Imran, Harman, Aarushi… NEWS?

I really don’t know what to make of this huge hullabaloo over the debut of Imran Khan and Harman Baweja on the same day. Agreed, they are both high profile star launches backed by huge producers and distributors who have put in millions on their films. Having seen Imran’s Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, which I must say was nothing great, and heard less than favourable reviews of Harman’s Love story 2050, all the hype and curiosity over the two films seems over-exaggerated, and yet another example of media driven battle to gain attention and publicity.

I am not one of those who would be against hardcore publicity of one’s film. Indeed, I fervently consider marketing as an essential element in today’s media industry. Yet for all this, the Imran v/s Harman battle seems a mere concoction of the news media. More than anything else, It just forces you to sit up and notice the over enthusiasm of the media houses.

The day’s edition of a popular newspaper in Kolkata actually has drawn a comparative analogy of the two actors and has given a thumbs up to Imran, while at the same time commenting that the two films are incomparable and very different from each other. What was all this for? The question at stake is not whether there was any competition for there is bound to be one. Any two films that release on the same day are bound to compete with one another for revenue and box-office attention. That is normal, but that in no way means that each film is rivaling each other to the extent that one is subjected to endless media gossip about its actor’s romance or its producer’s advice.

During Diwali last year, Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya released to huge media anticipation of a rivalry between Shahrukh Khan and Bhansali. Front page headlines in prominent newspapers and prime air time was given to the ‘fall of Bhansali’ and the ‘superiority of King Khan’. Of course, nothing of this sort was ever heard from either of the two men in question. We as spectators are thus subjected to a tamasha, with the media on one side and the film industry on the other. Like dumb cattle we just end up lapping up whatever has been given to us, and thus do not question the farce that new age news channels and newspapers have become. So this brings us to the talking point of this article: Is “news” a hostage of the media houses and are credibility and newsworthiness no longer an issue?

The most convenient argument against my statement is that there is a crowd for everything and that news, at the end of the day, also has a corporate angle to it. I refuse to buy this argument, simply because news is nothing but a creation of the media as a whole. If media houses today refuse to tell stories about the Bachchan family, then they no longer remain newsworthy. Such has been the extent of today’s media fascination with the entertainment industry that any entertainment news is main news. I was shocked that major news channels on television did not carry any news on the Ingrid Betancourt rescue, instead focussing on the box-office battle between Imran and Harman. One may recall that for two consecutive days the whole media went crazy about the wedding of Abhishek and Aishwarya Bachchan. Thus, news in general becomes a hostage to media houses which then serves to further its own interest. Corporate houses pay television channels and newspapers to give it prime coverage, while many others tend to do the same on their own in order to generate more corporate, and thus advertisement interest.

Thus news, which primarily is subject to a viewer’s perception and interest, becomes subject to intense scrutiny and editing according to the producer’s interest. In general, one may say that news should cover all aspects of life, politics, social, business, entertainment and all else. However, today the scenario has changed to the extent that media houses create news and as such newsworthiness of any news item is out in question. And this does not apply to the entertainment section only, even though one may say that they occupy primary position.

Other examples may include the Aarushi murder whodunit which is being solved more by the media than CBI themselves; the Taj Mahal’s inclusion in a questionable list of new seven wonders and the infamous Anara Gupta case. All this leads to one big conclusion, news is what sells or more importantly what media houses are able to sell. So we quickly lap up conspiracy theories about Aarushi’s character and a non-existent Rajnikant-Amitabh Bachchan tussle. In such a state, one is left to ponder on what exactly do we expect and want when we read a newspaper or open a television news channel. The answer may differ from person to person, but for me news is what news does – it informs.

Anupam Dhar

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