Perspective

Indian media, never go full Bollywood

Updated Oct 06, 2016 03:01pm

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There are few relationships as abusive as the one we have with our electronic media. We watch far more news and talk shows than is healthy. We rage at the screen, our tempers flashing as red as the breaking news slides. We scan any number of the myriad websites that post such talk shows online, eager to see who’s ‘blasting’ who and who’s getting ‘exposed’ this week. We post memes and video clips alternately praising or condemning anchors for their treatment of our pet causes and politicians, sometimes doing both in the span of a single hour like a bunch of borderline schizophrenics.

Caught in the throes of this love-hate relationship we pronounce, with great solemnity and certainty, that ‘media nai is mulk ka bera ghark kar diya hai.’ And all the while, we keep watching — as one does when faced with a slow-motion train wreck.

Granted there’s a lot to complain about: This is the media landscape where anchors have blatantly lied on air, where the death of dozens in Mohmand [Agency] quickly gave way to the arrest of Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan in Karachi, where programming and propaganda is often indistinguishable.

But now, Indian media has done something we had thought impossible; they made the Pakistani media look good.

In the aftermath of the Uri attack, one witnessed the march of the TV brigades, fearless warriors with military microphones broadcasting belligerence to an eager audience. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little old fashioned jingoism, but Indian media went full Bollywood. Decibel levels soared as anchor after anchor made blood-curdling threats to annihilate Pakistan. Twitter hashtags flew like ballistic missiles and graphic departments in newsrooms across India were called into action to perform such feats of arms as turning the map of Pakistan into the body of a dog. War may be too important a matter to be left to military men, but no one said anything about news anchors.

And then came the ‘surgical strike’ and things really got interesting.

But before we talk about that, let’s give a special mention to the Indian newsmagazine The Quint, which actually performed a bit of time travel and reported the strike a full eight days before the Indian military announced it. Be that as it may, once the news of the strike was made public, it was taken as gospel truth. And when the actual information given out by the Indian military wasn’t spicy enough, details were added to it.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little old fashioned jingoism, but Indian media went full Bollywood.

Helicopters were sent carrying commandoes. No, airstrikes were used. No, over a hundred commandoes infiltrated the LoC, crawled three kilometres into Azad Jammu and Kashmir, killed a bunch of terrorists and got out undetected and while suffering no casualties. None of this information had actually been provided by the Indian military or government, it came from ‘sources’ that quite naturally chose to remain anonymous.

This didn’t sit well with all Indian journalists, of course. Praveen Swami tweeted: ‘In the bad old days, journalists used to ask to see some evidence of claims at briefings. So glad we’re done with that.” Rezaul Hasan Lashkar made a similar comment, saying: ‘Fascinating that so many journos on both sides unhesitatingly buy into positions taken by their militaries.’

Guilty as charged. Much of Pakistan’s media does indeed kowtow to the powerful establishment and doesn’t need much prompting to don camouflage gear and breathlessly report on how impregnable Pakistan’s defence is or how many wars we have won against India. There is no shortage of paeans to how wonderful the military is, especially when compared to those horrible, venal politicians. And during this latest conflict, there was plenty of televised jingoism on our end as well: There was a comical Modi lookalike cowering as CGI missiles flew over his head, there were shouting anchors promising bloody retaliations, there were – to our shame – at least two news reports and tickers that used ‘Hindu’ as a derogatory term. There was even an attempt to ape Indian media by using hashtags like #bharatronabandkero and so on, but they didn’t really catch on.

If anything it reminded me of when Pakistani dramas, awed by the success of India’s saas-bahu epics, tried to replicate what looked to be a winning formula. Strong characters were replaced by caricatures talking about hundreds of crores. Plot development was sacrificed for endless zoomed in shots and no woman could walk around without wearing half of Pakistan’s GDP as jewellery. It didn’t take, as poor imitations tend not to.

There is no shortage [in Pakistan] of paeans to how wonderful the military is, especially when compared to those horrible, venal politicians.

After all, you can’t beat the masters at their own game.

But for all its many faults and foibles, the Pakistani media also has a tradition of speaking truth to power —sometimes with terrible consequences. Part of this is born out of the historically rocky relationship media has had with the powers that be, but whatever the reason, we see little questioning of the state narrative in Indian media these days. Instead, we see hashtags like #ForcesFirstNotPak and the creation of an atmosphere where the slightest hint of dissent, or even daring to ask questions, is treated as treason.

As in the norm in such inquisitions, the guns are now pointing inwards. From Pakistan itself, the targets switched to Pakistani artistes and now to Indians who aren’t displaying enough patriotism to suit the anchors. We’ve been there too, we’ve seen our share of on-air witch-hunts, but never on this scale or with this much venom.

Some of it is about ratings; some of it is about simply reflecting the nationalistic mood that has swept across India. Some of it is also about the coziness between Narendra Modi and business tycoons like Mukesh Ambani who is now also the owner of one of India’s largest media groups, Network 18. But none of it is journalism, and none of it is good.


Zarrar Khuhro is a journalist and co-host of the TV talk show, Zara Hut Kay. He tweets @ZarrarKhuhro

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Comments (34) Closed



Ali Zaidi Oct 06, 2016 08:21am

Best! Ye Cheez

namwz Oct 06, 2016 08:31am

even this article also lies

Reader Oct 06, 2016 08:33am

Sir, you can have your perspective but adapt to change. India and indians have seen terror strikes by militants from across the border for years. They were tolerant until now and earlier govermnents at power did not take action enough to stop this completely. A threshold has been reached and government is forced to take action and media is only projecting the mood and sentiments of its people. Pakistan is struggling hard to cover up the proof of surgical strikes and is thus cornered and is forced to go on defensive. So please do not cover this up as sobriety. Let us be sincere to ourselves and be a bit mature.

Zulu Oct 06, 2016 09:26am

Great, unbiased article.

Fredo Oct 06, 2016 09:39am

Indians are saying enough is enough. This should have happened after Mumbai 26/11, which is beyond anybody's tolerance level. Indians are still hurt and in disbelief. Please stop this menace emanating from your backyard.

analyses Oct 06, 2016 09:40am

Excellent article highlighting the madness going on in both countries.

Gourab Ghatak Oct 06, 2016 09:44am

Sadly, this has been happening over the last few weeks. Not a single TV channel here in India seem to care about the truth. A neverending, shameless, drama.

Sadaf Haider Oct 06, 2016 09:50am

Brilliant analysis . I have always found the Pakistani media to be incredibly skeptical ( as it should be) of the Pakistani establishment .. in fact at times its overwhelmingly so . I am amazed that supposedly educated men and women are unwilling to question or even think for themselves.I don't believe the social media rhetoric , the BJP's army of Keyboard bhakts dominate this area and try to create a momentum but the mere fact that the Indian media has to stifle dissent points to the fact that normal , moderate Indians don't want war Normal people are happily watching their favourite Pakistani dramas on YouTube while ZeeZindagi's face book page is filled with desolate emptiness and a few fake profiles agreeing with everything the management does. Meanwhile the Pakistani public is gearing up to get their pirated copies of MS Dhoni and praying the empty vases that are making all the war , war , war noise pipe down before Ae dil e Mushkil's release . Hopefully cooler heads will prevail

FullTruth Oct 06, 2016 10:33am

Please read "CNN News 18" for the "proof" of what happened on the night of Sept 29. Here is the link: http://www.news18.com/news/india/surgical-strikes-despite-days-of-doctoring-by-pakistan-heres-proof-from-across-loc-1298904.html

shubs Oct 06, 2016 11:00am

Humor, as they say, is an excellent defense mechanism. Reminds me of the self-congratulatory know-it-all Pakistani social media posts in the wake of Abbottabad, mocking the US, even as the nation was undergoing the worst international humiliation since its independence (or maybe that was 1971...). Cynicism and denial can be cathartic...

Shahin Abrar Hossain Oct 06, 2016 11:03am

I am convinced. We people want peace not war. But the way media exaggerates shows their irresponsible attitude. The fact is the reality of the media is truly unreal...

Satyan Israni Oct 06, 2016 11:26am

I agree with you. Our media has become more of a tabloid news than serious news. In fact, all our private channels have even made DD News look better forget Pak Media!

Akram Oct 06, 2016 11:43am

India Today actually has a "War Room" complete with a model of the LoC area. Laughable is all one can say.

subu Oct 06, 2016 12:31pm

Zarrar, spot on. I actually think that sites like Dawn are (much, much) more balanced than most (if not all) of the media houses on either side of the border. The good 'ol journalism, which sought proofs and analysed it before coming to a conclusion, is long dead gone. In fact, most TV News shows are more entertainment, than news. Anybody, who asks for proof, is immediately termed as "anti-national", by the erstwhile-fringe-but-now-mainstream elements. It is essentially our fault, as viewers and watchers that we prefer 'jingoism' to sober analysis. Indian TV anchors have taken the skill and converted it into an art form (not the good-art, but the bad-art). it is actually sickening to see the circus and what is more shocking is the number of people that gets influenced by it. Debate, analysis, arguments and agreeing-to-disagree, have become completely old fashioned. I am delighted that someone in the region is talking about it, and not surprised that it is not an Indian.

Yuvrajsinh Jhala (From Indian) Oct 06, 2016 12:33pm

So true. +1 For the article. These wasn't case 3-4 years back. Now a days media is all about "sass-bahu" drama. Don't know whom to believe.

K Jatt Oct 06, 2016 01:16pm

Please check Russian High commission in India web site that has detail of every thing and even the plans Indian army used. And hey are Pakistani friends as well .They have also informed that Uri militants came from Pakistan

Jai Hind Oct 06, 2016 01:37pm

A CNN-News18 report said the Pakistani police officer rattled off events of the night of the raids and confirmed claims made by the Indian Army. "Sir, that was night...you can say roughly 3-4 hours... between 2 AM and 4 or 5 AM... the attack continued between that time," Ghulam Akbar is recorded as stating.

Ramachandran Kannan Oct 06, 2016 02:35pm

Mr Khuhro talks of Indian media but what about his own show ? I have seen a couple of episodes but have since stopped watching as it is merely an exercise in India bashing.

Kumar Oct 06, 2016 03:54pm

The article is wretten well from your perspective. But you won't ask your government or military to stop using terrorists either due to fear or you hate us so much. Terrorists are terrorists and you have suffered at their hands too.These terrorists will never be able to achieve anything other than bring disrepute to your government. It is a cruel joke to say your own people did it when these terrorists strike in India. And blatant lies by your retired generals in our media which is so palpable looks so funny!

ehsan maher Oct 06, 2016 04:02pm

Indians here still in denial and believing the bollywood scenario painted by their army.

sandhu Oct 06, 2016 04:36pm

@FullTruth CNN News 18 Again Indian channel giving concocted and fabricated news. forget about Pakistani or Indian media. Did you read Washington post, BBC, The Diplomat, and New York Times? Ofcourse not because the rubbished the news of such strike,

asad Oct 06, 2016 04:36pm

India is Modi'fied, the real fighter for the cause of Hindus finally rose up :)

Blister Oct 06, 2016 04:59pm

@FullTruth With all due respect, neither the CNN nor the News 18 bit of this news channel infuses confidence.

Shahryar Shirazi Oct 06, 2016 05:26pm

@Reader Guess you missed the whole point of the article. It is about the manner in which media, in particular Indian media, tries to beat each other for ratings. Indians being victims of terrorism is not what is being discussed. My well wishes to your countrymen. May they live in/with peace.

mansan Oct 06, 2016 07:22pm

Another marvel from Dawn !! Dawn is best in subcontinent.

Shyam Oct 06, 2016 07:29pm

Media in India and Pakistan, just fuel anger for their TRPs.

amit Oct 06, 2016 09:51pm

The writer is questing the credibility of the Indian media. Why does he not question the Pakistani narrative that there was no surgical strikes inside the LOC? No big newspaper had asked this counter question!

Khanji Oct 06, 2016 10:50pm

@Reader "All the newspapers and televisions including Washington Post, The New York Times, BBC and CNN are rejecting the Indian claim of surgical strikes." Enough said!

Mayur Ubale Oct 06, 2016 11:21pm

Good One......

Agha Asad Raza Oct 06, 2016 11:36pm

Well written and balanced. Good work.

Guest Oct 07, 2016 06:02am

There is a widespread belief in India that Pakistan has been the source of a lot of terrorist activities in India. Th author should have mentioned that to put the whole thing in proper perspective. May be he does not think that Pakistan has any thing to do with the terrorism in India but then he should have provided some logic to prove that. In absence of that this article itself seems to be one sided joke.

Ankur Oct 07, 2016 11:04am

I am an Indian, and still, i'll say, nice article!

Saper Oct 07, 2016 08:09pm

If you live in a gated community and your house is securely fenced and you keep your house locked, still it is robbed, then who you should blame? your guard at the gate, yourself or your neighbor from whose backyard the thief entered your house?

Gulfraz Oct 08, 2016 06:21pm

Only one news channel, CNN 18 , telling the true story. What happened to the rest of the world news channels?