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Nano breaks a boring spell on news televison

The Nano launch, for obvious reasons, was one of those rare, upbeat, making-your-chest-swell-with-pride kind of stories. But of course, the party poopers landed up there too, writes Poonam Saxena.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2008 15:42 IST
Poonam Saxena
Poonam Saxena
Hindustan Times

For once, I didn’t object to the wall-to-wall coverage. The Nano was worth it. It was good to see the media going overboard over Ratan Tata instead of gasping over Amitabh-Abhishek-Aishwarya-Jaya-Amar Singh’s 1000th visit to a temple.

It was good to see visuals of a revolutionary new car, instead of ‘exclusive’ pictures of someone, anyone, getting beaten up (now pretty much the norm on most Hindi news channels).

The Nano launch, for obvious reasons, was one of those rare, upbeat, making-your-chest-swell-with-pride kind of stories. But of course, the party poopers landed up here too. All the news channels felt obliged to do the ‘negative’ part of the story as well. As far as I could make out, this mainly comprised stunned competitors indulging in some serious sour grapes: “Let’s see, let the car come on to the roads.” (I seem to remember everyone saying much the same thing earlier too: “Let’s see. Let them first come out with the car.”)

The second party pooper argument went something like this: the car will lead to congestion on the roads. This is such a strange argument that I don’t know why any of the anchors/reporters didn’t ask the doubting Thomases if they’d consider abandoning their own cars, given their heartfelt concern about road congestion.

One particular gentleman on NDTV India made the bizarre observation that the people who will buy the Nano will drive very badly, without any road etiquette. How exactly he came to this conclusion is not very clear. And the anchor didn’t bother to ask. Fortunately, no one — not the Suzuki boss, nor the Dr Pachauris and Sunita Narains, nor anyone else — could take away from the excitement of the story.

But of course, even in the middle of all the excitement (it was a wonder we could see the car considering the crowds swarming around; one Sikh gentleman appeared on two or three channels, waving his chequebook, disappointed that he couldn’t book the Nano there and then at Pragati Maidan), we couldn’t escape Amitabh Bachchan. No, he hadn’t been spotted at yet another temple. He’d merely attended the music launch of Jodhaa Akbar. But the news channels forgot all about poor Ashutosh Gowariker’s film, his lead stars and his music. Everyone’s attention was diverted by a little clip which showed the Big B hugging Shatrughan Sinha. The background—which everyone explained to us at great length—was that Shatrughan was very miffed because he hadn’t been invited to The Wedding. But now the two actors had kissed and made up, so all was well once again. The way the ‘news’ was reported on channels like Star News and Zee News, it was as if India and Pakistan had hugged and proclaimed themselves to be bhai-bhai.

And of course, there’s been cricket. Tempers have understandably been running very high. People like Sunil Gavaskar (always refreshingly outspoken) and Navjot Singh Sidhu haven’t minced any words when giving their views on the shameful goings-on in Australia. And why should they — or anyone else for that matter? Even-handedness and objectivity are all very well, but there are some stories where TV journalists (and thereby channels) have to take a stand. Usually, alas, when they do so, they end up pontificating.

And finally. I believe Zee has launched another entertainment channel, Zee Next, but either they’re keeping it a big secret from viewers, or my cablewallah has decided to keep it a big secret from his subscribers. Whatever the case, I’m still not getting it on my set.

But the channel that is back is India Live — the same channel that did the fake sting on a schoolteacher who was supposed to have run a prostitution racket. I guess it will be a long time before India Live does another sting.