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HomeMediaPowerful imageries – from Slumdog to World Cultural Festival

Powerful imageries – from Slumdog to World Cultural Festival

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Sunil Mishra
Sunil Mishra
Sunil is author of 3 books.

“I want to ask you a question, I am not sure if it is appropriate, but I am really curious to know” one of my colleagues asked me in an informal gathering during my stay in Brussels.

“It is about your country, I have never been there” he added further.

“Yes – of course, please feel free to ask and I would be happy to answer” I knew the colleague quite well. I have been interacting with him for some time.

At this point we went into a corner and he asked in a hushed tone “I watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire – Is India really like that? I was planning to visit but wanted to check with you first.”

I was not prepared for an expected question like this. I tried to comfort him nonetheless – no it is not that bad. Soon I realized that I was trying to tell a story contrary to the powerful projection of a movie that was winning Oscars that time. Also the mainstream media in India was shouting – we should not hide our dirt and filth, it is truth, we should not shy away.  This one-sided self-inflicting love affair with negativity, unfortunately has become the politically correct narrative in Indian media over time.

So when it contrasts with the colorful image of 150 countries uniting at Yamuna bank, celebrating their cultural heritage on the themes of world peace and prosperity, the media story tellers get shattered. This is not their “idea of India” – the story is moving beyond their script. Some of the media anchors focused on all the controversies e.g. hours and hours of debate on environment. They could not restrain their excitement when rain looked like disrupting the start of the festival. “Yamuna’s revenge on con men” – one of the media anchors tweeted. Well the environment concern is ok but when the story moved beyond the controversies most of the media just gave a skip.  The moral of the story is “if there are no negative news, there is no news”.

In any news event there is one main story and several side stories. The media sometimes creates the side stories to suit their narrative to attack the main story. In case of WCF the main story was completely bulldozed by all the controversies on NGT, use of army, fine and penalty and many more. It is not fair to say that these aspects had no merits, some of them may be correct as well. The question that one need ask however is – did media forget to cover the event and the positive aspects of the event. Did the allegedly manufactured side story completely overrun the main story? The same phenomenon was evident in the JNU incident. The main story was the anti-national slogans and there were several side stories like lawyers attack, video authenticity etc. The media used the side stories  to overrun the main story, thereby being unjust in the fair coverage. When the story get inconvenient they focus on the sideshows.

The balanced story telling of a news event from media is important when they talk of ethical journalism. It is not that the media should not have opinions on the news events – they must have. However there is difference between editorial and news reporting. The two should not be mixed up at all. The story and images are flashed around everywhere; they become the truth for all those who don’t see it first-hand. For my friend in Brussels slumdog is the truth while for those visiting India at Yamuna Banks in WCF it is different imagery. The foreign media and a large audience are even more detached from true stories on the ground, so they rely more on what the Indian media tell them.

During one of the self-justifying rambling during prime time TV program, a media anchor said – “our job is not to praise the establishment or government. Our job is to constantly criticize them, criticize to the core. If the government wants someone to sing paeans they can hire darbari media. We are like revolutionaries – we will attack the government for everything even remotely perceived wrong. We are not obliged to praise. This is what we have studied in our journalism classes and our ideals are JP movements”. Though I am not sure what are taught in the journalism classes, there is an evident flaw in this line of argument. If the journalists look at everything from the lens of criticism and revolution they will end up reporting Slumdog stories only.

As our PM quoted during the world cultural meet –“The world will not value us if we keep criticizing ourselves all the time”.  

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Sunil Mishra
Sunil Mishra
Sunil is author of 3 books.
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