This appeared in the Asian Age \ Deccan Chronicle on saturday....
Welcome to the latest Reality Show in town. It features mediawallas of all hues, shapes, temperaments and sizes in a delicious free-for-all in which accusations get hurled, excuses are trotted out and participants indulge in a kiddish ‘mine-is-bigger-than-yours competition.. unfortunately, so far, these shows have not thrown up a Dolly Bindra. But we do have our Fearless Radia ( Hunterwalli) to fall back on, once she’s done with being politically correct and ‘propah’.The funniest aspect of the current Radia imbroglio is that outside media circles, nobody really cares one way or the other as to who peddled influence, who traded information, who squealed, who leaked, who was whose chamcha.In fact, I received a pretty telling email from a friend who happened to be traveling in a local Mumbai train this week and merrily eavesdropping conversations.That was the day some hysterical news anchors were banging on about ‘Barkhagate.” Apparently, one young commuter turned to the other and asked, “But who is this Barkha Gate?” The other answered confidently, “Oh, she is Bill Gate ki wife.” The first one vigorously shook his head and said, “No yaar… that one’s name is Melinda,” To which the second fellow replied, “That’s the first wife, yaar. Barkha Gate is the new one. Melinda left Bill because he was giving away all their money to charity.’’ This is the level of awareness and ignorance. That too in our cities. Do you really believe the small town Joe is bothered by all this tamasha over lobbying-shobbying… who said what… who is on buddy terms with Rahul… who is in Ratan’s inner circle… who can make or break politicians… who can guarantee cabinet positions. Come off it. This is complete ‘dikhaawa’. As a powerful media guy commented in a droll, bored fashion while watching Joan of Arc ( Barkha) defend herself in front of a pretty ‘phoos’ panel of mighty editors ( Vinod Mehta sensibly opted out of this ‘unedited’ farce). Why was this exercise undertaken in the first place? Said the media man, “It was to prove how bold and transparent the channel is…” Did it serve that purpose, assuming that was the intention? And is a Media on Trial reality show going to be the next big thing on television? Pleeeaaase! Spare a thought for those poor viewers ( a paltry number to begin with ), who have had enough of all this worthless chest beating in public. Are we running Kangaroo Courts all of a sudden? Why do we want to burn star journos at the stake? Crucify a few, spare the others? Simply because some journos capture public imagination more than others. When the going is good, nobody complains. Stardom is like that – up one day, gone the next. Why crib? Barkha’s usual jauntiness was missing as she got all teary eyed and ended her impassioned defence by admitting she had been ‘silly and gullible’… implying that’s no crime! Honey….when you are in such an exalted position ( editor-in-chief), you really have no business being either ‘silly’ or ‘ gullible’. That is the real crime! Even rookie reporters know their jobs are on the line if they goof up on camera or in print. One simply can’t hide behind something as flimsy as naivete. The immense responsibility of the job dictates otherwise. One hell of a lot was at stake in these recent disclosures. Any senior, seasoned journalist knows how this game is played. To seek refuge in ‘gullibilty’ is to shirk responsibility…. and stretch credibility. I expected better from Barkha. Over the years I have been a staunch supporter and fan, particularly during the after math of the 26\11 terror attacks when she was being blasted by critics baying for her blood ( I still think she is bloody good at what she does – therefore the disappointment).But I really didn’t think she would fall back on that stale,over- used girlie cliché - ‘Why me?’ - in this ongoing scandal. Sorry, that weak line of argument does not wash. Ever. Worse, I certainly didn’t want to hear one of the panelists making an idiotic comment like, “ Maybe it is because you are so pretty.” Aaaaargh! There went the entire ‘gravitas’ of the show…. right then… right out of that studio floor…. as Barkha simpered, blushed, grinned and said, “At last a compliment from you…” Several hearts sank at that moment. Mine, for sure. What could have been a truly seminal television moment was reduced to a sexist joke. A pity…. because there was Barkha’s bete- noire (and media’s latest darling), Manu Joseph ( editor of OPEN) all set to play the matador about to slay the bull with a final sweep and dramatic thrust ….when poooof! all the garam hawa was taken out of the show, which was then hastily wrapped up by a visibly distressed Sonia Singh, much to the viewer’s annoyance and frustration.
What happens next? Precisely nothing. Media big wigs will go into a self righteous mode and claim to clean up their acts by showing lobbyists and touts the door. Other tv channels will come up with their own media reality shows that they hope will beat the breast beating and emotional atyachaar on parade on rival channels. TRPs will still remain thanda…. what to do, yaar? Viewers would much rather watch Sheila ki Jawani than Barkha ki Diwani.
‘We, the People’ are like that only…..
Hell .... I'm pooped! Have been on a whirlwind book tour. Bangalore and Chennai. I enjoy both the cities... especially at this time of the year.Gitanjali Kirloskar and Kiran Majumdar Shaw shared the dais with me in Bangalore. While Anita Ratnam and Jayanti Natarajan did the honours in Chennai . The level of dialogue at both the venues was superlative, stimulating and FUN!