Opinion

WHEN MEDIA PLAYS THE VOYEUR, JUDGE & DOCTOR

http://fiona-kerr.com/wp-content/themes/classipress/style.css Long after Nargis and Meena Kumari died, a cinema actress in the person of Sridevi received fitting tributes when she passed away on February 24, suddenly, tragically. Her receiving “state funeral” with the national tricolour draped on her, perhaps in recognition of her popularity, as millions watched her funeral procession made the event memorable.

where can i buy Prozac for dogs This is not about Sridevi or about her contribution to cinema that she served for half-a-century before dying at 54. It is about the way media projected the event and the way it generally does with anything, on any issue that it deems will give it higher TRPs (television rating points).

http://evado.com/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://evado.com/partners/ Again, this is not only about television, but also the mainstream media and the social media, since they all feed on and flirt with each other.

And again, this is not about the media alone. It must include the government – any government irrespective of political hue – and the selfie-struck society as a whole. Tall order, but Sridevi sparks this concern.

Without seeking to play the TV medium against the print, it is better to quote from The Indian Express editorial that sums up her death reporting. “Whether it happened under botox, or under the influence, or under the confluence of constellations, or none of the above, is speculation. The question of causality is addressed by forensic specialists, not by TV journalists trying their hand at amateur sleuthing. In this electronic version of the 19th century freakshow, digital wine-glasses are being stood on the rims of digital bathtubs, and real journalists are being made to slide into real bathtubs, while the dead actor’s height is being measured up against the length of products in sanitaryware catalogues. This is mumbo-jumbo journalism, a ratings game in which Mumbo is trying to pull ahead of Jumbo.”

After the initial shocker that she died of “cardiac arrest” the TV talk shows and social media held lengthy discussions on the state of her health.

Conjectures were based on ‘rumours’ about her consuming diet pills, having weight reduction surgery, adhering to a strict keto diet, among others. Value judgments were also passed about whether a middle-aged lady that Sridevi was ought to engage in these alleged methods to stay slim. Nobody thought that the decent thing to do was to wait for the official post-mortem report.

When that report certified that Sridevi had died due to “accidental drowning after a loss of consciousness”, all hell broke loose. She was painted as someone too drunk to step into the bathtub for her bath.

Was she drunk? Politician and a family friend, Amar Singh, volunteered that she did not consume ‘hard’ drink; “only wine, occasionally, like me.” But that did not help. Media turned anti-booze. The twitterati’s verdict was that she brought her own end.

Some people suspected foul play: industry rivalry… husband Boney Kapoor… these filmy fellows are like that only….

Some channels simulated the scene of Sridevi’s death. One of them placed their reporter at the scene of her death, with the studio bathtub reading ‘Maut Ka Bathtub’, another thought it fit to photo-shop a comatose Sridevi in a bathtub.

A channel added a wine glass for effect. And another thought the picture wasn’t complete without Boney Kapoor. And yet another even promised to take viewers through “Sridevi’s last 15 minutes in bathroom”.

Kapoor being questioned by police is normal procedure. It was exaggerated as if he was a suspect and was being ‘grilled’. Channels forgot to mention that he was eventually ‘cleared.’

Did she take wine or vodka? What caused her to drink that evening? One ‘analyst’ surmised that one glass of alcohol and an antidepressant could have been fatal.  Extended discussions ensued on what ‘frustrated’ Sridevi, what caused her to drink that night, and so.

Ah yes, the bathtub was not spared. Most Indians do not enjoy this ‘luxury’ and bathe using bucket and lota, someone observed. He forgot that she was in a luxury resort, without bucket and lota.

The photo-shop of Sridevi’s body reminds of a TV channel in flood-hit Chennai last year. It stood its reporter in the midst of flood water gurgling around. It was a studio trick. Many believed, sympathizing with the reporter, others were angry at this subterfuge.

In another photo-shop, Prime \Minister Narendra Modi was shown surveying those floods from his aircraft.  He had neither flown, not visited Chennai. The photo was officially released by his office that had egg on its face.

One can go on. But lo! A blogger for one of the country’s largest newspaper chain accused those in the media critical of the TV coverage of ‘hypocrisy’. They would have done the same thing. Grapes are sour, etc., etc.

Many TV celebrities get friendly print space in major newspapers to defend themselves and snigger at their critics. They enjoy best of both the worlds. It is incestuous relationship.

Much of the fare is at personal, physical level. A top-line newspaper carried a picture of actor Deepika Padukone commenting on her cleavage.  “Yes, I am a woman. I have cleavage. Any problems?” she responded, She was trolled for several days by social media. The concerned newspaper carried comments justifying its initial action. She was accused of being squeamish, touchy, spoilsport and much else.

Whatever may have happened to the actor’s sense of hurt and self-esteem, the newspaper enjoyed multiple-whammy. It argued – with its many takers, but many more critics, hopefully — that people in public life are public property and should be ready to face criticism. But was that criticism of Deepika or cheap comment by closet voyeurists?

From social and filmy issues with obvious glamour content to be exploited, the Indians have in the recent years graduated to political trolling. Virtually all political parties have armies of trollers euphemistically called “cyber media cells”. Day in and day out, they are on TV network screaming at each other with the anchors screaming the loudest to ensure control over what is supposed to be a debate.

What is astounding is that the ‘guests’ on the TV channels who otherwise belong to the political-social elite, turn into shouting brigades shedding all forms of public decency. They often get rudely told off by the anchors – but they still keep coming.

Then, take India-Pakistan debates by some of the top channels. The shouting game has chest-thumping Indians versus pan/chewing gum chewing retired Pakistani military officers and experts who actually enjoy being bullied and called names from the safety of Indian studios. For all that derisive laughter and screams, one hears the fee is a good USD 500. Not bad at all for all the notoriety and fame among Indian viewers and quite possibly, pats on the back from compatriots. And why not?

It is hardly surprising that the Indian media is not taken seriously abroad.     

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