Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Tabloidization of Indian Media

I read this speech Prannoy Roy gave when he accepted the award for lifetime achievement at the Bombay Press Club. Essentially what Roy bemoans is the tabloidization of Indian media which lowers journalistic standards across media platforms: print and electronic. And, I agree. Bravo Roy!

Last month I went to author CP Surendran’s book launch. The media was there in full force. I attended CP’s last book launch and the media was absent. Well, a few stragglers, not many. So I wondered if it was the booze, or, something else that made them come in such force. There were cameras of all types, jousting to get better positions, a general hullaballoo.

No, it wasn’t the booze but a chap named Anurag Kashyap that made them come. I don’t know the reason why Kashyap was invited. He confessed he rarely read Indian fiction, and was openly sarcastic about Indian Writing in English. But forget that, and forgive all that, he was asked to be a panel member in the discussion about the book. Holy of holies!

The media was there because Kashyap with a few hits to his credit is a celebrity and the next best thing that is happening to Bollywood. I haven’t seen any of his films so I can’t comment on its quality. But his disdain for Indian Writing in English was quite clear.

When the floor opened for questioning the media started questioning Kashyap about Bombay Velvet and other projects. Poor CP and his book were ignored, passed on, for the more saucy gossip of Bollywood. Tabloidization had begun. The scribes wanted some cheeky quote from Kashyap which they could print in the next day’s paper. They got them too. Kashyap is a hunk, a proper muscled Bollywood-type hunk, and was married to another starlet, now divorced.

Kashyap was dismissive and said Indian Writer’s in English wrote tripe and Indian filmmakers made crap. Both were lapped up and reported on. Roy said that tabloidization leads to lowering the standards of journalism and I agree, with all my heart and soul.

In another launch I attended, this time it was my own launch. Actually, my short story was featured in an anthology and the publisher called us authors to take the dais and talk about our stories. This is the only launch I have ever had, so far, at least. The media came. The publisher, I don’t know for what reason, had invited a Bollywood starlet to be present. She smiled a lot, a nervous, self-conscious smile. The media focussed on the starlet and ignored us authors. I was chagrined. The next day’s papers showed pictures of the starlet with the publisher and not a word, not a word – I emphasize – about us poor authors, who slinked to the far corners of the hall to weep bitter tears.

That’s tabloidization for you, and it’s a bad thing. The earlier our media gets out of it the better it would be for them.

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