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Kid fights and child marriages

Close your eyes. Relax the mind; allow the images of the election campaign you have seen on television,to float freely into the blackness behind your eyelids.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai |
April 14, 2009 12:17:44 am

Close your eyes. Relax the mind; allow the images of the election campaign you have seen on television,to float freely into the blackness behind your eyelids. What do you see?

Varun Gandhi’s inflammatory speech; Varun Gandhi,after said speech; everyone on said speech; Lalu Yadav’s roller speech; everyone on roller speech; L.K. Advani on the weakest prime minister,the prime minister on L K Advani as no prime minister; everyone on both; Narendra Modi on all that is old and bad about the Congress; Priyanka Gandhi on everything that is young about her,Rahul and Sonia; Lalu,Ramvilas and Mulayam always holding hands,Sharad Pawar not holding a rally with the BJD-CPIM and then,Jarnail Singh throwing the shoe at Chidambaram and Tytler hurling back accusations of his own.

Is this an ill-tempered proxy debate via TV between select politicians who don’t always know how to behave in public? Is it a television election campaign where we never hear of the issues people will vote on but are overwhelmed by personality clashes of Mahabharat proportions? Can you remember a prime time show (when most viewers watch TV) that goes to the very heart of the hinterland and discovers what India feels and thinks?

Apart from the opinion polls,have you acquired any sense of how people may vote,and why? Is anyone trudging through rural India,as NDTV’s Village Voice once did,listening to the oracles there? Has the coverage helped us form any idea of what these elections are about beyond the many fronts that have opened up in the electoral battle? Thus far,the coverage has been consumed by the clashes of some key leaders,occasionally overshadowed by cameo performers who strut briefly into the picture and then are heard or seen no more. Tytler and Jarnail are already worn out. But the headlines don’t go beyond this fiery rhetoric,day in and out; they don’t reflect the complexity of a multi-party contest with a million mutinies now and possibly tomorrow.

So you end up watching Bandini (NDTV Imagine) or Baalika Vadhu (Colors) instead. Coincidentally,both have conflicts between the old and the youthful. In Bandini,the young woman married to a man old enough to be at least her father,is shyly accepting his first advances as a husband — in this case,stretching out his hand and placing a little food between her lips. While it is still dressed up like something out of the recent fashion weeks in Delhi and Mumbai,the acting is restrained,and there’s a love story unfolding with a delicacy we don’t expect from an Ekta Kapoor production. Seems she’s changing and it’s paying off.

Baalika Vadhu has been greatly enlivened by the introduction of Farida Jalal. Just her cherubic face makes you feel something must be shining somewhere. She brings a touch of modernity and straightforward thinking to a serial that was stuck in the dark ages of social prejudice. She has no time for the stigma attached to young widowhood and is sensibly encouraging her young grand niece to shed her widow’s ways. Finally,through Jalal,the serial is making a direct assault of child marriage.

News channels,frequently,carry reports on the Taliban or Al Qaeda and telecast footage of men armed to the hilt,covered from head to toe,wandering through an inhospitable terrain like Lawrence of Arabia. IBN-7,last Friday,had one such segment in its afternoon news. While it was careful to identify the footage as ‘file’,there was no identification of the who,what,where and when — those cardinals of journalism. Can you use just any old footage with any report?

Lastly,on Aaj Tak,saw Jaspal Bhatti launch his party. Surrounded by his party colleagues,each demanding equal importance in the new government,Bhatti had a simple solution: “I’ll be the PM and all of you can be ‘Dipti PMs”’.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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