Looking it in the eye

TV channels competed to provide edgy coverage of Cyclone Hudhud.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: October 16, 2014 1:06 am
CNN-IBN had a map with red alerts on Vizag and Gopalpur, a relay of all the reporters on the story and details of the cyclone’s progress.  ‘The worst is still to come,’ it promised. CNN-IBN had a map with red alerts on Vizag and Gopalpur, a relay of all the reporters on the story and details of the cyclone’s progress.‘ The worst is still to come,’ it promised.

TV channels competed to provide edgy coverage of Cyclone Hudhud.

They called it “cyclone tourism”. We saw people in Visakhapatnam dotting the coastline to either watch the waves roll in towards them or to capture them on their mobile phones. TV reporters warned viewers against such idling since it could have fatal consequences, as Hudhud assaulted the Andhra Pradesh coastline with destructive ferocity (CNN-IBN).

Television news may have liked to heed its own advice. On Sunday, before, during and after Cyclone Hudhud, channels seemed to be offering sightseeing package tours: “360 º coverage only on CNN-IBN”, “Headlines Today brings you 360º” of Cyclone Hudud. Aaj Tak had at least four reporters in raincoats describing the scenery, sorry scenes from different vantage points in Visakhapatnam or Gopalpur, Orissa, CNN-IBN had at least eight. It reminded you uncannily of coverage for Modi in the US.

The anchors and reporters spoke excitedly. So would you if you were buffeted by winds of 100 kmph — “It’s quite a task even to stand here,” gasped the NDTV 24×7 correspondent trying to keep her feet on the ground.

And as Hudhud approached landfall, their descriptions grew more animated with forebodings. This was no ordinary package tour, this was an impending horror show: at 9.30 am on Sunday, DD News showed us tidal waves out at sea. The reporter shouted at the speed of the cyclone, describing what would happen by 12 noon, when the cyclone would make landfall. If you had family, friends in Vizag and listened to him, your fear factor would have increased by at least 15 per cent.

Aaj Tak’s tour was different: it offered minute details— “high waves of 102 m, wind speed 170-200 kmph, ‘eye’ 35 mm in diameter, 100 km away”, with a mystical twist: “People have faith in the cyclone, they have faith that the cyclone will come and go soon”.

Channels like NDTV 24×7 constantly had breaking news on when the “landfall” would be — two hours to go, one hour, 30 minutes — rather like a countdown. CNN-IBN’s Now Showing with film critic Rajeev Masand was actually Now Showing Cyclone Hudhud: it had a map with red alerts on Vizag and Gopalpur, a relay of all the reporters on the story and details of the cyclone’s progress. “The worst is still to come,” it promised.

Headlines Today called it a “monster of a storm” even though it was named after a “dainty” bird. Correspondent Jugal Purohit highlighted scientific facets we should not miss, explaining the cyclone “clockwise”, “anti-clockwise”, the “lull” when Vizag was in the “eye” and how the storm would worsen thereafter. He said people should remain indoors. Except as all the channels told us, there was no electricity in the city as a precautionary measure, so people could not hear the warnings at all.

By 1 pm, the news channels were beaming reporters windswept as the streets, beside the felled trees and shattered homes. The helpline numbers were emblazoned (yes, but there was no electricity?) on all channels and everyone was tracking the “route of the storm”. News X found a beached octopus in Gopalpur, introducing a quixotic, environmental element into the devastation.

Several young women looked pretty devastated on Miss Diva Universe (Zee Café) when the diva Diana Hayden announced they were in the running to walk out of the show — because that’s what trained divas do — walk, not run. As a talent show it is pretty dull, the accent being on pretty, since the contestants’ “looks”, “style”, “beauty”, in guest Sonam Kapoor’s words, saved the show.

Fervently hope Alessandro del Piero and other imported footballers can save the Hero Indian Super league from the pedestrian. The newest soccer game in town (Star Sports) began on Sunday like a gala event with firecrackers, lights, dance — and Priyanka Chopra poking fun at the celebrity owners of the competing teams. “Let’s football” was the chant, but the first match between Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City saw the ball hitting other parts of the body more often than the feet in a scratchy game.

Lastly, actor Fawad “Khubsoorat” Khan is back with Humsafar (Zindagi) and so is Homeland, featuring Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) in the critical role of Ayaan, a Pakistani medical student who clashes with CIA agent and leading character, “drone queen” Carrie Mathison. The series is close to home this time, inside Af-Pak — worth watching to see just how they portray our neighbourhood and terrorism.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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