As a writer and journalist, I get pissed off when I hear terms like ‘Presstitude’ or ‘Paid Media’.
Not because I’m touchy about my field or such grand principles. But because these are lazy terms that put a cold blanket over the many earnest journalists, vernacular news agencies, and independent organisations.
Crib all you want, but the media in India has had a large role in weaving the fabric of our nation. In fact, in Shashi Tharoor’s brilliantly imagined The Great Indian Novel, where he fuses the Mahabharata with the Indian Freedom Struggle – Indira Gandhi is re-imagined as Duryodhana, the Emergency is the Kurukshetra war, and Indian media is Arjuna.
For every large media house that was created by leftover sperms from Mukesh Ambani, there are hundreds of independent media houses that strive to survive and bring out the truth. That strive to take on the powers that be, that lose lives and jobs in the process.
And yet, I can’t deny that the popular media houses in India drive me to insanity. In fact, it has reached such a level that I have stopped reading the newspapers, and deactivated my Facebook account. I follow the news on reddit (even though it has its biases), or the updates that Google provides on Google Now.
I passed out of my Journalism Masters in 2012. One of the assignments we were given was to track two newspapers for a week, and analyse the coverage of the news. I still have my assignments in my mailbox and even a few years ago, there wasn’t as much fluff in our newspapers.
As the nation jumped onto the smartphone bandwagon and Facebook/Twitter became a legitimate source of news. Ever since, there has been no barrier, no check on the floodgates. We have reached a stage in our consumption of news that a brawl between two actors grabbed more eyeballs than children dying in a hospital.
Here are the most annoying news stories of 2016, covered with aplomb by our media houses.
1. The Padmavati Controversy
It’s funny that the present government projected itself as pro-youth, pro-development – and yet it has failed to curb in death threats by parties affiliated to them. Every leader worth his saffron shawl began throwing death threats at the filmmaker.
What is absurd is that the controversy could have been nipped in the bud if it wasn’t awarded the kind of coverage it attained. But we know that anything pertaining to Bollywood in India is news-fodder. And the citizens are cows that will chew upon it, ruminate, and bring it out in a few days even though they haven’t fully digested what was served to them.
The Padmavati controversy is absurd on three basic levels – 1. Nobody has even seen the goddamned movie. So, nobody really knows what the film shows. How can you be offended by something that you haven’t seen? It’s like me getting offended by Siddharth Malhotra’s acting skills – there aren’t any to begin with!
The second reason is that the filmmaker has clearly stated that the two leads don’t meet in the movie. They have no lines together, not even a single scene. Is it the idea that the evil emperor thought about the queen that offends these morons?
The third and most tragic reason is that Padmavati is not even a real person! There is no substantial proof of there being a queen like this. All the accounts of the queen are from poems and folklore. What next? We have protests for Tenali Raman and Santa-Banta?
What is tragic is that the government sat like a limp duck as the controversy raged on. Not one of our esteemed leaders bothered to assuage the fears of the filmmaker. Death threats, violence, vandalism – not a single arrest was made, nobody was held accountable.
And the media had a field day!
2. The Government’s Masturbatory Propaganda
2017 was filled with news and articles on how terrific GST was, on the numerous benefits of Demonetisation. And guess who the source was? The government itself!
Every single report that came from outside the country about demonetisation brought with it some criticism – ranging from mild to intense. And yet the government went on telling us how awesome its policies were.
This reminded me of all those ‘Khaana Khazana’ shows on television. Where Sanjeev Kapoor cooks up a dish, adds namak swaad anusaar, and then tastes the dish himself. Wah! Mazaa aagaya, Sanjeev Kapoor would exclaim, about his own dish.
3. Kangana Ranaut – Hrithik Roshan
It started as a kitchen fight, and become a national obsession. This was a topic that made me ashamed to be a journalist.
For more than a month, every single media house in the country went about publishing sordid details of the fight between Hrithik and Kangana. Open letters and closed mails, fan clubs and Twitter trends – you’d imagine for a moment that India had solved all its problems and had nothing else to worry about.
What was even more shocking was that the entire issue was given slants of feminism.
4. Taimur breaking the Internet
Among last year’s useless controversies was the naming of Taimur. If Taimur the name should be avoided because the man was violent, so should Ashok and Parshuram.
This year, our media decided to splash us with images of Taimur breaking the Internet. The kid has broken the Internet so many times, you’d need Dr. Fixit to fix the Internet. At an age when he should be breaking toys and cutlery, the kid has been under constant media scrutiny. I fail to wrap my head around the obsession with star-kids in our country.
And don’t even get me started on the ‘hot’ pictures of teenage kids of stars. The abysmal lows that our media would stoop down to for a few extra clicks is truly depressing.
5. Varun Pruthi
This was not really covered by the media, but I need to get this off my chest.
Fuck Varun Pruthi.
The guy makes emotionally exploitative videos involving beggars, street vendors and children, and every single video has a single theme – Varun Pruthi the Jesus Christ. I clicked on one video by mistake and my YouTube page has been flooded with his shitty good-samaritan videos.
I find his videos cancerously preachy. And I fail to understand how the fuck somebody’s life is going to change if you give him 2,000 rupees! Varun Pruthi milks poor people’s sorrow to earn money on his YouTube channel. And what he promotes is not charity or service, but a new-age tokenism that is tailor-made for views, clicks and shares.
I want to watch a video where he takes a man suffering from AIDS and cure him of the disease. Or one where he solves the Iraq crisis by wearing a burkha. Fuck Varun Pruthi! Seriously!!
As for me, the year has been lackluster at best. If you’re a subscriber of my blog, I’d like to apologise for my erratic posts. I got caught up with matters of the heart, and gave classic step-motherly treatment to my blog.
Also, I’m tired of writing posts on Bollywood films and stars. The Saif Ali Khan blog went viral and I ended up receiving a ton of hate mail from fans of Saif Ali Khan. Ek toh I didn’t know he had so many fans to begin with. And fans so passionate that they’d write hate mails to support their useless fucking star.
Most of my blogs are just rants that I type out after getting drunk and stoned. There is not journalistic depth in my rants, nor is there any valid point (except in odes to Jackie Shroff, of course!).
As the last day of the year comes to an end, I am sitting in balcony and smoking a joint, reflecting on the year that whizzes past me with alarming speed. I am too old and unwise to resort to New Year Resolutions, having broken each and every resolution I chose for myself.
After years of pressure, I go back to some realistic new year resolutions this year. They are:
- I shall not murder anybody in 2018.
- I shall not win the Australian Open in 2018.
- I shall not masturbate to Sharad Pawar.
Happy New Year. And thank you for reading my blog. I go on and on about myself without thanking you, dear reader! You are the reason these rants and rambles exist. Have a great year ahead! 🙂