Saturday, May 8, 2004

Sight & Sound
DD changes its spots
Amita MalikAmita Malik

I could not believe my eyes. There was Doordarshan doing a flashy visual line-up of about a dozen of its newscasters, led, of course, by the great Deepak Chaurasia. This was revolutionary because like all sarkari naukars, DD’s newscasters have been sworn to anonymity. What is even more revolutionary is that DD is trying hard to be neutral, especially since the exit polls started to come. Now what the Prasar Bharati CEO has to do is it to train its older and newer newscasters who are still reading too fast and without any comprehension of what they are reading. Also in line for training are some of its regional reporters with thick regional accents which are incomprehensible to those outside their regions. And not to be forgotten are some of DD’s own experienced and specialised news reporters like Rudranath Sanyal and Sanjeev Thomas who can teach a thing or two to its new recruits.

If the interview of last week was Rajdeep Sardesai’s with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, this week’s was Shekhar Gupta’s with Jyoti Basu. Basu, who used to snarl at reporters, made relaxed conversation with Shekhar, who drew him out by being relaxed himself. While remaining a staunch Marxist, Basu spoke with sadness about his party not permitting him to become Prime Minister. He referred affectionately to Vajpayee as “a gentleman”. And he spoke about his advice to L.K. Advani. He had asked him not to go ahead with the rath yatras. Advani, however, did not listen to him. He had also advised Sonia Gandhi not to be so distant but to go out and meet the people. She had apparently listened.

I have written earlier on the inability of our netas to make proper use of the microphone at public meetings, where they shout themselves hoarse. This week I would like to give full marks to two very different public speakers. One is Mulayam Singh Yadav, who spoke in a normal voice and one could see that he was being heard even by the audience in the last row. The other was Kapil Sibal, who too spoke in a normal voice. I think it was very clever of him to tell the voters that he was a lawyer and would help them with their cases if elected. Much less dangerous than sarees.

For years, Bengalis have believed that Mumbai’s cricketers are parochial and think only of themselves as the best players. When I watched the last version of Rajdeep Sardesai’s Big Fight, I thought that players from the South would have similar thoughts. I think the programme was shot in Mumbai and although both Rajdeep and Harsha Bhogale were strictly neutral, the Mumbai panel, with the honourable exception of Dungarpur, hardly made any mention of Sourav Ganguly’s contribution to building up team spirit and encouraging youngsters. And when it came to making up their greatest teams ever, at least seven out of eleven players were from Mumbai. Players from the South hardly found a mention.