Peepli Live: Part 2?
How do you think CNN would have handled two big breaking events – one abroad and the other in their backyard? Imagine for the moment that the 26\11 terror strikes in Mumbai and the Katrina hurricane had unfolded simultaneously. While the international channel would have certainly dipped in and out of live coverage of the rescue of hostages at the Taj Hotel in India, there would have been minute by minute, indepth coverage of the rescue of stranded Americans, helplines, traffic and power updates and every possible angle of the devastation caused by nature’s fury in their own country. For starters, Katrina would not have been a story of New Orleans but of America. And the terror attacks in India would have been at best, a second headline.
Cut to Indian channels. The Chennai Floods was about, well, just that, the Chennai Floods, not India’s disaster. And the aftermath of the Paris carnage was still not just the top headline but pretty much the entire bulletins. Never mind Indian Correspondents saying in live reports that they were not getting access and there were no substantial updates. Journalists had to act like investigators and experts got prime air time in Indian TV studios.
Barring one national channel, most of the others cared to look down South a good 4 or 5 days after the first deluge in Chennai. That was when an offbeat story of a cab operator that couldn’t run its cabs in the rain but latched on to an opportunity for publicity with a boat service went viral on the social media. That’s how superficial Delhi centric newsrooms can get. Of course, the stories of real heroes – of IT professionals turning weather bloggers and filling in a vaccum left by the national mainstream media, of residents opening their homes to perfect strangers forced out of theirs, of senior officers leading from the front wading through even neck deep water to rescue marooned people, of individuals even conducting courses in rescue missions, didn’t pass muster with them. These are the same channels that would bring the roof down if there is ankle deep water in the capital with sensational headlines pointing to how life has come to a standstill. One channel ran a special a fortnight later when the sun came out and most of the water receded. It’s like a person not turning up at a wedding but making a grand entry at the naming ceremony of the baby! Another had a paper dry anchor in the studio with a chroma background of gushing flood waters.
If this was not enough, we had hysterical discussions on the length of James Bond’s kiss with the genius Censor Board seeking to prune it. So 007 must do a namaste to his love interest and dance around trees, of course, not when it’s raining?
From a much debated kiss to a political party sponsored slap offer. This one for Aamir Khan who merely spoke his mind on the ‘intolerance’ debate. The response from various sections has been emblematic of the level of ‘tolerance’ in our country.
Then came a spliced review of Rahul Gandhi’s speech at a Bengaluru college. The Gandhi scion may not be an exceptional public speaker but if first person accounts from the audience are to be believed, he certainly did strike a chord with the students, aside of his posers on ‘Swach Bharat’ and ‘Make In India’, which for reasons best known to the mainstream media, were hyped beyond proportion.
To be fair, even the Prime Minister was not spared with posts on morphed images of him sleeping in Parliament doing the rounds when in reality, he was listening with rapt attention. Who says the camera cannot lie?
The events of the month gone by have brought to the fore the ‘Quote’ Marshalling of public figures and the scant regard shown to the ‘South Block’ of India, which ironically accounts for at least half of the country’s TRP ratings. Aamir Khan, before you think of doing another episode Satya Meva Jayate, how about a sequel to Peepli Live?
(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7)