Saturday, October 28, 2006

Look at the lighter side
Amita Malik

Amita MalikI must confess I have faced a good deal of flak from friends, colleagues and both readers and viewers in recent weeks. "Why do you always get so serious about the media? Why don’t you relax and see the lighter side?" I accept the criticism and stand corrected. But I did not have to wrack my brains. Having underestimated the Indian viewer and listener for years, it seems, I now find that they have given ample quotes recently to almost fill this column with the lighter side.

One viewer, fed up of the ‘copy-catting’ or plagiarism of older channels by some of the newer ones suggests that one of them should adopt the slogan: "We take whatever." Still another viewer, in the same vein, suggests that one copy-cat channel should have as its theme song that old favourite: "Anything you can do, I can do better". Still a third viewer, outraged at the ever-smiling faces of the anchors on one channel, even when reporting farmer suicides or deaths from dengue, asks me to convey to them a variation on Shakespeare: "For one can smile and smile and still be a crashing bore". Agreed.

And I must also confess that I was considerably dismayed recently when I found that while Shekhar Gupta was doing a Walk the Talk with Salman Khan on NDTV, the film critic of CNN-IBN was doing an interview with Salman at the very same time. Then last week, when Prannoy Roy was helping a young audience ask questions from Shah Rukh Khan, CNN-IBN’s film critic was doing an identical interview at that time with Shah Rukh. Now, together with many other viewers, I would have liked to watch all the interviews separately and not be bullied into choosing one of them. Surely this absurd rat race should stop and viewers should not be held to ransom.

On the credit side, I have found at least two original programmes on the new channels. And this in a week when both Times Now and CNN-IBN had made claims in the papers that they were the leading English channels. Here again, one viewer quipped that "if you look at the tiny bottomline of one of the ads you will find that the claim is for male between the ages of two and three years watching programmes between 2 am and 3 am." No wonder children are getting ruined by TV (my comments). The programme I find original in that it has developed an old idea in depth and length, is Times Now’s Life’s Like That in which gays, divorcees, adopted children, parents fighting generation gaps, come in person to the studios and tell all with a sophisticated Agony Aunt helping out.

Also, in a obvious riposte to NDTV’s Double Take (Gustakhi Maaf in Hindi). CNN-IBN has come up with a sixer of a programme by Cyrus Broacha called The Week That Was, affectionaly called TWTWTW). I rate Cyrus, together with Jaspal Bhatti and Shekhar Suman, as the three best satirists on Hindi and English, if not Indian, scene. Cyrus has hit on the brilliant idea of taking actual recordings of comments on some other subject by people like Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Manmohan Singh, Musharraf et al, tagging on to them his own questions and comments. I have enjoyed every moment and hope no one will have the silly idea to schedule it at the same time as Double Take.

Now to my second light story. Some time ago, one of the editors for which I write this column suggested I do a listing of the 10 best dressed and worst dressed men and women in the media. And by the ‘best dressed’, I mean quiet elegance and none of that fancy costuming by haute couture and daily changes of raw silk and velvet which distract from the news itself. The six worst dressed men took it in their stride and Khushwant Singh was as sporting as usual and commented: "For once, Amita is telling the truth, I am the worst dressed". The worst dressed women have not spoken to me since and the best dressed are still strutting about on Page 3 and Night Out on TV. So I will be a coward and only list my choice of the four best dressed this time and not necessarily in order of merit.

Men: Karan Thapar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Vidya Shankar Iyer (CNN-IBN_ and Pankaj Pachauri (NDTV-India).

Women: Suhashini Haidar (CNN-IBN), Sonia Singh (NDTV-English), Nagma (NDTV-Hindi) and Neelam Sharma of Doordarshan, who proudly upholds the supremacy of the sari against any dress when it comes to elegance and dignity.