Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Posted: January 16, 2014 3:08 am

It’s never too early for news TV to begin searching for the next prime minister.

The next general elections are still three months away but TV news behaves as if they’re being held tomorrow. It’s a case of back to the future, and the future is now. Thus, Times Now conducts live national debates on the weekend about issues for the elections and before the electorate. Watched Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Anand Sharma (Congress) and the BJP’s Piyush Goel exchange barbs and accusations on your corruption versus mine, Sunday. Thus, CNN-IBN, Tuesday, began a new early evening show, A Billion Votes —Battle for 2014. It deemed the initiative worthy of Rajdeep Sardesai’s presence along with late evening studio regulars like Vinod Mehta, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Tavleen Singh. Subject? Rahul Gandhi as “PM nominee — too late or a gamechanger?”

And thus, writer Chetan Bhagat has decided that “Decision 2014” is important enough to require his services as an anchor of a new news feature, 7 Race Course Road (ABP). That’s the most famous address in the NCR after Kaushambi, Ghaziabad where Arvind Kejriwal resides. The former is, of course, where Manmohan Singh is spending his last few months as India’s prime minister. The show is about those who may succeed him at the PM’s official residence. And the first among equal aspirants is Gujarat’s roving chief minister.

Following the successful format of Pradhan Mantri, 7 Race Course Road mixed dramatic reconstructions with interviews, available visual and factual material on the BJP’s PM candidate. We see a young Narendra Modi arrive in Ahmedabad, his sojourn at the tea stall, his shift to Sangh service and then to Gujarat student politics. It is a fascinating story and you can see why Bhagat wanted to host it. His debut is as you’d expect it to be: he’s hesitant, needing to grow into the role and sound authoritative on the subject.

Away from the world of politics, Chivas Studio Gentleman’s Code (Star World) promises, in the words of its host, writer Aatish Taseer, to take a long “hard look” at men. After the first episode, you’re left wondering if it didn’t employ a soft touch. Imaginative in conceptualisation with segments alternating between black/ white and colour, unusual camera angles, readings interspersed with interviews and conversations, it looked at men in relation to women (mothers, changing women, whatever that means,), men and sex, without being revelatory.

So while it’s interesting to listen to Karan Johar on living with his mother, not getting married and his mother’s wishing “he was a small boy again”when she “owned him”, what’s new about the all-Indian mama’s boy? Or Chetan Bhagat (yes this is his week on TV) reading from his book and telling us men cannot accept that a woman they’re involved with had sex with another man? Or about the two men who frequent an informal singles club and think that concepts like “love at first sight” are unrealistic? Or that men suffer from anxiety about sexual performance, that it’s more for “procreation than recreation” in the words of a doctor — most women could tell you that. And when Taseer and Priyanka Chopra claim to like item numbers, well, how could it be otherwise for Chopra, who appears in them? Gentleman’s Code is cleverly packaged, but hard-hitting? Let’s wait for the next episode.

A bit of this and that now: Salman Khan appeared on TV by Modi’s side but said let the best man be PM; he also sang on Nach Baliye (Star Plus), as unusual an occurrence. His father, Salim Khan, sat beside Javed Akhtar and blamed himself for the professional scriptwriting break-up with Akhtar (CNN-IBN). Akhtar’s son Farhan won the hamper on Koffee with Karan (Star World), much to the disgust of fellow guest Vidya Balan in the most enjoyable and entertaining episode of the more “spicy, steamy season”, as Johar calls it. By the way, why the obsession with sexual innuendo and homosexuality in every episode?

And thank you DD National for telecasting on Sunday Ishqiya, just after Dedh Ishqiya was released. The latter’s star, Madhuri Dixit, appeared in the Front Row (Star World) not in a demure but tantalising saree that hid as many secrets as it revealed, but in a fitting black dress. Black dress?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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