that was the defining moment of the closure to the 1993 tragedy. Even Tiger Memon and Dawood got a passing mention, while the wretched Tiger Memon was ignored completely. Various film personalities, including the passionate and persuasive Mahesh Bhatt, the emotional but ineloquent Ajay Devgn, offered pathetic alibis in Dutt’s defense.

Nevertheless, the Italian mariners’ conundrum turned out to be the week’s ultimate entertainer. The manner in which the Italian government tried to renege on its promise on the killer mariners’ return had all the trappings of a Mafiosi burlesque, which was interrupted by the Indian government that played hardball and came up trumps. Or did it? The TV talk show jury is still out.

Published in The Financial World dated 25 March, 2013

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