Older readers from Kerala who watch Malayalam films would remember a movie called ‘New Delhi’ released in 1987. And still older ones, from anywhere, who watch Hollywood films, will never forget ‘Citizen Kane’, the 1941 classic by Orson Welles, considered by many as the greatest movie of all time.
Although separated by nearly half a century and having vastly different plots, the two films had a common theme linking them—yellow journalism. If Welles, as Charles Foster Kane, primarily indulged in the yellow stuff for money and power, Mammootty, as G. Krishnamoorthy (G.K.) in ‘New Delhi’, had revenge on his mind for whatever he did, including murders. The two characters also had a common thread running through them—megalomania. They wanted nobody else but themselves at the top of their business.
I don’t know why but every evening when I try to watch our main English news channels the characters played by Welles and Mammootty invariably come to mind. I know Times Now will never concede that India Today or CNN News18 or any one of the others is better than them. The same holds good in reverse too. But what’s the point in telling the viewer “we are the best” 24X7, can’t they leave it to the viewer to decide?
If shouting from the rooftop will get you TRPs and make you India’s No.1 news channel, the recently-appointed Editor-in-Chief of Times Now is doing just that. You should see how Rahul Shivshankar is extolling the virtues of the channel from amidst a plethora of rooftop dish antennae, apparently above the channel’s own offices in Mumbai.
If that were not enough, you have Shivshankar’s colleague Navika Kumar, “India’s most celebrated and incisive” woman journalist, no less, reminding in almost every sentence that you are watching Times Now. And then you have Anand Narasimhan and Tanvi Shukla who seem to love their respective voices so much that nobody in their “shows”—for these are “shows” and not news broadcasts—gets to speak. In a debate involving six or seven or eight ‘guests’, nobody is allowed to complete an idea or an argument and everybody is encouraged to speak at once. The result: the viewer, first person singular in this case, either turns to another channel or turns off the set altogether.
If you happen to switch channels and go to CNN News18, Zaka Jacob, “Asia’s best news presenter” (whatever that may mean!), will be waiting for you with his own special brand of ‘personal’ presentation. Mr. Jacob extols himself as the “voice” of everyone inside India—and perhaps outside it too– even as his visage is photo-shopped to encompass every sub-racial identity and a woman too!
Had enough of Zaka? Let’s try India Today. Karan Thapar seems to have left the channel, or he is away on holiday or whatever, and in his place we have Anjana Om Kashyap. The lady is all fire and brimstone on ‘To The Point’. Literally! She emerges unscathed from a ball of fire, brushes off her jacket sleeves and looks you in the eye with such ferocity that you might, at least for a while, mistake her for a station house officer getting ready to interrogate a long-sought-for criminal. Wonder if India Today has a Bollywood stunt master as their producer!
No review of news readers—sorry news casters, sorry news presenters, sorry I don’t know what they really are—is complete without remembering the man who wanted to know, and therefore “the nation wants to know”, everything about everything and eventually knew almost nothing! You know who I am talking about. He is Mr. Megalomania himself. The guy is so full of himself that every “show” of his was like a heavyweight boxing match, the only difference being the winner was always the same, our Mr. M. Some say he is much mellowed in his new avatar but I simply don’t have the patience to test my patience with him. I don’t like banana republics anyway.
You work and rework the remote in every way possible to lessen the assault on your auditory lobes, but you still have to contend with the visual battering. The screen often disintegrates into several bits even as you are trying to listen to somebody. Suddenly it goes blank altogether and in a split second is back again, this time to proclaim that you are watching “India’s No.1”. There are news strips at the top and bottom that don’t seem to suffer from spelling and grammatical accuracy. Some run so fast you wish you had joined that speed reading course during the summer break in college.
“We broke it first,” is often heard and seen on these channels. And what did they break? My fortitude, for sure. The rest is as mundane as dog biting man.
Often times I have wondered if these people watch their own programmes later in the peace of their living rooms? If they do, I am sure their living rooms will not be all that peaceful! Mine isn’t, if the English news is on.