MEDIA COLUMNISTS SAY SO

Indians find the perfect villain in Rhea Chakraborty. It says more about India than her.

“Take a quick look at what has occupied prime time news on TV and the headlines this past fortnight, and one name stands out: Rhea Chakraborty. Ever since late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s family lodged an FIR against his rumoured partner on 25 July, accusing her of abetting his suicide, Chakraborty’s every move has made headlines…

In Rhea Chakraborty, India has found the perfect villain to focus all its energies on, so that real issues of mental health, toxic workplaces and unfair systems can, once again, be ignored until the next incident and the next villain comes along to occupy the nation’s mindspace….

Despite so much going on in the country – a growing Covid crisis, floods in Assam and Bihar and, now, Mumbai, the India-China standoff and the continued incarceration of student activists, to name a few – the national obsession with Rhea Chakraborty has put paid to any real conversation about anything else…

The case has become a political tussle now, with leaders from every political party weighing in on the investigation and even the Centre getting involved…

It just goes to show the problem with 24-hour news, which is that journalists need something to fill up the hours with, and they don’t care even if it means writing crass headlines like ‘The Noose Tightens’ or conducting dummy post-mortems…

And in all the noise about this one high-profile case, we have forgotten not only basic decency but also the fact that there are many people, across professions, who don’t get work at all, leave alone work of their choice, whose careers suffer due to nepotism and cliquishness.” (Sameera Sood in The Print 08-08-20)

What hysteria over Bollywood helps TV news bury: Bad news on economy, China, Covid

“In their 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent, acade-mics Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky model out the political economy of the American media, arguing that large corporations that control newspapers and TV channels often serve to push propaganda even in a polity where freedom of the media is legally guaranteed….

Witness the past two months where Indian TV channels – especially national ones that broadcast in English and Hindi – have developed an obsession for one single piece of news: the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput…

But, of course, this obsession means real issues affecting India are being ignored by powerful sections of the media. This would be terrible at any time – but it is particularly glaring now given that India is facing conditions that are the worst in decades, if not since Independence…

…the government released data showing Indian economy had contracted by an incredible 23.9% in the April to June quarter – the worst-ever contraction since the country started publishing growth data on a quarterly basis in 1996… while all countries have been hit economically by the coronavirus pandemic, India’s fall is sharper… when India was always within the top five.

This economic destruction has meant Indians have lost jobs at an unprecedented rate. During the pandemic, as many as 18.9 million salaried jobs have been lost…. Modi’s foreign minister threw up his hands on Saturday and admitted helplessness: “We have a very large number of Chinese forces and frankly, we are at a loss to know why”…. As BBC’s South Asia Bureau Chief put it grimly: “India is now the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.”… India now has the highest confirmed mortality rate in South Asia. Clearly India’s strategy of having the world’s harshest lockdown backfired… An individual’s health data is some of the most private information that anyone can have on a person. However, the time given to comment on this critical data policy was just one week – September 3. This has subsequently been extended by another week, still inadequate for any meaningful public consultation… Clearly, the government does not give the idea of health data much importance… the GST actually has a maze of multiple rates and cesses. Moreover, the entire structure is so clunky and easy to scam that the government has actually seen collections drop…

 However, rather than hold it to task, much of the powerful TV media has completely ignored this, preferring to concentrate on Bollywood…inexplicably, large India’s media houses think its viewers would rather watch news centered around Bollywood than jobs… Maybe nothing spells more starkly how broken India’s TV journalism is than the edging out of this massive health crisis by ground-breaking investigations such as Rajput’s housekeeper claiming he rolled joints for the actor…

Like in Herman and Chomsky’s model for the American media, it is difficult to not see a pattern in the Indian media’s complete disavowal of the issues that matter in favour of a constant focus on the Hindi film industry. By abandoning its duty as a check on power, the media has given the ruling dispensation a free pass, which would rather have Indians obsess over   the   supposed   debauchery of faraway people rather than wake  up to see  the deep  crisis they themselves are stuck in. (Shoaib Daniyal in the scroll.in 01-09-20)

‘Is there a bigger agenda behind drug probe against select Bollywood actors?

 ”What started off as a rather grotesque ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ has rapidly degenerated into a dark comedy or horror show. Tell me — is there nothing worse happening in India besides Bollywood stars doing drugs? Or is there a sinister pattern emerging, as several alert critics have been pointing out — are our so-called ‘neutral’ government agencies merely doing their (hit) jobs by targeting top stars and minor players, in their unseemly rush to ‘clean up’ showbiz? Why are they hand-picking these particular stars and not several others who may be equally guilty? ….

Everyone has realised it is no longer about SSR, or Rhea or any of those associated with SSR’s death. It is now an insane shikaar to selectively implicate big names from Bollywood in an effort to: a) divert national attention from ‘unimportant’ crises, fiscal, legal, and Covid-related issues; b) assume control of Bollywood through intimidation and threats. The second aspect is very important, given the incredible, almost immeasurable influence of Bollywood on the nation’s imagination. The long-term benefits of insidiously taking over the lives and content of India’s vibrant entertainment industry are obvious. Apart from the monetary angle, it is the idea of entertainment itself that’s at stake…

When a concerted effort is made to paint a terrible picture of an entire industry by picking on high-profile, successful targets, the government machinery effectively chokes free cinematic expression and sends out a strong message to those who aren’t willing to kneel down and surrender to the state. This form of pressurising is being witnessed across other cultural platforms — in the rewriting of our history books, renaming of heritage sites, restructuring of institutions and the gagging of media. Bollywood had been spared so far. But the SSR case provided the perfect alibi to muscle in and hijack an entire subculture that has spoken the language of India’s masses for over a hundred years.

This is an opportunity to move in swiftly (timing is everything), using the smokescreen of massive ‘drug abuse’ and smoothly taking control. Once it’s a done deal, all those self-righteous fellows strutting around with a holier-than-thou attitude will disappear into the woodwork, not to be seen again. Hatchet job complete. Mission accomplished.

Yes, there are Bollywood A-listers who do drugs. So do B-grade politicians. And sadhus. And businessfolk. And traders. Many others. I mean, drug use is not Bollywood’s vice exclusively. Why has not even a single politician’s name emerged? These are the same netas who party with their Bollywood buddies… Do you mean to say they sip Thums Up and avoid coke at cosy private bashes where they are regulars?…Using a Bollywood tragedy to influence Bihar elections is just testing the waters for the big bang to come — the total takeover and makeover of Bollywood.” (Shobhaa De in the Times of India 27-09-20)

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