30-Aug-2007

Big brother

Live coverage of news is thrilling. However very few of us appreciate the many obstacles in bringing cutting edge journalism straight into your living room. This was especially in evidence when an issue of national importance rocked us about a week ago.
Salman Khan was sentenced to five years of prison imprisonment. The nation was shown 24/7 footage of Salman Khan admirably overcoming the handicap of having to choose from the repertoire of five expressions he has. If the debate on whether Salman is to surrender or be arrested was heated, it was nothing to the high melodrama on Rakshabandan. Salman’s two sisters came to the Jodhpur prison to tie a rakhi. Enthusiastic journalists covered this with blow-by-blow commentary till the sisters disappeared into the prison. At this point the government played spoil sport and would not allow anybody to shoot inside. The nation had to be content with an interview with the Jodhpur police on the merits of leniency on Rakshabandan.

This is the kind of news coverage challenge which separates the creative from the merely competent. Every channel showed the sisters walking to the prison door. Only Headlines Today had the ability to seamlessly switch onto a graphic novel version of the sisters meeting Salman and tying the Rakhi. Cut back to live interview with the police. And then back to the drawings of a penitent looking Salman (Hey, here is your sixth expression) in designer prison wear extending his muscular arm. It was no longer just a news item but a splicing of techniques from the very best of visual art.

This is the kind of report that makes you feel proud about how far Indian TV has moved from the time when we had to meekly listen to Geetanjali Aiyer’s crisp accent on DD reading out insipid political news.

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