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Reality on steroids

Boy,are there differences in perception between India and the US. Sunday morning,we saw Hillary Clinton on Indian news channels wreathed...

Boy,are there differences in perception between India and the US. Sunday morning,we saw Hillary Clinton on Indian news channels wreathed in garlands and toothy smiles. Yet CNN announced,“Clinton begins Asia visit on sombre note”. Did it detect a grimace in her grin?

Rajdeep Sardesai scored for CNN-IBN with the first Clinton interview on Indian news,while she was still in the USA. Arnab Goswami followed on Saturday (Times Now) and Barkha Dutt on Sunday (NDTV 24×7). The interviews were sober (not sombre) and touched upon the same issues: terrorism,26/11,Pakistan,nuclear deal. So,in a manner of speaking,there was no progress in the talks.

Still,Clinton made the impossible possible. Her mere presence lowered the volume of all three anchors. In Goswami’s case she increased the level of his courteousness: each time he addressed her as Secretary of State,it sounded like a compliment. And,he smiled. This,from the man who usually takes himself and his job too seriously.

Meanwhile,Karan Thapar interviewed Gen Musharraf for the nth time but it was worth it because he got Musharraf to assess his successor,Indo-Pak relations and the outlines of a possible agreement between them on Kashmir,Siachin,Sir Creek during the general’s rule.

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Onto that most inappropriately named creature,Reality TV. Two news show made their debut last week: Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao (Sony) and Sach Ka Saamna (Star Plus) which could have been Jhoot ka Samna because it’s only if you lie that you get caught out. None of the Iss Jungle contestants would have dreamt of spending weeks on end in a Malaysian jungle for even a second unless they were being paid the biggest bucks they’ve ever earned. That or they need the work.

This survival circus tests contestants’ abilities to overcome their fear factor and their dislike of each other,in particular of Fiza (Chand Mohammad fame) who is disdained by most of the men,long enough to battle the forces of nature. They’ve begun at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder: so far,they encountered all the creeps,sorry creepy crawlies who inspire revulsion: eels,maggots,leeches,snakes,cockroaches,scorpions,lizards,grasshoppers,etc. If they can bear to touch these,hosts Mini Mathur and Yudi will reward them with food stars. And a crore for the ultimate survivor of all things bestial. Verdict? Iss Show Se Mujhe Bachao.

The moment of truth on Sach ka Saamna is contrived. A contestant is asked 50 questions off stage with a polygraph recording True or False,of which 21 can be asked on the show. Thus,contestants already know the questions and the answers they gave. Chances are their near and dear know too. All they have to do,then,is to tell the truth on TV when asked: did you sleep with a prostitute,a girl younger than your daughter,do you have an illegitimate child,would you have an affair with another man if you could without husband knowing. Easy,eh?

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There’s been a moral pandemic on Hindi news channels about such intimate inquiry as well as Vinod Kambli saying,in answer to a question,that Sachin T should have been more supportive of him in his troubled times. The questions probe the weakest links,usually those related to sexual,marital relationships,friendships and betrayals. Such questions are crass,intrusive and even tiresome,but would you watch Sach ka Saamna if Kambli was asked to name his favorite vegetable? People seem eager to reveal their ‘dirty’ linen on TV — for a price. Will it wash with Indians? Could be. Especially,since host Rajeev Khandelwal’s mild manner suggests he is making tender inquiries about nothing more personal than the monsoon.

The Bold and the Beautiful has been replaced by ‘The Frank and the Freakish’. Watch Dadagiri (Bindass) where a guy was tearing a raw fish apart with his teeth or 21 where a girl was asked if she has been with another woman…

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

First published on: 21-07-2009 at 02:39:15 am
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