Barely a week away from the United States and I may already be forgetting what Sean Hannity’s echoing certitudes or Rachel Maddow’s emphatically mocking tone sounds like. It is amazing how quickly the broadcast cacophony dissipates once you leave the shores of any country these days.
So far the American TV noise has not been replaced by the Indian TV noise because I have not bothered to tune into Indian news channels yet. I have only caught ten minutes of Rajdeep Sardesai’s “E X C L U S I V E” with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee on CNN-IBN. Throughout those ten minutes “Didi” or sister, as Banerjee is called by those familiar with her, sat at an approximately 35 degree angle facing away from Sardesai and the camera as if directly engaging both might co-opt her into the broadcast-industrial conspiracy. Either that or it was her way of telling the anchor that her entire being is at variance with whatever he might have to ask.
The trick while watching news channels, either in the US or in India, is to treat everything unfolding in front of you as fables from a parallel universe. Once you do that it all becomes greatly entertaining. It helps to pass snide comments from time to time. It is therapeutic. I do that even while watching TV news alone. Now that could be a cause for getting into therapy myself.
Coming back to Banerjee, every conversation with her sounds like a spat left unfinished from some years ago. She just naturally lacks a reflective tone. It always sounds like you have caught her in the middle of a particularly acrimonious disagreement with the world. It is probably her default temperament.
To his credit Sardesai did try to engage Banerjee in a way that might reveal her true self but she is so preoccupied with being her true self that it needs no revealing. My sense from her eye movements was that there was probably a small audience in the interview room that she kept looking at. The audience had to be the kind which was in natural and coerced agreement with her because she kept a lot of her focus on them. Hence the 35 degree (or was it 38 degree?) angle of her sitting position away from Sardesai.
I watched those ten minutes employing my patented trick of looking at everything as fables from a parallel universe. It worked amazingly well.
Speaking of fables from a parallel universe, Ken Auletta of the New Yorker has a piece coming up in the October 8 issue of in “Annals of Communications” titled “Citizen Jain.” It is about the humongous success of brothers Samir and Vineet Jain in making The Times of India a highly profitably business using the simple principle of demolishing the wall between advertising and editorial.
Auletta writes, “While profits have been declining at newspapers in the West, India is one of the few places on earth where newspapers still thrive; in fact, circulation and advertising are rising. In part, this is because many Indian newspapers, following an approach pioneered by the Jain brothers, have been dismantling the wall between the newsroom and the sales department. At the Times of India, for example, celebrities and advertisers pay the paper to have its reporters write advertorials about their brands in its supplementary sections; the newspaper enters into private-treaty agreements with some advertisers, accepting equity in the advertisers’ firms as partial payment.”