Monday, April 1, 2013

Holi, human rights and hypocrisy

Channel surfer

Randeep Wadehra

Expectedly, there was a lot of color on the small screen last week. Glitterati from fashion, TV and cinema worlds, neta log and the hoi polloi got into the Holi mode, with TV cameras capturing the moments for whatever they were worth. Entertainment & news channels marked the occasion with special shows. The Colors channel featured a dance and song show, as did Sony and Star TV. Some Hindi news channels strung together old video clips of the stand-up comedian Raju Srivastava, while others just telecast whatever was happening on the streets of the national capital. NDTV came up with an unusual, but riveting, documentary on the history and etymology of Kesariya (saffron) color in Rajasthan. At one level, it is a color of self-sacrifice, patriotism and martial spirit, and on the other, it has social as well as religious significance. The saffron also acts as a base for concocting other hues in combination with various flower and plant pigments. Rangoli (DD National) set the mood with some enchanting songs of yore – climaxing with a sad one featuring Sunil Dutt, ‘Mayray dil mein holi jal rahee hai’ (the Holi is burning in my heart). 

Later in the week, viewers watched the errant but happy go lucky Munna Bhai a.k.a. Sanjay Dutt break down after the Supreme Court verdict – with his sister by his side consoling him. Justice Katju, Jaya Prada and several Bollywood and political and social biggies rustled up a “Save Sanjay Dutt” campaign – with CNN-IBN’s efforts to highlight the seventy-year-old Zebunnisa Kazi’s plight going in vain. Talk shows discussed the issue with a passion more appropriate for such substantive topics as the ongoing drought in Maharashtra and the multibillion Rupee water fraud. Actually, the latter issue got attention when news channels focused on Asaram Bapu’s Holi binge while NDTV’s Truth & Hype discussed the drought and the scam. But, these were no match to the Khalnayak’s glam quotient.

Now, our talk shows, especially Times Now’s News Hour is game for any debate on any issue – minor, major or even a non-issue like a couple of American politicos “endorsing” Narendra Modi, although some Congress netas dismissed them as “Paid panegyrists”. A lot of hot air swished around various news studios and beyond. The BJP wallas pointed out how the US of A is following the UK and the EU in wooing Modi because he concentrates on the job at hand, viz., taking Gujarat to the next level of development, while the critics alluded to the snub that Modi had received, courtesy Wharton. But, as often happens on the News Hour, everybody started talking simultaneously, creating an atmosphere akin to a classroom of unruly school kids in the teacher’s absence. Pointless? Not when you consider the fact that the hotter the air the higher the channels’ TRPs.

Several other politicians too indulged in their special brand of hot air letting. Like, Jayalalitha decided to declare Chennai as a “no Sri Lanka cricketers zone” on the eve of IPL season – an exercise in one-upmanship vis-√†-vis DMK; the latter hit back by alluding to the AIADMK Supremo’s “hypocrisy”. But none offered, or even hinted at a definite roadmap to ameliorating the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils and restoring their rights as human beings and citizens of Sri Lanka.

Talking of hypocrisy, things reached the nadir in Maharashtra where a bruised and battered duty conscious traffic cop, lying in a hospital, has been suspended from his job while his assailants, the MLAs, who had been booked for a traffic offence by the stricken cop, have not only been given bail but also the benefit of doubt! Apparently, the State Assembly’s twenty-odd CCTV cameras’ footage was too fuzzy to identify the culprits. Dhritrashtra redux?  Touch√©!

Published in The Financial World dated 01 April, 2013

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