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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Breaking Down News: Spot On

Placards in legislatures are always aimed at the cameras, never the Speaker.

Published: February 22, 2014 12:22:00 am

After the outrage over Parliamentary proceedings being blacked out since the T-Bill was in a delicate condition, the official reason offered was bizarrely quotidian. It was technical failure, the inhuman force that routinely ravages India, tripping the power grid, derailing trains, setting buildings on fire and causing patients to emerge from hospital with the wrong kidney grafted.

The use of cameras in the House is a double-edged strategy. They were introduced partly to shame legislators into behaving themselves, but have they encouraged the proliferation of placards in legislatures across the country? They are always aimed at the cameras, never at the Speaker. Silently, they address distant constituencies rather than the House. This week, Andhra Pradesh was their target.

Yesterday, Arvind Kejriwal was spot on with his epistolary campaign, which he launched in a press conference which was fairly early in the morning, but no channel would dream of missing it. His open letter to Narendra Modi over the alleged overpricing of natural gas will be followed today by another to Rahul Gandhi. More or less a carbon copy, it goes on to argue that since it is widely whispered that UPA policy is made by the Gandhis, won’t the first family take responsibility?

Earlier, P Chidambaram had clarified that Mukesh Ambani does not run the country. Now, he smiled benignly upon Barkha Dutt, who knitted her brows at his talk of marginal cost of production versus capital cost versus import cost. Sound economics, but it was fairly early in the morning and Kejriwal’s colourful accusations were much more entertaining. Now, he threatens to print 10 crore copies of these letters for distribution nationwide. Prepare to see breathless stories about how Kejriwal rejuvenated the post office.

But as usual, the best of Kejriwal is on YouTube. Nayak 2, the Mumbai indie spoof featuring Alok Nath of Hum Log, is still so virally febrile that it has fed back into television. News 24 ran an appreciative story this week but for some great one-liners, try the short film itself. LK Advani’s response to news that Kejriwal exists: “IIT se ho; youth-oriented ghisi-piti raddi books likho na!” Or two-liners, like Kejriwal’s appreciation of the fact that he himself exists: “There’s a Kejriwal inside everyone… Somnath? That’s creepy!” Rahul Gandhi’s one-line review: “Mummy says this is a horror movie.” The version aired by News 24 seemed to be an update. Here, Kejriwal is a failed filmmaker who has fasted with Nana Patekar for the establishment of a Screenpal, and is incensed to find that there isn’t even the tiniest boat in Ship of Theseus. Filmi scam!

The east offered lighter entertainment. Rajdeep Sardesai did a short and fun interview of Mamata Banerjee, in which she disparaged the Third Front as “Tired Front”. She won’t go there because it includes “a man who makes khichuri gorment”. She was not frightened of AAP: “There have been so many murder attempts,” she said mysteriously.

And for truly weird news, there is morning TV. Here’s a string of stories from Zee, in rough translation: UP is sleepless. When it isn’t man-eaters on the prowl, it’s some sub-inspector opening fire for being refused a drink, apart from the rapes and false allegations thereof from all over the state. Meanwhile, in foreign news, it is five years since a US jetliner went down in the Hudson river minutes after take-off (hapless captive audiences in departure lounges all over the country were watching this). And the proud military commanders of the People’s Liberation Army have had “the peace of the day and the sleep of the night snatched from them”. Because thanks to state-sponsored capitalism, soldiers are now too fat to fit into their own tanks. Time to switch off.

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