September 27, 2014 3:07:28 am
The electronic media scene is slightly more bizarre than usual this week, if such a thing is possible. Doordarshan newscasters have dropped like flies after making fools of themselves on air. The first was offed for speaking of one Eleven Jinping. This is what comes of teaching archaic number systems in school. A colleague was led away after reporting on the floods in Kashmir, using alternative place-names favoured by separatists.
But far more bizarre is a rant by PJ O’Rourke (aided by his daughter Muffin) against the multilingual news channel RT because it is backed by the Kremlin. Bizarre, because everyone has known forever that this is the case, way before O’Rourke watched what he calls “enemy television”. The channel itself proclaims that its core competency is the other side of the story. What’s the problem, so long as the watcher knows which side that is? But hang on, O’Rourke’s real problem is RT’s crummy computer graphics, which look like they were made by children who have just discovered Photoshop. Bet he hasn’t seen the video of what NDTV reported as the “American Indians’ song for Modi”. Sitting Bull, where are you now?
O’Rourke also mislikes anchors with graphically bad hair, and claims like this Wikipedia entry on RT: “…the first television news channel in history to reach 1 billion views on YouTube.” His reaction: “Perhaps it’s one of those urban hipster things.” Perhaps not. It’s because RT had embedded itself in the Julian Assange story. Every geek and script kiddie on earth just had to follow it. And since they think TV died in 1969, they watch the Net.
So do creepy people in search of tiger maulings. For those who mercifully missed the show on Tuesday, when a boy was killed by a tiger in the Delhi zoo, ABP News put a cellphone video online, where “you can see how the boy begged for mercy but the tiger killed him”. Bizarre postings from all over the world — but mostly in Russian and Portuguese — appear below this video fable. The creepiest: “Hey, haven’t we all had a craving for Indian food from time to time?”
Indian food should be selling well in NYC, whose streets are now peopled by wandering bands of Indian TV reporters who preceded Narendra Modi. While waiting for him, they have been stalking “American Indians”, scrounging for interviews like homeless people and snagging quotes about the need for reform in “labour, land and retrospective taxation”. They could have got the same quotes in Gurgaon. Hours before the launch of the Make in India facilitation project in Delhi, Rahul Kanwal spoke of the “electric atmosphere” in NYC, as if it was preparing for “the biggest rock concert by the biggest pop diva”. Black Sabbath, Kylie Minogue, where are you now?
On TV, this was Narendra Modi Week, starting in Mars orbit and ending in NYC. In between, he recruited the rich and famous to the national project in Vigyan Bhavan, where the promising Make in India programme was launched. Hours later, he pointedly jogged up the gangway of his flight to Frankfurt, en route to NYC. And next week, too, will be Narendra Modi Week. Superman, where are you now?
To return to O’Rourke, this sounds deathly elegiac, but I tried and failed to find him funny. Maybe it’s a subgenre thing. His flavour of Russki-lampooning died out with Punch, which excelled at it. Its dramatis personae like Biggles Bigglesyevich and Ginger Gingerovitch were careful not to let their cigarettes dangle from the corner of the mouth. Because then, all the sawdust would fall out. After such perfection, who would dare to compete?
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