For Indian Corporate Media everything is ‘Historic’

India lost some cricket match against some country yesterday. However, the cricket lovers of India have some strange affection to find solace even in loss. Incidentally, Sachin Tendulkar had completed his 50th ton in test cricket. (I may be wrong at this because I dont follow cricket neither do I have any inclination to find out its related records). However, the whole twitteraties and glitteraties starting buzzing with comments like “Sachin is god”, “He is not human…”etc etc. Here are a few gems:

A day before that two dalit women were lynched and killed by a ‘mob’ in Moradabad (perhaps only DNA carried the news).

Now one may argue that both are separate incidents the individuals endorsing or not endorsing any event have their personal freedom to do so. And, I am not denying this. Having said this, my question is: Why should this happen? In other words, why should the lives or rather brutal deaths of two marganilized women by a lynch ‘mob’ not occupy the co called media space? At the same time the loss in a game albeit with some ‘historic’ record of making ‘runs’ while playing cricket becomes cause for celebration?

The answer to the above question is quite simple. I insist it is simple. I have had enough of the rhetorical negation “oh, its complex”. According to me all it does is, it gives an easy excuse for the person saying that “it complex, you don’t know enough” But my question to such rhetorical naysayers is, if you know so much, why don’t you give us the answer/s, instead of giving us rhetoric.

Now, going back to media’s exclusion of the brutal death. Its known that the marginalized are not the clients of the mainstream English media channels such as NDTV, CNN IBN, HEADLINE NEWS, NEWSX etc. Their predominant consumer group is english speaking teen to mid 50’s clients, primarily urban Indian upper class and upper caste households. And, having this ‘client oriented’ programming inclination the mainstream media channels tend to cater their programming in a way that may ‘appeal’ to this group.

The most tragic  presupposition these channels make is their assumption that covering news of the marginalized, be it killing and rapes related to dalits, or non inclusion of 90 million domestic workers working primarily inside the confines of homes will not be covered by the proposed Bill for ‘The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010’. This BILL (among other such important things) was suppose to be discussed in the winter secession of Indian Parliament was stalled thanks to the BJP and their supporters, who preferred to stall the working of the Parliament while still maintaining their ‘confidence’ in the UPA government. Interestingly even this aspect did find virtually no mention in the Corporate Indian ‘mainstream’ TV channels.

90 million may be a small figure, after all if the over 210 million dalits of India find virtually no coverage by these channels except they don’t forget to subtly mention somebody’s dalit background while covering contentious political issues. So much for the complexity of the issues and their understanding.

Lastly, Tendulkar’s cricket score may have been a ‘historic’ event but equally historic will remain corporate media’s systematic exclusion of comprehensive coverage of issues related to dalits in Indian society. A truly historic achievement!

Tweets and Baits: The Fakeness of it All

 

I am passionate about Hindi cinema. Well, who is not, the consumption of cinema is a national pass time. While watching the Newslaundry video interview of filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj, I got a sense that he was hoping that Shekhar Kapur’s much ‘talked about’ film Paani sould see the light of day sooner than later. Vishal Bharadwaj was not sure why Shekhar Kapur would not complete his film but ‘talk about it’ since seven years.

While following Shekhar Kapur on twitter I was rather intrigued to see the following tweet on the 28th November 2012:

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A few days before directly referring to Paani, Shekhar Kapur twitted about cricket, Indian Parliament, politicians, Kejriwal and his Aam Admi Party, the FDI issue etc. This is apparent from his timeline.

Closely analyze the words of the above tweet and it gives a sense that Shekhar Kapur is passionate about his ‘futuristic’ film Paani as a director but he hopes to find an equally passionate producer. In other words, it gives a sense that he has NOT found a producer YET for Paani. So far so good!

On 29th Shekhar tweeted this:

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Again it gives an impression that Shekhar is still on a ‘look out’ for a producer.

On the same day (29th November) he tweets this:

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Why is he referring to himself in third person is anybody’s guess. But so far the tweets (mentioned above) give a sense that Shekhar Kapur has not yet found a producer for Paani and the future of this much ‘talked about’ film is bleak. On the 30th November comes the ‘big’ announcement but in the subtlest form.

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Here Shekhar disclosed his twitter followers the NEWS that Yash Raj Films shall be producing the film. Finally, the acclaimed filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, director of Elizabeth found a producer for his film (that is ‘like his child’) in Aditya Chopra of YRF. As ironical as it sounds, according to Shekhar Kapur he needed a producer as passionate as him to nurture his child. But wait; did YRF decide to produce Paani overnight? Because just
going back two days, Shekhar seems oblivious to any producer being available. May be I am wrong. But then, what is the meaning of the words: “Will Shekhar Kapur ever make this film that he keeps talking about?” There can be three answers to this question.

a. Yes b. No c. May be

Yes, if he finds a producer! But from the tweets it makes us believe that there isn’t one YET. May be he is still hoping to find an equally passionate producer.

No, there is no producer in sight yet and until he finds a producer Paani cannot be made. So, no Panni. Plain and simple.

May be! This is the tricky one. May be yes, may be no. Yes, he may be able to make his film Paani if he finds a producer, perhaps he is in talk with a few but nothing is finalized yet, right? We don’t know this because he has not mentioned about this anywhere.

Nevertheless, the bottom line remains that Shekhar Kapur had not found a producer for Paani even until 7.59AM 29th November 30, 2012 or had he?

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Interestingly enough, overnight Shekhar Kapur seems to have ‘found’ YRF who apparently decided to spend $30 million on Paani? Sounds exaggerated? May be it is, but then here is another fact.

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On the day Shekhar Kapur decides to let the twitter world know about YRF’s decision to produce Paani the same day Hollywood reporter publishes the same NEWS? So coming back to the moot point, did Shekhar Kapur NOT know two days ago that Aditya Chopra of YRF may produce his film? It is very unlikely. How come Hollywood Reporter published the NEWS the same day? But then, Shekhar Kapur very conveniently got away by baiting his twitter followers by using words such as:

A film needs passion from director, but for a futuristic film as vast as Paani needs producer who is willing 2 give it as much passion (On the 28 th November).

Every1 keeps asking me about star cast of Paani. But d most important person is a producer who is as passionate about d film as I am. Who? (On the 29 th November).

Lets talk about Paani then? Will Shekhar Kapur ever make this film that he keeps talking about? (Again on the 29th November)

Until the 29th November his tweets made an impression that a producer for Paani is a distant future and his ardent ‘followers’ yearning that he finds one soon. Then suddenly on the 30th November we have the announcement of YRF producing it. Strange, but that’s what has happened.

Water scarcity is an issue. This is a known fact. The poorest of the poor living in the slums of Mumbai are the ones to know it best from their lived experience. Perhaps better than you and me who are reading this? Now, do we need Shekhar Kapur to tell us that ‘it is problem’ and perhaps even visually show us his imaginary ‘futuristic’ solution at the cost of Aditya Chopra’s $30 million? This is perhaps the least important question. Because, by the end of the day, no film has been able to come up with a solution. Yes, it may create a certain level of ‘awareness’ amongst a few – especially the urban elites that may watch Paani at the multiplexes. But will it make any difference to ones who can afford bottled water and have access to water tankers?

Will people suddenly give up flush system in their toilets that drain 5 liters of water irrespective if one takes a shit or piss? Will the situation of Paani in India or anywhere in the world be any different after the screening of Paani? I am sure it will cross the 100 crore club, the latest benchmark for a film’s ‘success’ in India. In fact, I am sure it will surpass even 200 crore, but what difference will it make to those kids whose photo was posted by Shekar Kapur in this Paani ‘research pic’?

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For the countless poor in the slums, they will be even glad to just see the film, much less make any difference to their lives. Forget seeing the film, they may not have been fortunate enough to even see their own picture on twitter posted as ‘Paani research pic.’

However, by the time the box-office would have stopped counting, the producer, director, cast and crew, media outlets, distributors and multiplex owners would have all had their share of their pie. After all they would give their sweat, blood and their best effort to make the film Paani a success.

For the audience, I just hope that after seeing the film it makes them a little less thirsty.

On the ethics of voyeuristic panty photo shoots by press photographers

After reading the article in DNA  about Yana’s ‘No Panty’ I responded to the writer on his piece with the following comments. His original article is also pasted below for quick reference. My questions are:

1. Whether Yana wants to wear panties or not is her personal choice, even if she may be a Public figure.

2. Larger question is: what moral right does any press photographer have to click any woman’s picture AFTER knowing the fact that her private parts are going to be exposed? Shouldn’t be charged with criminal intent? Would he do such a thing if the ‘celebrity’ was his family member? Better still, if that woman was, say, Carla Sarkozy/Michelle Obama, would those pictures ever leave the venue? In this case Yana has come out as a victim of voyeuristic chauvinistic gaze.

3. Perhaps an article on commodification of women in Indian society would have been more appropriate than focus one woman’s non (panty) issue.

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Flash News: ‘No-panty’ Yana shows India is booming. Monday, December 6, 2010 14:44 IST Venkatesan Vembu

In the Vanities
No one wears panities
—-
—Ogden Nash
, Theatrical Reflection

In the early 1990s, when the Indian economy was opening up to the world, foreign consumer brands, in the first flush of excitement, came tripping over themselves to sell to “one billion” Indian customers. But after all the low hanging fruit had been plucked, they had to work hard to ferret out ‘niche’ markets that they could sell to: and one of those hitherto-unexplored markets in India, which had remained outside their reach, was the market for intimate women’s apparel.

At that time, a market research agency came out with a well-padded (and, perhaps, underwired) report that claimed – presumably after surveying women in the most remote tribal belts – that nearly 98 per cent of women in India did not wear any kind of undergarments. It then claimed, on the basis of this titillating bit of statistic, that there was clearly a vast and unfulfilled demand for women’s innerwear. Predictably, it had well-established international lingerie brands all out of breast breath and pant(y)ing with excitement at the big market that lay tucked away – out of sight of prurient eyes – beneath the demure vestments that Indian women wore.

Curiosity about what lay beneath the outer layers of women’s clothing had by then become something of a national obsession. In 1993 was released the film Khalyanak, with its suggestive signature hit-song Choli ke peeche kya hai (fair warning: nothing explicit, but probably Not Safe for Workplace). Young men burning with the desire for illumination on this fundamental question queued up to see the movie over and over again – in some cases, up to 30-40 times – but, sadly, obtained no satisfactory answer.

The fact that many Indian women, particularly in rural areas, have a callous disdain for innerwear would, of course, have been stunningly obvious to a generation that grew up watching Zeenat Aman (again, probably NSFW) in Satyam Shivam Sundaram.

But it appears, from evidence that was made pubic public recently, that the trend of women unwilling to be confined in anything so constricting as underwear has reached epidemic proportions in India.

The model Yana Gupta recently had male hormones gushing when she uncrossed her shapely legs at a charity event in Mumbai and flashed the message – as in this Calvin Klein commercial from 1981 starring Brooke Shields that between her and her micro-mini dress, there’s absolutely nothing.

The sight that the ‘No Panty Girl’ Yana revealed has predictably acquired nearly as much jabber value as this other famous uncrossing of legs, by Sharon Stone in the 1992 film Basic Instinct, did. But it has also drawn the unkind attention of self-appointed moral policemen with a keen eye out for exposed female genitalia: a man in Lucknow who claims to be a social activist (but from all accounts is only a publicity hound) has filed a case against Yana and the eager-beaver photographer on grounds of obscenity.

But it appears that in his eagerness to enforce an imagined moral order, the ‘moral policeman’ has misinterpreted the message inherent in Yana’s sneak peek of her no-panty state. To understand Yana’s message, one has to be familiar with the Hemline Index, a whimsical economic theory propounded in 1926 that, from all accounts, is still valid. It holds that the hemlines on women’s dresses rise when an economy is doing well; and, inversely, when economic times are grim, the skirts get longer. (More on this enthralling subject here.)

In other words, the message that Yana wished to flash to the world – through the shortness of her dress and her disregard for innerwear – is only that the Indian economy is well and truly booming.

Now, picture this: to profit from that booming economy, somewhere deep in a remote corner of India, a lingerie salesman looking to tap into a “vast and unfulfilled demand” for lacy innerwear is probably at this moment trying to hard-sell the joys of the Wonderbra to a puzzled tribal woman…

[UPDATE: At the suggestion of a commentator (see below), I’ve edited out the name of the petitioner who filed the obscenity case against Yana. The suggestion that media outlets should deny him the publicity that he seeks appears to me to be sensible.]

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Interestingly, the writer Venkatesh Vembu often responds to even silly comments and feedback on his blog. Although my comments were posted on his DNA blog, perhaps he was at loss of words to respond to my comments.

Derogatory remarks in Films

Manohar and everybody concerned,

It is precisely for these reason you and all of us should have seen this and all other films. It will help us understand how the society imagines the dalit, dalit bahujan and adivasis and we should be able to better criticize them.

Simply “banning” and turning a blind eye to it is not the solution. If that is the solution, how can you make a film with a Sardarji, a Muslim, or for that matter anybody in a film, because everybody in a way represents everybody and in a creative arts field you cannot question the artist but of course critise their work.

If Dalit literature has the right to swear at a Brahmin priest or other non-dalits the vice-versa should also stand true.

Unfortunately, I shall only be able to see it (the film Jogwaa) after it comes on DVD.

Regards,

Prashant

— On Wed, 2/3/10, MANOHAR DAVANE <manohartiss@gmail.com> wrote:

From: MANOHAR DAVANE <manohartiss@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [HumanHorizons] Anyone to take up this issue ?

To: humanhorizons@yahoogroups.co.uk

Received: Wednesday, February 3, 2010, 5:42 PM

I DIDNT SAW THIS MOVIE I HATE IT BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS MARKETISATION  THE CONSUMERISATION OF DALIT ISSUES .THE CRITICS ,THE AUDIENCE ENJOYING THE PRODUCER AND SOMEONE NAMED LIMAYE (IS THIS ACTOR IS BAHUJAN?)ALL ARE CELEBRATION THE WOUNDS OF DEVDASI .WE SHOULD TAKE STAND POINT THAT THIS MOVIE IS NOTHING BUT SOMETHING EXITING MOMENT FOR THE PEOPLE OF UNREALISTIC WORLD.

On Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 7:08 PM, lalit Khandare <lalitkhandare@ yahoo.co. uk> wrote:

Dear friends,

The movie “JOGVA” a national award winning movie,  is on sensitive topic of Jogta and Jogtin/ Devdasi, however they are insensitive towards Dalits.

Has some of the derogatory dialogues against “Dalits” ,Mahars and Chambhars in Maharashtra.

Following are the dialogues

“Kashyapai apan satpan sodav..  kon ahe

“Anu” kay kela tyane, hich tyachya galyat padli…

Kutlya maharavar pot phadun phirtiya yello aai jano”

“Chambhar chowkasya kashya karaya”

Please confirm if this correct and suggest possible actions.

Best regards,

lalit Khandare