Non news is good news

Do we need entertainment channels at all? Violence, sex, comedy and drama - it‘s all available on our home grown news channels.

I am fairly certain that soaps recorded a dip last week, when news channels went ga ga, first over the Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty clinch on stage and then into a tizzy trying to get a sneak peek at the big Bachchan wedding that no one seems to have enough of. For those who like a bit of action, there was enough footage of the rampage at the Star News office doing the rounds too. And for late night voyeurs, nowadays there‘s India TV offering a live call in show that talks about, what else, sex.

Of course, neither the Gere-Shetty incident nor the Abhi-Ash extravaganza deserved the kind of attention it is getting. In what has become the norm for news channels, the innocuous embrace played out in an endless loop on screen wherever you cared to flick, and the accompanying commentary made it appear as though the entire nation‘s modesty had been outraged by the Hollywood actor.

Gere may have gone a bit overboard, but Shetty had taken the incident in her
stride, laughing it off and had to appear on TV itself to exhort media ‘not to make a fool of themselves in front of the world‘. As for Gere, he wisely stayed away from comment. The unwarranted attention to the two minute incident however was enough for the country‘s moral police to jump on to the bandwagon and disrupt subsequent press conference, and getting their own share of the limelight. When again, naturally, the TV cameras were on hand to capture the brouhaha. Our news seems to be made up of a series of non-news events these days.

After panting like bloodhounds after Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar, the media pack has now targeted the wedding of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. Neither the Hurley wedding nor the Abhi-Ash do has extended an invite to the media, but the TV cameras aren‘t letting go, chiefly it appears, just to ensure that no rival channel gets a glimpse or sound byte more than they do. So, you are treated to the laddoo shop owner who‘s come down from Lucknow with a truckful of sweets for Abhishek, the henna sellers who have been commissioned to get the stuff from some remote village or the guys commissioned to bring in the hundred air conditioners for the event. Till late Thursday night, CNN IBN‘s Paras Tomar and company were stationed outside Prateeksha, making inane talk, climbing trees and haggling with neighbourhood watchmen just to sneak into the bungalow and have a look at the festivities. The efforts were all in vain, of course. The other channels are repeatedly airing what‘s next best - footage from films featuring Aishwarya, Viveik Oberoi, Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, anything... just to keep talking about the event. Because, naturally, none of the players involved are doing any talking.

The Star News fracas just showed up how a simple human interest story can make a news channel the target of flared emotions. Interestingly, head honchos of all news channels rallied to the defence of Star News, on air, stressing the need to put up a committed media front against attacks by fundamentalist groups. True. No one knows who can be targeted next.



Over on entertainment channels, it was a with a twinge of sadness that one had to bid adieu to Shah Rukh‘s KBC this week. The guy had just slipped comfortably into the skin of the character he was playing, and the wit and humour had just begun to show. But better to leave when at the top, than leave after the audience is jaded.

The same cannot be said of the several new soaps that have launched in the last few months. After an initial push of two to three weeks, they all seem to slip into auto pilot mode, preferring the conventional route taken by all soaps before them. Kaajjal , Maayka, Paraya Dhan, Virasat... none of the shows appears to have a track that‘s worthy of a mention. Sony‘s Jeete Hain Jiske Liye, which hasn‘t really lived up to the standards one usally associates with producers Tony and Deeya Singh, is now going in for a leap. This soon? The show has barely been on air for two months. But a leap at least temporary respite in ratings. If that too doesn‘t work out, will Jeete Hain... go the Kulvaddhu way? Does anyone even remember Kulvaddhu?

Couch potato‘s pick of the week - Karan Johar‘s interaction with Jaya Bachchan and Hema Malini last weekend in which he got Jaya to say that Viveik Oberoi ‘is on a mission‘. KJo‘s getting better every week... wonder what he will get Rakhee Sawant to say when she appears on the show next?

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