Saturday, September 24, 2005

At home reporting neighbours
Amita Malik

Amita Malik
Amita Malik

Ajai Shukla of NDTV has a weekly programme Foreign Correspondent, very similar to a programme that has been running on the BBC for some years. Like its title, Shukla’s programme has a panel of four in the studios, mostly foreign correspondents from western countries based in Delhi and an Indian expert who at times could be a correspondent. Our Indian channels also have correspondents posted abroad, also mostly in western countries, although NDTV has had a correspondent in Beijing for some time. Pallavi Aiyer sends in some interesting stories from time to time.

One felt it was time we had something by Indians on other countries—perhaps Ajai Shukla could one day line up four of them in the studios to find out the conditions under which they work abroad. There was a time in the past when Indians based in the US found it quite difficult to get into press conferences by the President, but hopefully that is in the past.

Violence and problems faced by women are still a worry
POST-TALIBAN: Violence and problems faced by women are still a worry

In this context, I was very interested to see the recent pre-election reports from Afghanistan by Amitav Revi, whom we have seen studio-bound for some time. If I were to pick the most consistent and unflappable newscaster on Indian TV, I would choose Revi. Some viewers have pointed out to me that he has a remarkable facial resemblance to Rahul Dravid and one of them once referred to Revi as The Great Wall of NDTV. I could not agree more and would strongly recommend Revi as a role model to all those nervous newscasters who have suddenly erupted on TV. They are always worried about when to smile (mostly in the wrong places) and what words to stress (mostly every second one and usually the wrong one). I have never known Revi to mispronounce a word, he is detached without being wooden and his rare and gentle smiles are spontaneous and, therefore, in the right context.

It was in a new avatar that I saw Revi in Afghanistan. He seems to have spent a good deal of time there and brought to his reporting the same kind of thoroughness, in a style and language admirably suited to foreign reporting. From interviewing voters to tracing the fortunes of Sikhs in Afghanistan; from picking up Afghanis’ love for Indian films and music to the problems faced by women even post-Taliban;, from schools for children to lack of higher education at the college level and after, Revi brought into focus the help India is giving, including rebuilding of a school where Afghan royalty and the present President had once studied.

Revi did not pursue star values for himself, like some of his pushy colleagues do, but acted cool, thorough and balanced, which are his strengths as a newscaster and anchor. I don’t know about the facial resemblance with Rahul Dravid, but Revi certainly has the same sterling qualities as The Great Wall of India.

It was a very dramatic as well as a melodramatic week which kept the TV vendors of “Exclusives” and “Breaking News” on their toes. There was the Advani tenterhooks, the stupid fatwa on Sania Mirza with security dogging her in Kolkata, there was the Sourav-Greg Chappell spat and President Pervez Musharraf facing angry Pakistani women in New York about women and rape. The colour, and what DD always describes as “Gaiety and devotion” of Ganesh Chathurthi, was a welcome return to normalcy and even if the competition on different channels was intense, at least it was not fierce. We must be thankful for that.