Telescope: Believe it or not

In the last week, there was news on news TV

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: January 4, 2018 5:53:02 am
Mumbai Kamala Mills fire tragedy, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Padmavati, Rajinikanth entry into politics, Donald Trump Pakistan tweet, National Medical Commission Bill protets, Triple Talaq Bill, Parliament winter sesion, PM Naendra Modi, (Picture for representation purpose)

It’s been a week when developments thrust news ahead of opinion. Is this a sign of change in 2018? Or was it just that sort of week, when so much happened that even channels were forced to follow the news and contain their views?

Either way, news TV was out on the streets covering the news, following it wherever it took them without a pre-set agenda.

From Friday’s “Mumbai mein maut ki aag” (News World India) to Tuesday/ Wednesday’s, “Maharashtra on boil” (Times Now), with the CBFC’s clearance of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati (caveats included), Rajinikanth’s entry into politics, Trump’s Pakistan tweet, protests against the National Medical Commission Bill and the uproarious passage of the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament, in between, it’s been a tumultuous six days of non-stop news making the headlines.

Gasp, can hardly keep up with it.

That makes for a change.

Friday, the flames in the rooftop 1Above restaurant in Mumbai consumed the news cycle. Reporters flooded the Kamala Mills compound, examining the debris with “yesterday” and “today” photo comparisons of the premises, questioning bystanders and the gentleman who had filed a complaint with the BMC on safety norms, listening in on the authorities and pointing out “5 Lapses” (India Today). NDTV 24×7 found an articulate survivor in Sulbha Arora who recollected the tragic accident which killed 14 people while CNN News 18’s “exclusive” of a young woman celebrating her birthday before becoming a victim to the fire became “exclusive” on Times Now and India Today. DD News seemed otherwise preoccupied and somewhat confused: “J&K terrorist hideout busted/Large cache of arms discovered”, its ticker headlines announced, “Fadnavis: I pray for speedy recovery of injured” — huh?

On Saturday, we saw a lot of Deepika Padukone — in the same dance sequence from Padmavati that the CBFC has asked to be modified. In fact, you may have already watched the entire number on YouTube and if you haven’t, go ahead and watch it because you won’t see it in Padmavat.

On Sunday, Rajinikanth was very naughty to have stolen the limelight from Prime Minister Narendra Modi: He pronounced his “mann ki baat” on what prompted him — finally and at last — to join politics in Tamil Nadu. Appearing more monk-like than a film superstar, he stole the headlines from the PM’s monthly broadcast to the nation.

By the by, no sooner had Modi claimed responsibility for allowing Muslim women above 45 years to proceed on Haj without “mahram” or the escort of men, DD had rolled out an advertisement featuring a lady in a burqa thanking him for his largesse.

On Monday, it was Donald playing his ace of trumps against Pakistan by excoriating India’s neighbour for not paying its way on terrorism despite accepting billions from the US. Never seen so many delighted, vindicated TV anchors as we did that evening across English news channels as news broke of the US president’s tweet on the subject. Most channels had cut “off” American aid to Pakistan even before the US announced withholding $255 million from our western bordering nation.

By the time Tuesday afternoon was upon us, Dalit protests across Maharashtra, saw TV news hastily abandon the Lok Sabha proceedings as reporting teams spread out to capture scenes of arson and violence. Here, political fingering, a TV news speciality, soon thrust through the news coverage with the usual suspects (by now you know who they are) pointing a finger at the Congress, even as Rahul Gandhi called out the “fascist vision” of the BJP and RSS. It was only in the fine print that you read about two right-wing leaders being booked by the Pune police for instigating violence and complaints being registered against Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid for the same reason.

On Wednesday, things were returning to normal — in TV studios: “Appeasement Politics” surfaced on News X over opposition to the Triple Talaq Bill, “Netas” were “milking” the Dalit protests, and RG “evades questions” while Maharashtra “simmers” (India Today). “#End CastePolitics” demanded, commanded the Republic of Arnab G.

Yes, it was business as usual.

Lastly, an unfair question: At last, there’s a cream advertised on TV that doesn’t promise to whiten your skin into snow.

Will someone please identify the cream which promotes you looking just the way you are — seen the TV commercial for it a few times but missed the name as it flashes by. Help. And let’s immediately award it a fairness prize.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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