Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sight & Sound
Irritants of the week
Amita Malik

Amita MalikTHE problems of scheduling always makes this column miss the climax of thrilling events and this becomes all the more frustrating when both happy and not-so-happy events clash during the week. This has happened repeatedly and often the side you are on – if any – makes all the difference to your viewing pleasure or displeasure.

Take, for instance, the arrest of Jayendra Saraswathi and the subsequent tedious legal processes that dragged on every channel. In any case, no one was enjoying watching it. Then along came the Kanpur cricket test against South Africa, the original depressing tall score by South Africa and then the scintillating opening Indian batsmen. Poor Gambhir, who had mostly been ahead of Sehwag in scoring, missed his maiden test century by four runs. After ages, the enthusiastic crowds seemed to be getting their money’s worth and their share of entertainment. One can hardly ask for more.

I am going to, perhaps rather strongly, dwell on the irritations of the week. These apply usually to the presentation, which can sink to appalling standards with the sudden proliferation of channels. Of course there are some who will never learn, even when their mistakes are pointed out. NDTV 24x7 has two of them.

Navodita, the weather girl, is under the mistaken impression that viewers want to see her rather than the temperature in the city in which they are interested. She moves from side to side, blocking most of the towns and cities on the map from view. She seems to assume that viewers are only interested in the place that she is pointing. Newscaster Jyostna Mohan, on the other hand, seems to believe that news is her top secret. She keeps on mumbling and swallowing her consonants while sticking to a flat monotone. That is why I call her the Tanpura newscaster. Please, Jyotsna, would you be so kind as to share the news with viewers?

However, the rock bottom in presentation was touched with the fashion awards. The anchor’s accent, which was a pseudo- Southern drawl, was as indeterminate as her hair-style, which was plain untidy, and her clothes made no statement, fashion or otherwise. So while the designers, including Rohit Bal and Ritu Beri, behaved with dignity and charm and the models with poise, the anchor ruined the evening for most of us with her colourless manner.

Then there are those anchors who are basically sound but get so self-conscious in front of the camera that the viewer gets distracted and worried. A prime example is Gaurika Chopra, presenter of NDTV’s sports programmes. I have yet to see her smile, let alone relax. She is trying hard, in fact too hard to make an impression ever since Sidhu told her encouragingly in her debut programme that she was doing fine. While it is legitimate for Gaurika to take sports seriously, she is taking herself far too seriously and reducing sport, which is serious but also entertaining, into a grim business. Come on, relax and smile sometimes Gaurika, see how Sonali Chander, who is obviously your role model, does it. And enjoy your programme and let us enjoy it too.

Coming back to the good news, I am so happy that NDTV has won the prestigious award for investigative journalism from the International Press Institute. Quality always scores, although not in some of the proliferating local TV awards which seem to be as formula ridden as formula films. Which reminds me that the entertainment channels are giving us some very good feature films, both Indian and western, and that too reasonably soon after their commercial release. In earlier times, one had to wait sometimes as long as two years and was fobbed off with box office flops. Which reminds me that I was talking to a top Indian classical musician two days ago. I reminded him how, in the early days of All India Radio, one could hear Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Allauddin Khan, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan and their peers live on the radio. And Ravi Shankar worked as a staff artiste and left his stamp on AIR. Vadya Vrinda Radio now has pale copies of those glorious days of classical music and TV has none. I asked this top musician why can we not, as in other advanced countries, have at least one FM channel devoted to classical and semi-classical (as thumris and dadras are described) music and with the minimum of advertisements. Surely, I said, some enlightened industrial houses could sponsor these and spare listeners the torture of interruptions and irritating advertisements. This is something which the I&B Ministry could initiate.