Just like in the movies: fake news videos have Bollywoodised truth

  • Narayanan Madhavan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 23, 2016 21:01 IST

Do you recall the chicken farmer from West Punjab who became Osama Bin Laden--if only on screen and only for a while? The comical ‘Tere Bin Laden’ mocked us and rocked us with its many layers of satirical truth. In the movie, the hapless chicken farmer was passed off by adventurous youngsters as the world’s most wanted man so they could collect the bounty on his head.

They shot a video in which software was used to overlay an assault gun where he held a well-bred rooster. And they made him mouth syllables with a voiceover that suggested to the world that he was alive in Pakistan. “Habibi Bush,…” he began his well-rehearsed playback speech in Arabic, while he only knew rustic Punjabi.

We laughed so much at the cocky satire. But we cannot be laughing with equal vigour when Indian TV news channels offer as gospel some videos that are better off in fictional works on the silver screen.

But Bollywoodisation of Truth is what we have witnessed in the past few days. Did someone really shout anti-national slogans at JNU? If so, were they the same elected students union leaders of various ideological hues? Were they seditious? Really?

Left parties in Kolkata take out a rally in support of JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, whose speech was allegedly doctored in videos. (Samir Jana/ HT photo)

We don’t officially know yet but the nation is in the thick of an outrageous wave of might-be, might-have-been, you-never-know videos and pictures, some if not all of which are clearly manipulated works that deserve a place in Bollywood’s creative factories.

‘Tere Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive’--the sequel to the original--is due on the screens soon. In a future sequel, the producers may just have taken a clue or two from our TV news channels in their studio special effects.

We have had at least two TV channels airing a video that is not authentic. At least one of them had blurbs highlighting slogans without anyone vouching for who shouted them and where. There are WhatsApp videos and audios circulating, showing blurry, flaky images supposedly slamming those were seditious. It will take a painful week for Delhi’s police-appointed forensic experts to establish the authenticity or otherwise of the videos in question. But self-appointed custodians of law and nation have already slammed, abused and literally punched people in their pursuit of intense patriotism.

Apparently for them, a Bollywoodisation of truth will do.

You now have videos like this and websites like this that guide you how to manipulate images and videos, add backgrounds. Of course, you can add sounds to your videos through apps like Dubsmash .

Is it any surprise then that dubious images with some edits, overlays and voice-overs are now circulating in social media and picked up by mainstream media without verification or even a note of caution?

The pen, they used to say, is mightier than the sword. We can change that to “The Photoshop is mightier than the camera”

They used to say the camera does not lie. That is sooooo 20th Century!

Well, all you need after some creative videos is a passionate, committed - and preferably noisy -- anchor to make it all appear genuine.

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