As the election saga unfolds, the main players hurtle from rally to rally, pausing in between to give soundbytes/interviews to the journos doggedly tailing them. Some are looking much the worse for wear while others seem to be positively charged.
The heat and dust appears to have got to LK Advani — he’s looking quite fatigued. Or maybe it’s because he’s decided to occupy that rather uncomfortable place called the moral high ground (he’s nobly not responding to Manmohan Singh’s attacks).
Dr Singh, on the other hand, seems to have suddenly discovered that there’s a word like publicity in the English language and it’s not a bad word after all. He’s been freely and cheerfully giving interviews to journalists; even his family members have suddenly popped out from wherever they’ve been till now and decided to talk to TV channels.
Varun Gandhi’s campaign managers are saying he’s shed hatred. We really don’t know about that, but he’s certainly shed about eight kilos after his time in jail. Considering he was not exactly reed-slim before, his lighter new self is a distinct improvement. As to shedding hatred — hope his guys haven’t go mixed up with the words ‘shed’ and ‘spread.’ I mean, they both start with an S and end with a D — anyone could get confused. Amar Singh has been shadowing Sanjay Dutt like a, well, shadow. As for Sanjay Dutt, maybe he should be renamed Singe Dutt since he’s been so busy making inflammatory speeches wherever he goes (with the Shadow in constant, dutiful attendance; what will happen to Mulayam Singh now? Or, for that matter, Amitabh Bachchan?). Sis Priya Dutt, on her part, is refusing to attack Singe, sorry, Sanjay for his attacks on the Congress, displaying an almost Zen-like demeanour. (He has a yen for politics; she has a yen for Zen).
And the Left? Prakash Karat appears as dour as ever, repeating, every two minutes, whether anyone asks him or not, “We will not support the Congress!” And — unbelievable as it may sound — even Lalu Prasad Yadav seems a bit off colour. No memorable one-liners this time (Hema Malini’s cheeks and the like).
The other thing that’s a bit off colour this year (so far) is the IPL. Last year, it was like a juggernaut, all but annihilating the entertainment and news channels. This time round, the frenzy is definitely muted. Shifting the venue to South Africa and tough competition from the general elections seems to have queered the pitch for IPL.
In his TV interviews, Lalit Modi put up a brave front, claiming that the ratings were good and that everything was just fine. But watching the matches on Set Max is a bit like watching some cricket tournament somewhere. But this is not some cricket tournament somewhere, it’s the IPL for God’s sake. Even in its somewhat less than 100 watt avatar, it has its moments. (I’m talking entirely non-cricketing moments here). Like the moment when I saw a tousle-headed urchin interviewing some cricketers on the field. I almost did a double take when I realised that this was none other than Mandira Bedi. What on earth did she do with her long hair, noodle strap blouses and flowing saris? From glamorous goddess to teenage tomboy, what a makeover. Now if only IPL could get a makeover…
And finally. Elections and IPL mean an ad blitz on the small screen. The Congress and BJP have both unleashed a series of ads which play all the time on every other channel. If Congress had Jai ho as a theme song, BJP came up with Bhaya ho.
If Sonia Gandhi waves energetically to teeming crowds, LK Advani frowns thoughtfully as he stares into the distance, trying hard to look like a Loh Purush.
But my vote for the best ads currently playing on TV goes to the new Vodaphone series featuring small white figures with egg-shaped heads. If you haven’t seen the ads, go to IPL on Set Max; that’s where they are shown repeatedly. You can also watch the matches.