It pushed the rumored Ranbir-Katrina romance to inconsequential slots featuring inconsequential tattle. It prevented television newshounds from dogging Salman Khan’s treks to and from the courts a la Sanjay Dutt. Yes, last week, the Great Khan Hug was the media event. Hindi news television went to town with the Khans’ patch-up story. Every channel had this “exclusive” report telling the viewers how Salman and Shahrukh hugged each other on an iftaar party. However, in the accompanying video clip, it did not appear to be much of a hug really. It was more of a polite charade apparently carried out to please their common host, the Congress biggie Baba Siddique – something you would expect two well-bred, publicity-seeking stars to do, even if it is for appearances sake only. Actually, Siddique’s none-too-negligible plumb-in-the-middle presence ensured that the huggers did not miss him. Consequently, the two Bollywood stars remained enfolded in the politician’s clasp for much longer time than in each other’s embrace. However, for our channels, the moment was of such historic import that they analyzed expressions on the two stars’ faces, “Salman muskura rahe hain, jab ki Shahrukh kuchch soch mein deekh rahe hain”; their eyes, “Salman aur Shahrukh ek doosre kee taraf dekh rahe hain”; and their mindsets, with an anchor asking a reporter “aapko kya lagta hai, iss waqt dono kya soch rahe hongey?” If you had not actually noticed the “I’ve got a scoop” earnestness on these anchors’ and reporters’ faces, you would have thought that they couldn’t possibly be serious about such a non-event. This went on and on for seventy-two hours, and some channels – believe it or not – actually organized talk shows to discuss the causes and consequences of this Great Khan Hug! However, our English channels remained primly, or rather snootily, objective about the hug; of course, there was Q&A session on NDTV, with Shahrukh giving convoluted replies to silly questions. Others allotted it a few minutes on the primetime and then relegated the repeats to non-primetime hours.
However, our English language channels were not at all snooty when it came to the birth of the English royal couple’s first child. But for the heavy monsoon humidity, one might as well be sitting in a London living room and watching the event on a local channel. Such excitement! Such devotion!! Such anticipation!!! They outdid the Khan Hug coverage with this Royal non-event. Frankly, one could not understand the newsworthiness of this coverage. How many among the audiences would have been all agog to know when the child was born, what would be his name and his status in the pecking order among heirs apparent? Hours were devoted to trivial details. It was sheer wastage of precious airtime. When would our anglophiles stop taking pride in being the progeny of colonialism?
But then, servility is something that appears to have been ingrained in our elite’s DNA. Look at the manner in which our MPs faxed a request to Uncle Sam to deny Narendra Modi a visa to the USA! When the media started pursuing this case, there were backtrackings and disclaimers galore. Some MPs went to the extent of alleging that their signatures were actually forged on this “old petition” to President Obama. Expectedly, heated debates ensued in several TV studios. Whenever anything to do with Modi is discussed, be sure that 1984 and 2002 will crop up. Thereafter, it is a free for all. Although one likes to believe that television can be an excellent source of quality infotainment, sometimes it appears closer to its dated description of being an “idiot box” – a splendid example of multidimensional, multicolored absurdity.
Published in The FinancialWorld dated 29 July 2013