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The death of dignity on TV

tv Updated: Feb 02, 2009 19:10 IST
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Why do the entertainment channels bother with fictional stories when there’s so much real-life drama going on all around us in the full glare of TV cameras? The Chand-Fiza story that’s being played out in the media is so filmi that even Rakhi Sawant would probably blush (on second thoughts, maybe she wouldn’t; who can forget her on-camera tiff with sometime boyfriend Abhishek Awasthi when he turned up at her doorstep with flowers and she gave him — as MTV would say — ‘one tight slap’).

Anyway, Fiza gave a press conference where there were no tight slaps, only tears. She said that her husband, Chand Mohammed, had been kidnapped. But Chand surfaced on his mobile phone; now, since both he and his phone were freely roaming around Delhi, how could he have been kidnapped? Then Fiza swallowed sleeping pills and had to be carried (literally, on someone’s shoulder) to hospital. Then… well, never mind. All this was played out in front of ever-obliging TV cameras. NDTV India had a discussion on the whole episode where one of the speakers, actor Shekhar Suman, said that Chand-Fiza had turned their mohabbat into a reality show for TV.

Frankly, who would have thought Indians could do this kind of thing? In the first few years of satellite television in India, I would have never believed it if anyone had said that there would come a time when Indians would uninhibitedly reveal all sorts of things about their private lives to TV crews. That was something only the Americans did, revealing their most shameful secrets on Oprah Winfrey’s show (“I cheated on my diet, I ate a piece of chocolate cake!”) or Jerry Springer’s show (“I cheated on my wife with my daughter’s baby-sitter!”).

But we were more dignified, private people in these matters, weren’t we? Or were we? Clearly not. It seems no price is too high to pay for overnight nation-wide recognition, positive or negative.

That’s why the Ram Sene goondas called TV cameras when they targeted girls in a Mangalore pub. The disgusting, shameful attack was played out on our TV screens, causing national outrage and anger. But instead of focusing on that outrage and demanding the strictest action against the offenders, the television debate has moved to ‘Are Pubs Against Indian Culture?’

If even the semblance of an intelligent debate is possible on this, I’ll eat my hat. The truth is that you’ll end up hearing unintelligent and prejudiced comments like the one BJP’s B.P. Singhal made on Headlines Today (“Girls should not be allowed to go to pubs because boys drink and then manhandle them.”)

For once I was totally on the side of Raghu Ram (of MTV Roadies fame), who was so enraged, he could barely speak (of course, anyone could go to a pub, man or woman, he said). “Do you have a sister?” asked Singhal knowingly. “Would you let her go to a pub?” I decided I’d heard enough of Mr Singhal. I just wish he and Muthalik could be airdropped to the Swat Valley.

For me, the most watchable show this entire week was the CNN-IBN special where Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh interacted with NSG commandos.

Like NDTV 24x7’s Jai Jawan series (they’re doing one too, with M.S. Dhoni and the NSG), the CNN-IBN show had the two cricketers answering questions and asking a few of their own. Both of them also saw the commandos go through their paces (no, they couldn’t do half the things the NSG guys did).

Worth a watch.