By Rajdeep Sardesai:
Last night, prime time news television (or a section of it to be more accurate) found its villain of the day to explain India’s World Cup loss: Virat Kohli and his girlfriend Anushka Sharma. The same Kohli who till just weeks ago was being acknowledged as the finest batsman in the world, being compared to the legendary Sachin Tendulkar after a remarkable test series and a hundred in the first World Cup game against Pakistan.
Kohli played a bad shot and got out. Had the same ball been top edged over the keeper’s head, he might have been on his way to take India to victory. On such small margins, are big games decided. But forget the cricket logic for a moment: most news anchors haven’t held a bat so to expect them to talk cricket is perhaps asking for too much.
More perplexing is the targeting of Anuskha. An actress goes to watch a match in Australia and is suddenly seen as a distraction for her star lover. The same Anuskha was in Australia when Virat scored four hundreds in a series: did anyone raise a question? Then, she was a lucky charm, now she becomes the ‘villain’ (or is it vamp) to explain a comprehensive defeat at the hands of the best ODI team in the world. The fact is, Dhoni and his men were good, but just not good enough to retain the World Cup. Australia are playing like champions at home, like we did four years ago in India. Why not acknowledge it and move on to the ‘real’ story?
We won’t, because the tyranny of TRPs insists that we find a villain/mujrim every day to ‘roast’ in a kangaroo court that passes off as a TV studio. We need to put noise above news, sensation above sense because ‘manufactured outrage’ has become a formula for some just like naach gaana was once ‘sold’ in cinema. Why do we rarely see sane, moderate, intelligent voices on television? Because sanity spreads light, doesn’t generate heat. Because we want television screens to ‘burn’ the mind, not illuminate it, because we believe that the audience wants a daily soap opera and doesn’t really want to understand the finer points of the news. So, let’s paint the world in black and white, look for shrill, extreme opinions, get them to screech at each other like fishwives and enjoy the ‘fun’. Who wants the ‘truth’ when we can get ratings? Television news for some is box office, not an opportunity to raise the bar of journalistic inquiry. And it’s done with a conviction that is frighteningly successful.
So, if even an innocuous actress like Anuskha Sharma can be made the villain of the day, then so be it. Public memory is short, Tomorrow, we’ll find a new target: some hapless spokesperson who will have to answer for every sexist remark made by a Sharad Yadav-like MP, some retired Pakistani general who will be held guilty for every crime committed by a Lashkar terrorist, maybe even an RSS leader who will have to answer for every church attack in this country. Like lambs to a slaughter chamber, they will come, be heckled and berated, and then the lights and cameras will be switched off without any attempt being made to actually arrive at the ‘truth’. And some of our viewers will have their evening ‘fix’ of entertainment masquerading as ‘hard’ journalism. My grandmother who passed away last month would call it ‘tamasha’, a rather coarse form of song and dance. She was, as always, bang on.
Post-script: to call India’s defeat in Sydney, the ‘shame of Sydney’ is shameful in itself. We should be ashamed when a farmer commits suicide because his crop is destroyed and he is exposed to usurious money-lenders. To lose a cricket match is a defeat, not a national shame. Can we all grow up a bit please? And start doing some genuine journalism again?
This post was originally published at rajdeepsardesai.net.