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Hindi News: channels of cheap thrills

Welcome to the world of Hindi News, an orgiastic proposition that promises orgasms galore with each piece of choicest sleaze from the deepest crevices of the country.

30 August, 2007:

Visiting the corner magazine stands as a kid used to be fun, especially when my parents did not accompany me. It gave me a chance to flip through the pages of a certain breed of publications – no, not sleazy, but the cheesy Manohar Kahaniyan, or Satya Kathas. Story titles for your reading pleasure only – Jawani ke Josh ki Bhool, Lipstick ka Rang, Chudail ki Hawas – accompanied with buxom, gaudy women displaying ample cleavage on the cover were surefire attention getters.

Flipping through the pages inside the magazine took you through semi-fictitious, sensational accounts of the life and times of non-descript felons, wayward women, and all kinds of hanky-panky one could ever fantasize. These were the supposed crime and suspense periodicals. One found less of crime inside, more of hilariously shocking accounts of incidents that took somewhere in the mohalla of Azamgarh.

Return of Cheap Thrills

Years later, the cheap thrills make a comeback – and how! Switch your television on, and browse through all the Hindi news channels. You will know what I mean. A few days back, on India Television, the only news that was doing the rounds was Sanjay Dutt’s release. Nothing wrong with that – but what would you say if the news headline read Munnabhai ki Rihai? Watching this piece is virtually a blow-by-blow (pun very deliberately intended) account of how Sanjay Dutt couldn’t sleep at night, what the weather inside the jail is like, how people are thronging at Pune to welcome their hero (who has been convicted under the Arms act, but who cares).

The reporters even asked some of the fans to sing for Sanju Baba – and they obliged with their bhaktiful renditions of pedestrian bhajans for Sanjay Dutt. You can't get more sickeningly servile than that!

Crime Calls the Shots

Or check out ACP Arjun, again a crime special on India TV. One of the highlights of the show was how a ‘lesbian couple’ in Shahjahanpur (UP) paid to get someone who opposed their liaison killed. If you watched the entire story, you’d understand how easy it is to sensationalize the incident. The fact that the women in question here are lesbian is played up as the motivating factor for the killing. Apparently, the husband of one of the accused wanted a threesome with them – another angle played up by the channel. Thank you for the titillating account, but aren’t we missing the big picture here – the frustration of lesbian lovers who faced ridicule by their kin, and the society at large that forced them to take such drastic action?

Similar shows on other channels have created a unique persona for the presenter – one is a bearded, rather aggressive, angry denouncer of immorality in Indian society. Another is a cheap Sohaib Ilyasi imitation, while still another is a lady whose manner of narrating the crime would make Agatha Christie turn in her own grave. Murder, she never wrote!

Supernatural News

Take another example of Kal Kapal Mahakal on Zee News – a program that deals with the supernatural. Ramsay Brothers, move over. Reality News is taking over. With your screechy, scary music to boot. The show not only talks about unexplained phenomena (remember the slick X Files?), but goes overboard with re-enacted events, repeated over and over again, complete with special effects a child of three wouldn’t get scared of. And talking of scary phenomena, India TV (once again) ran an extensive report on a particular witch haunting the streets of small towns and villages in eastern UP and Bihar. In an attempt to do away with people’s superstitions, all that the channel managed to do was splash the image of an obviously demented old woman, and even the reporters seem to be taking a dig at the poor state she was in – asking her questions she was not capable of answering.

Stars and Stars

All for the TRP game, no Hindi news channel wants to be left behind. You have daily horoscopes, solutions by pundits and tarot card readers playing to the gallery. As if the news doesn’t get depressing enough, who wants to know if today a crow will defecate on my head or a colleague will crunch my family jewels at a meeting with the top brass. If it’s not bhavishyavani, it is Bollywood. You have shows that give you sneak peeks at star bedrooms, bathrooms, toilet seats, doormats, trash cans, and everything they dispose off the streets of tinsel town. One is spoiled for choice between all the C-grade starlets inaugurating a Chandni Beauty Parlour, rehearsing for an up-and-coming item number at some godforsaken town somewhere in the middle of nowhere, making muah-muah appearances at page 3 parties thrown by a paunchy whats-his-name business honcho.

News Comic

Headlines rocking the world and the nation are reduced to a fast-scrolling ticker, which gives you a headache if you manage to train your eyes on it. And beneath the ticker, you have a sponsored ticker. Trust the channels to find sponsors from underwear to fairness creams to laxatives. So, if they are talking about Manmohan Singh, you have Vi John Shaving Cream in the ad ticker. If the news is on public nudity, the ad reads Swagat Baniyan.

If you are not distracted by this, perhaps the language used will make you squirm with displeasure and discomfort. With staccato music, set to high pace drama, news anchors deliver news with carefully crafted punches. For example:

“Ek pati ne apni hi patni ko jala dala. Thane ke rehnewale so-and-so ko patni ka jeans aur t-shirt pehenana nagawaar guzra, aur usne mehnat se ghar ka kharch chalane wali apni patni ko kerosene daal ke aag laga di.” And they must add, “Usko apni patni ke paraaye mardon ke saath najaayaz sambandh hone ka shak bhi tha.”

Sometimes, they even manage to rhyme. Heck, one could create rap artistes out of our news readers. Channels like Zee managed to create news in Hinglish – and got away with it. It was the language of the masses today, so why not. Imagine, “Aj Prime Minister ne Parliament se exit hote hi statement diya ki wo apni country ko break nahi hone denge.” Breaking news!

When you sit down to watch Hindi news, I suggest you grab some pop-corn and a barf bag. Forget entertainment business, the stars of Hindi news are more interesting, more sleazy, more revealing than you find elsewhere. Fortunately, for the uninitiated, copies of Manohar Kahaniyan and Satya Katha are still sold at news stands. For added pleasure, it is recommended you buy one of each when you watch the news in Hindi.

Thank you Zee, India TV, Sahara Samay, Aaj Tak, and IBN 7. Dear Salma Sultan, even with your slur at the sunset of your career, one must pay homage to the profession you gave respectability to once upon a forgotten time.





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