Personal touch was missing
Mannika Chopra

If you think that freezing temperatures can succeed in bringing about a lull in the 24x7 media storm, think again. As 2010 unwinds, and the post holiday mood lifts, there is the television again, stomping around, breathing fire like some sort of unrelenting dragon, creating talking points in drawing rooms and unveiling new shows that range from desperate to positively cheery. TV news, lets face it, is in love with gory incidents, deaths, in fact, conflicts of any kind.

Jyoti BasuSo as Jyoti Basu passed away this week, television saluted the stalwart in the most predictable manner. We got loads of information on Basu, the patriarch, but little on Basu, the personality. Viewers respond positively to emotional churning and personal detailing, and since the legendary former Chief Minister of West Bengal was ailing for some time, it is surprising that a better package had not been presented rather than the oodles of platitudes we saw.

But other issues got a more layered treatment. Was it a bit of nifty reporting, or a complete lack of humanity, that made us cling to our seats in horror as a fatally wounded policeman writhed in agony? As the policeman — who had been injured by a bomb blast appealed for help — a few Tamil Nadu politicians looked on. His impending death was also filmed by a video journalist, a stringer. So who was the transgressor?

The politicians who later claimed they were trying to call for help, or the freelance video journalist who, seeing a bit of 'newsy' footage, filmed the entire macabre tragedy, exposing not only the politicians' callousness but perhaps his own lack of compassion? The incident raised a debate about the media's ethics. Was the cameraperson’s reaction an example of professionalism or unfeeling inhumanity? The question was initially debated on CNN-IBN, which like other channels had also continuously looped the original footage.

Photographer Raghu Rai stated the journalist was simply doing his job and was not wrong in continuing doing it. Rai was not wrong but he wasn't right either. Media critic P.Vasanthi said that the cameraperson could have alerted the authorities and also continued to film. But this is just one case. What about the hundreds of examples when camerapersons have continued to shoot when children have been buried or flung from heights in the name of performing some ritual or the other?

Where is the debate then? Giving the question a more detailed treatment was NDTV's We the People, which put together a varied crowd of experts. Sheetal Talwar, co-producer of the soon-to-be released Hindi film Rann that looks at issues of media impropriety, TRP ratings etc, called a spade a shovel when he said that the media was being propelled by commercial interests and personal glory when it covered events like the death of the unfortunate policeman. The very idea that the journalist was simply doing his job to make a difference to the larger cause was not an idea Talwar believed in. Not surprisingly, media personalities in the audiences were not ready to embrace that notion.

It is not the best time to be a middle-aged man. But you

would not think it if you watched evergreen Karan Johar's latest television offering coming to us in the shape of Lift Kara De on Sony. K Jo's first guest is Shah Rukh Khan with his trademark smiley sarcasm in place. His second visitor is Shahid Kapoor. Episode one coincided with the start of the media hype of the soon-to-be released Johar-Khan mega pic My Name is Khan; and episode two with the Shahid Kapoor-starrer Chance pe Dance . So you know that it is all about dreary free publicity cloaked as competition between fans so that they can meet their idols.

And that's not the only thing which is dreary. The plot line of the SRK episode had the three biggest fans of the star pitted against each other. The one who made the most money would interact with their favourite pin-up. So the trio made juice and sold it on Delhi's roads. The money made is matched and given to an impoverished soul. But that charity begins at Lift Kara De is only a side plot.

More appealing is a plump girl who believes in herself. In Sony's Mahi's Way, meet Mahi, a 25-year-old fashion journalist, made fun of by everyone, even by a rather insensitive mother and a sister. But she is determined to make it despite the extra kilos and equally determined to find a husband on her own terms. Despite the shades of Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, the show is well crafted and enjoyable. You go, girl.