A little boy fell into a hole in Kurukshetra and all the news channels flipped their collective lids. Saturation coverage doesn’t even begin to describe the kind of marathon telecast we saw last weekend. Whether it was Star News or Zee News, Sahara Samay or Channel 7, Prince’s rescue eclipsed everything — but everything. A dozen blasts could have probably taken place in Srinagar and none of the channels would have blinked. The rescue mission (digging a tunnel to get to the hole where Prince was trapped) took hours and hours and hours. As a result, nothing much was happening on television screens for hours and hours and hours (unfortunately the TV channels were not present inside that tunnel, giving a blow by blow account of the digging). So this is what we got:
Updates every second on Prince’s condition.
“Wonder what he’s thinking…”
“What a brave, courageous boy...”
“Now he has moved a little…”
And when he actually sat up, everyone almost passed out.
Updates on the tunnel-digging.
“The digging is in process..”
“The digging is still in process…”
“The digging continues to be in progress...”
Updates on the general ‘mahaul’ in Kurkukshetra.
“People have been camping here for hours...”
“People are coming from all over...”
“Prince’s parents are there... right there... praying for him...”
“Everyone here is so concerned about Prince...”
Updates on the ‘mahaul’ in India.
“Messages are pouring in from all over the country for Prince’s safety and welfare...”
“People are doing pujas all over the country for Prince’s safety and welfare...”
“The whole country is watching the television, waiting for Prince to be rescued...”
And all through the endless hours, endless repetition of the entire story, of how Prince had fallen, how the initial attempts to rescue him had failed, the latest effort etc etc.
What should have been a straightforward, moving human interest story of a little child’s heroic rescue was converted into an unending tamasha by television channels. I hope they are rewarded by the unprecedented TRPs they no doubt sought when they decided on this unprecedented coverage.
If a little boy was being rescued in Kurukshetra, scores of little kids were busy dancing and singing — on Sony’s Boogie Woogie and on Zee’s music talent hunt, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs. In its previous run, Boogie Woogie had what seemed like hundreds of episodes where little girls would do these cabaret-type dances, shaking non-existent bosoms, while their fond parents sat in the audience, beaming with pride. After going off the air, Boogie Woogie recently made a comeback on Sony, and instantly reverted to their children’s specials. Perhaps Jaaved, Naved and Ravi Bahl should shift their show to Pogo.
On Zee’s L’il Champs, mercifully, the kids mostly just sing – and sing well. But you can’t help but feel sorry for them – grappling with all the tension of being eliminated, and facing the judges’ often harsh comments.
And finally. Why is most of the spooky stuff on TV not at all spooky? I watched something called Shhh… Koi Hai on Star Plus, about a bunch of girls and boys who get stuck in a village full of evil ghosts. The ghosts shriek with glee, the girls and boys shriek with fright, and all you want to say at the end of it is Shhh…