Sunday, June 01, 2014

Hindustan Times does not want to offend your sentiments

It is so good of the paper, Hindustan Times – they care for your sentiments.
Or, do they truly?

Though I have given the image of a short piece – Mallika in the eye of the storm – in the htcity section of the paper of June 1, 2014 above I am not going to ask you to read through the whole piece and waste your time (see, just like HT, I too am sensitive to you, your time pressures), but let you focus on a sentence that I am reproducing below:
“We are not publishing the picture in question, though widely being circulated on social media, so as not to offend the sentiments of our readers.”
I do not believe you have ever read a more sensitive, over protective, and if I may, cloying, statement from a media outlet. You take it at face value at your own risk; I am not so inclined. I want to analyze further.
The paper is motivated to avoid any trouble with the authorities – “According to Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, no one can show disrespect to or bring into contempt the Indian National Flag … disrespect includes using the National Flag as a portion of costume … worn below the waist of any person.”
Was Mallika “draped in nothing but the tricolor…” in the promotional poster of the movie? The tentative answer seems to be yes, as the picture is available on social media (people seem to care as much for these salacious pieces as they do for a woman getting raped in a moving bus; go figure). The next question, was she draped below the waist? The answer seems to be yes, as otherwise the flag issue would not have grabbed headlines, if you catch my drift! So, she must be guilty!
But, just wait one minute. The film’s director claims that the actor is wrapped in an ordinary drape which carries three color bands of saffron, white and green. “There is no Ashoka Chakra in the centre.” So, it ain’t a flag, after all.
Who do you believe? For my money I bet on the filmmaker. First, he must have figured out easily that there will be a “pseudo-controversy” that he can confidently milk and in the process gain valuable publicity for the film. He thoughtfully left out the Ashoka Chakra from the drape.
Second, this “offence” mongers are not too smart (anyone who is so sensitive and takes offence so easily cannot be all that smart; ask me!). Willy nilly they have fallen for the trap so skillfully set up by the filmmaker!
Third, the filmmaker knew that the media will bite, as did this paper, and so it did most obligingly. Look how very unctuously the media put out the reason for why it is not doing the offensive thing! Why should it have proclaimed its innocence when no one would have blamed for not publishing the offending poster? It was feeding the hunger of the voyeur population amongst its readership. The filmmaker was fully aware of this possibility, nay, certainty.
But, to tell you the truth, I too was insincere. I started out drawing your attention to this silly piece in the paper and promising you to save some time, but deliberately conjured a detailed discussion on this trivial thing. My main goal was, of course, to get you to read it, even if it meant wasting your time. I will be adding labels such as Mallika Sherawat, the tricolor, below the waist, insult to the Flag, Ashoka Chakra, Hindustan Times, K C Bokadia – just to get you to bite. I am no better than K C Bokadia or the paper Hindustan Times!
Hindustan Times does not want to offend your sentiments. Likewise I do not want to waste your time!
Raghuram Ekambaram

No comments: