For two days, the nation sat in front of their TV sets, mesmerised — not by saas-bahu serials, reality shows, mythological epics, cricket matches or Bollywood scoops — but by Parliament proceedings. The debate on the trust motion had the effect of a powerful, hypnotic drug. Lok Sabha TV ruled, followed by the news channels. Though interesting enough, none of the discussions and post-mortems on news channels could compare with the sheer watchability of what was happening in Parliament.
There were three or four heroes of the day — the real crowd-pullers.
Hero No. 1 was Somnath Chatterjee. I think drawing room conversations all over India for many days centred around everyone’s favourite Somnath lines. Here are a couple of my own:
Yeh kya ho raha hai?
Please take your seats. Let the officers do their work.
The nation/world is watching you. Please behave yourself.
That is a frivolous charge. I have already said ‘No.’
Chatterjee was like an exasperated headmaster, pushed to the end of his tether every few minutes by his obstreperous, disobedient brood.
And then there were those moments — during Lalu Prasad Yadav’s speech, for instance — when the Speaker covered his mouth with his hand, shoulders heaving as he chuckled silently.
Hero No. 2, I think, was Lalu Prasad Yadav who spoke, well, as only Lalu Prasad Yadav can. The House was actually quiet when the Railway Minister took off in a speech full of rustic turns of phrase, references to Hindi film songs and plenty of trademark Lalu humour.
But for the most fiery, passionate, heartfelt speech, the honours of course go to Omar Abdullah. I got goosebumps listening to him. He’s always been one of the most clear-headed, articulate and telegenic politicians, but that day was special. If news channels have any sense, they should tap him as much as they possibly can. And for the most earnest speech (what Chandan Mitra pungently described as his ‘Discovery of India speech’), my vote would go to Rahul Gandhi. Holding his own in the midst of all that hostile din couldn’t have been easy, but he appeared completely unruffled.
And then there were Those Three — Mahavir Bhagora, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Ashok Argal —who created a surreal atmosphere in Parliament by brandishing wads of notes, claiming they’d been offered bribes. Maybe they thought they were on India TV.
The way viewers were mesmerised by the debate proves something most Hindi news channels seem to have forgotten — that Indians are obsessed with politics. We’re probably among the most politically literate people in the world, with strong opinions on politicians, political parties, government policies etc. It’s a shame that news channels appear incapable of tapping into this passionate interest and insist on feeding us with a mind-numbing diet of crime, entertainment, reality TV and weird stories about miracles and aliens.
The non-stop excitement on Monday and Tuesday wasn’t the ideal timing for a channel launch. But poor Colors didn’t really have a choice, since they’d already announced to the world that they were starting their Hindi entertainment channel on the 21st July.
Khatron Ke Khiladi with current box office king Akshay Kumar as host is the chief attraction. I saw a couple of episodes and was fascinated, in a horrified kind of way. As everyone knows, the show is an Indian version of Fear Factor and features 13 haseenayen. You can imagine these haseenayen walking the ramp or doing item numbers, but can you imagine them lying in a glass box with 175 rats swarming all over them, while they pick out the white rats and black rats? I watched this ‘reaction stunt’ with mounting horror, wondering why the girls were not shrieking, why they were not throwing up, why they were not clambering out of the glass box and running away as far as their shapely legs could carry them.
But these haseenayen turned out to be tough cookies. Pooja Bedi picked out more than 40 rats; models Tapur and Tupur were not far behind. Akshay Kumar was stern (“No crying; there’s no place for crying on this show”) and encouraging (scooping up the best performer in his arms) in turn. Worth watching.