Telescope: It’s raining misogyny

Is TV empowering women, or exploiting their woes?

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: August 2, 2018 12:15:57 am
Is TV empowering women, or exploiting their woes? Young girls in a home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, reportedly sexually harassed and maltreated, have been making news across channels and media. (Express Illustration)

The rains are still flooding the Hindi news channels: On Aaj Tak, ABP, NDTV India, “in half of India, the skies have just opened up”. At India News, it’s the “dangerous Yamuna” that is rising to perilous levels in Delhi. And as all of them point out, nobody, least of all the authorities, seems to know what to do with all this water.

On the English news channels, water is the least of the problems. Since Monday afternoon, nobody appears to have any idea of what to do with the 40 lakh people who have not made it to the National Register of Citizens in Assam. When a bemused Zakka Jacob asked BJP’s Amit Malviya, “What will you do with 40 lakh people or even one lakh?”, he replied serenely that ideally, it would be best to repatriate them to their country but since this is not an ideal world, we should have an “exchange of solution” with the neighbour (CNN News 18). Is that clear?

A lack of clarity was a problem — or so Times Now would have us believe — in the Aircel-Maxis case, where former Finance Minister P Chidambaram is under the scanner. The case was adjourned till October on Tuesday morning and the Times Now anchor asked the channel’s reporter if the investigating agencies had been ill prepared: “Yes, they may well have been…,” she replied.

And in the “VVIP chopper case”, in which the prime accused Christian Michel got bail, the India Today reporter informed us that the Indian government showed very little interest, in fact it did not show up at all: “India was not represented at the UAE court” at the time of the bail hearing, much to the amazement of the Tuesday morning India Today anchor.

Vijay Mallya’s case was adjourned in London till September but at least the Indian authorities were represented, as CNN News informed us, and presented detailed information about the “toilet conditions” in Indian jails, besides the prison cells and other facilities. This was to counter Mallya’s allegation that he feared being jailed back home, because of the conditions in Indian prisons. Outside the London court, he brushed aside some pretty tough questions, with nonchalance: “I am not going to speculate” (Mirror Now).

Nothing stops the Indian media from speculative news and discussions, though. So, on Tuesday, News X had an afternoon panel on whether the PM should “go to Pakistan if he is invited”. The results on the Pakistan general elections elicited different responses across English news channels: “Pak elects a new government”, stated NDTV 24×7 with a straight face, quickly adding, “Indian intelligence concerns” to add a little spice to the bland reaction.

Where Pakistan is concerned, Republic almost always sees only red: “#Pakvotesterror”, “Proxy military rule?”, something Times Now agreed with word for word, actually — “#Pakvotesfor Terror”. Who says they are competitors?

Other channels played on Imran Khan’s past, in particular his cricketing exploits, although WION lost no opportunity to interview his former wife Reham Khan on all his perfidies. “New innings for Imran” was the obvious choice and one ET Now went with. Zee News’ anchor used the occasion to display his cricketing knowledge: Pakistan had great bowlers in Imran, Sarfaraz and Waqar while India had batsmen who could counter them, he said, like Tendulkar, Sehwag and Kohli, but now, “pitch alag hai”.

Entertainment channel Colors TV celebrates 10 years this July. Remember Balika Vadhu and the fresh-faced child bride Anandi? At the time she broke the mould and the stranglehold of the saas-bahu serials led by Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and went on to do shows like Na Aana Is Desh Mein Lado, which explored discrimination against the girl child. Provocative stuff.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the channel lost its way or its audience and had to resort to Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss and Ekta Kapoor’s Naagin to win them over. Both of those continue to “entertain” audiences. Let us hope for more than snakes and Salman bhai in the coming decade.

On the subject of women, not sure whether Krishna Chali London (Star Plus) is empowering them or exploiting their woes. The villain here is Krishna’s father-in-law, Shukla ji, who has only mean bones in his body. Not only does he mistreat Krishna, douse her in petrol but he and other family members harass the other sister-in-law, resorting to blows and bruises — they get away with it because she is too fearful to stand up to them even though Krishna calls in the cops. Krishna is now trying to leave her marital home but loving husband Radhey has prostrated before her on her departing car. Ah, men.

Same to same with Richa who has been raped by Chirag but eventually marries him for her father’s sake — only men have self-respect, she laments — despite Nimki Mukhiya’s best efforts to bring him to justice (Nimki Mukhiya, Star Bharat). Chirag now promises to make his wife’s life a living hell. Oh God, these Indian men.

Young girls in a home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, reportedly sexually harassed and maltreated, have been making news across channels and media. That TV serials are looking at sexual politics is an interesting coincidence.

Let’s leave you with this: BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said he doesn’t believe in “hugs”. The Times Now report, “Hug me not” saw him spluttering as he said a hug from Rahul Gandhi could lead to divorce.

The writer is vice-dean, School of Journalism and Communication O P Jindal Global University.

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