TV’s braveheartshttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/tvs-bravehearts-the-rohtak-sisters-videos-provoked-much-anger-and-some-questions/

TV’s bravehearts

The Rohtak sisters’ videos provoked much anger — and some questions.

The Rohtak sisters’ videos provoked much anger — and some questions.
The Rohtak sisters’ videos provoked much anger — and some questions.

The “Rohtak Bravehearts” (Times Now) have appeared in not just one but two videos that celebrate their courage. In both videos, the two sisters are seen teaching a lesson to young men who harass them — in the first that was broadcast on Sunday, they administer a sound thrashing to young men on a bus; the second, telecast on Tuesday, is of an earlier occasion in a park where they are seen in a verbal and physical altercation with a young man. While a whodunit of questions surround the videos — primary being who shot them — “the rockstar girls from Rohtak” (NDTV 24×7) became television celebrities overnight.

On Sunday evening, all major news channels in Hindi and English repeatedly telecast the video of Aarti and Pooja in physical combat with the men on the bus, going so far as to use a belt to beat them. As your heart swells with pride at their “fight back”, it revolts at the sight of the other people in the bus, mostly men, standing or sitting back to enjoy the “show”. The TV news channels were outraged: “What’s changed since Nirbhaya?” demanded Times Now, which is always more outraged than anyone else. “Where is the anger?” demanded Arnab Goswami, who is always more enraged than everyone else put together (Monday). Well, there was plenty of anger in the studio once Goswami allowed others to speak. Politicians like ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Najma Heptullah and Harsimrat Kaur, and BSP chief Mayawati (all women — why?) expressed their appreciation of the sisters’ actions and anger at the bystanders.

The sisters, often with their proud father, were interviewed by all the channels and acquitted themselves as though they were prepared for this sudden moment of fame. They spoke calmly, cautiously and freely dispensed advice to womenfolk who may have been watching and listening to them: if a female behaves properly and she is harassed by men, she should hit back, they recommended. Such was the viral response to the bus video that the sisters’ exploits made it to BBC World and CNN International, too. With the second video having surfaced, the sisters may find themselves rocking the media for longer than they expected.

Times Now in its Monday super prime-time (?!) coverage of the Rohtak sisters referred to other instances where women have fought back against their male oppressors. There was diet specialist Rujuta Diwekar in Mumbai and Mamta Yadav in Meerut. NewsX had
an incident in Indore where a woman fought off a chain-snatcher. And then, of course, came the news of Gauhar Khan being slapped by a male member of the audience for dressing inappropriately (in his opinion) during the taping of reality show India’s Raw Star.

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Such incidents reveal a lack of respect for women. Watch this happen in reel life too. Watched Hum Hain Na (Sony) on Monday night after listening to the debates about Aarti and Pooja. What do you see? A mother-in-law bemoaning her daughter-in-law’s behaviour, a husband berating the errant wife (“before being your husband, I am my mother’s son”) and no one else in the family willing to stand up for the daughter-in-law, Sagarika, who has in fact done nothing wrong.

Similar situations appear in most TV soaps — the female protagonist is constantly under watch and under suspicion. She must always prove her innocence, her righteousness. Don’t such “agniparikshas” reinforce negative attitudes towards women?

On Wednesday morning, Australian cricketer Phil Hughes’s funeral in his hometown of Macksville was telecast live on channels like NDTV 24×7. Odd that a sports channel like Star Cricket, devoted to the bat and ball entirely, did not cover the ceremony.

Glad to watch the IPTL tennis tournament (Star Sports), which is coming to Delhi this weekend. It succeeds the Vijay Amritraj promoted CTL. With current top players like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Sania Mirza, etc, the IPTL has the edge, but it was fun to see old stars like Martina Hingis in action too (CTL).

Now that we have so many new leagues across sports — cricket, hockey, kabbadi, football and now tennis — are we getting over-exposed to sport?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com