If you’d been a credulous viewer watching the coverage of the Big Bang experiment on some of our Hindi news channels (like India TV), you would’ve been amazed that you were still alive. Because if these channels were to be believed, the world was going to end on Wednesday. Scientists would flick a switch (a mouse click more likely) on the 10 September and the next instant, poof! Everything would be over.
Doomsday predictions are great to read about in science fiction novels. They’re not bad as an occasional, idle exercise (could the world end one day because of a nuclear holocaust/asteroid hit/space invasion/disease and pestilence/ancient curse/watching too much India TV?) But Doomsday predictions (or rather predictions packaged as near-certainties) in news reportage? Well… Some friendly advice to these journalists: try science fiction novels/film scripts, you’ll fly (and hopefully, fly off our TV sets too).
The truth is that the Big Bang experiment has caught the popular imagination — and not just because of the end-of-the-world scenario. There’s the India connection, there’s the fascinating possibility of unlocking secrets of the universe, there’s the search for the intriguingly-named God particle… why reduce a great story to drivel?
News channels were also full of the Big B, who called a press conference to publicly apologise for… what? Wish we had a clue. These days movie stars have to just open their mouths (and speak or smoke) to get into trouble. Somebody somewhere (and this somebody clearly has all the time in the world) will then declare that his/her “sentiments have been hurt” and go to court. That’s the cue for news channels to plunge into non-stop, wall-to-wall coverage of the ‘controversy.’
But that of course is a terminal problem. Most news channels simply don’t know when to stop when they think they have a good thing going. On Thursday night, for example, Star News was running a story about how ordinary devotees at Mumbai’s Lalbaugcha Raja were being manhandled by the sevaks whereas movie stars were being given VIP treatment. They had a clip showing a woman being pushed out of the pandal in a very rough manner. The story was valid — but it went on and on and on, with the same points being made again and again and again and the same clip being shown again and...
Meanwhile, reality shows show no sign of winding down either. Every day, there’s a new one starting on some channel or the other (and that’s in addition to the shows already on air). The latest to hit the small screen is something called Saas Vs Bahu (Sahara One), where older actresses compete with their younger counterparts in — well, it has to be one of the two standard ingredients of such shows (singing/dancing). In this case, it’s dancing. I watched a couple of episodes and was quite struck by the full-on chatpata vigour of Himani Shivpuri (she’s in the saas category, if you must know) despite her, er, somewhat excess weight. As to the rest of the show, it was reality show business as usual.
And finally. The entertainment channel wars are truly hotting up. New entrant Colors has already shot up to No. 3 (after Star Plus and Zee), leaving the other still-new channels like NDTV Imagine and 9X far behind. What seems to have worked for Colors is its own big-bang entrance with Khatron Ke Khiladi, followed up by Bigg Boss. But the real surprise hit for the channel has been — no, not its much hyped period show, Mohe Rang De — but Ballika Vadhu, about a child bride, which has found a place in the top five most-watched shows.
Clearly, exciting times ahead.