What is it with Hindi news channels? They’re less and less about news and more and more like TV versions of Manohar Kahaniyaan. A woman who claimed she was a snake in her past life? Great story for Star News. A haunted haveli in Gujarat? Perfect for Zee News’ Bhoot Bangla series. The channel even has a female compere, in a white saree, eerily back-lit so that her hair glows like a ghostly halo, whispering her lines.
But more seriously, a report on two sisters convicted for murdering small children comes with the most graphic details about the kind of torture the women inflicted on their victims. A story on female foeticide in Rajasthan, where baby foetuses are apparently thrown into a lake, is accompanied by stomach-churning visuals of foetuses floating in the water — and these pictures that are repeated again and again. The anchors presenting all this ‘news’ sound suitably horrified (“How can people do this? What sort of inhumanity is this?”), but it sounds as convincing as an actor saying his lines in a particularly bad Bollywood film. It’s the same scam the newspapers used to pull in the old days: run stories on how bad and immoral cabaret dancers are while simultaneously carrying as many photographs of half-naked women as possible.
Even when Zee News does a feature on the elimination of Diwakar, the sightless boy participant of Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs contest, the anchor drips more emotion than Manmohan Desai managed in his seventies’ potboilers. “Poor Diwakar’s dream has been shattered. He must be feeling so terrible. His parents are also very upset. Let’s go to our Mumbai studio where Diwakar and his parents are with us. So how are you feeling? Very bad, I’m sure…” Cut to tearful parents and child. Have these TV channels no shame?
Is it just me or has Fashion Week coverage across all channels suddenly become boring and repetitive? Not one channel managed a reasonable programme on the fashion shows and almost all the designers who doubled as anchors were uniformly bad. Suneet Varma is a miracle of modern science: he’s the only 40-plus person on TV who looks 20. But once you’ve finished staring at his spiky hair and wondering how it stays up, his commentary is as uninspiring as everybody else’s. As for Manish Malhotra, he spent the entire week standing awkwardly next to an over-hyper Anisha Baig in the manner of a showroom mannequin or a man who had forgotten to take the hanger out of his shirt before wearing it. Nice cheekbones though, shame about the anchoring.
And though I’m about two weeks late on this one, I should mention — in the interests of fairness given the rough time he’s had in these columns over the last few months — that Sreenivasan Jain did an excellent episode of Witness (NDTV) in which he took a nostalgic look back at the times in which we all grew up. The segments on the early days of Doordarshan were charming and the show was put together with style and flair. Jain even managed not to say “uh” and “um” too often.
I finally managed to catch Arnab Goswami’s Frankly Speaking on Times Now. It is essentially an agro interview show in which Arnab tries to be Karan Thapar but forgets that he lacks Thapar’s talent. Worse still, the camera angles are bizarre and the production values dodgy. If this is supposed to be the channel head’s prestige programme and Arnab hopes to go head to head with Rajdeep Sardesai or Prannoy Roy, then Times Now needs to re-think its strategy.
And finally. After getting three of its shows in the Top 100, Zee TV has managed to squeeze in a fourth one at No. 99 — its new serial, Banoo Main Teri Dulhan. As the name suggests, this is the mother of all melodramas, about a simple illiterate girl who discovers on her wedding day — in the mandap, while the pheras are on — that her husband is mad. Throw in the husband’s three evil stepsisters and you have a readymade formula for ceaseless tears and torment.
Maybe I’ll just switch to Cartoon Network.