Sunday, March 24, 2013

Background Score




It breaks my heart when Arthur Schopenhauer says, “Journalists are like dogs. They begin to bark whenever something moves.” Not fair. 


On the judgment day of Sanjay Dutt’s trial, television crews camped near the court premises to give us the first sound bite. Reporters were seen adjusting their cameras and tapping their microphones to avoid any last minute glitch. Just when Satish Maneshinde, Sanjay’s lawyer began speaking, there was chaos as reporters jostled and wrestled to capture the moment. 
Interestingly, there were some unsavory animated voices coming from the background. Sample a few: 

Abbe dekh ke, cable hai. Saare giroge.

Neeli shirt wale, haath neeche kar.

Mike upar kar yaar, sir phodega kya.

Taar kheench. Taar kheench.

Side ho, yaar Side ho na. Kitni baar bola hai. Sunta kyon nahin be?


None of them is manufactured. And I didn’t even have to strain my ears. Remaining perched on a building for the sake of a perfect camera angle or waiting in the sun can be demanding. And then to jostle to set the microphone closest to the speaker’s mouth, even as the rival reporter places his arm pit over your nose on a humid hot afternoon is indeed commendable. 

 Needless to say, one has to be attentive at all times. If you go for a piddle to bless the nearby bushes, a historic moment can be lost forever. As for the rival channel, he will needle you by announcing, “Your channel is first to break this news.”

At a time when the allies of the government are leaving in a huff and rats are abandoning the sinking ship, it is the duty of reporters to observe whether Mulayam was actually smiling or grinning after any meeting. The twitch of his eyebrow, the squirm of his lips and the tenor of his mumble is of utmost national importance right now. Naturally, television reporters are the first ones to tell us about the flip-flops of whimsical allies who are throwing tantrums and blaming it all on ideological differences. The television reporters tell us whether we are safe for a few months or doomed to be killed either by the tiger on land or the crocodile in water in 2014.


While jokes about the ubiquitous television question, “Aapko kaisa lag raha hai,” have been done to death, the question remains an all time favorite. If a family member is sentenced to jail, the others are bound to be shocked and upset. Trust the inquisitive nature of some reporters. 
Reporter: Sir Dutt parivaar ka kya reaction hai?

Lawyer: Sab upset hai.

Reporter: Matlab kya bahut upset hai?

Lawyer: Kafi upset hai.

Propriety deters them, but what they really want to ask is, “Kitna upset hai, thoda detail mein batayie.”

All this for the benefit of viewers. No wonder, reporters and camera persons are indispensable despite the raucous background scores. Mind you, this is one background score which is ekdum original.

Picture Courtesy: Google Images/Instablogs.com


51 comments:

  1. Thankfully, in the cacophony of manufactured outrage and half-baked opinions, there are still a few who give us hope.

    Here's raising a toast to them.

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    1. Oh, definitely. What would we do without them?

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  2. Humans have obviously branched off into different sub-species.

    Homo Shameless Journalicus,, whose huge hollowed out skulls contain cameras, lenses spouting out of eyes, mikes from ears, dung replacing the tongue, kilos of shit replacing the wit. Those background noises emanating from their behinds are probably more enlightening.

    Homo Atrocious Politicus whose entire form is covered with hide coarser than a rhino's....

    I must stop. It is not my blog. This was a swift but neat one, like a T-20!

    PS: Background noises: Ever imagined what all those medicos discuss in the OT's? I'm sure you don't want to.

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    1. Thank heavens, we don't get to hear the background sounds in an OT. But journos are candid souls. The world can hear them and don't seem to care.

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  3. I have to admit that it is fun to attend to these...like we say in chemistry... side-products :) It is like the bloopers they release at the end of many TV serials.

    Much has been said about how Media amplifies/blows up things. But, it is a sweeping statement to make. It must be a difficult job to be on your toes all the time. And someone who toils that much, deserves respect. Like we had these security guards in college outside our hostel gates. It must have been a very monotonous job and I do not think I can do it at all. They never get the credit they deserve...

    It would be interesting to know what you think about Mr. Katju's remarks about qualifications of reporters and journalists. And, about the sweeping powers he has been demanding for PCI. I am a big fan of that man, but of course, I do not agree with him on everything he says.

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  4. It's not an easy job, undoubtedly. But they should do something to control the chaos and the background noise which appears very unsavory to any listener
    From what I see and hear on TV, it seems Katju cannot accept criticism. Arrogance 80 percent. Humility 0 percent.
    Those in responsible powerful positions need to be extra careful about sense of propriety. Once they relinquish all official posts, they are free to say what they like. After all Poonam Pandey does and says what she thinks. Who cares? But then PP is not heading the Press Council of India.

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    1. seems so logical but just doesnt get implemented. and dont u feel the cracks in the system have started showing up properly in recent years. even with obvious events occuring, we are just letting pass by without questioning...

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    2. It is unsavoury, no doubt. But over the course of our evolution we tend to move towards things unedited. For instance, there used to be portrayal of glossy movies back in the 90s ( Like Hum aapke hain kaun ) while we now have Delhi Belly with all the pulp fiction in it. So I don't know if everyone would like the final product with these on the sides ;)

      But that is not what my concern is. What I want to know is this ( and it has come up only after I read your reply ):
      Why do we tend to attach this sense of propriety with official posts we hold ? Whether the stand is right or wrong, which is a matter of debate, why question the basis of someone's stand while holding a post. After all, a person does not cease to exist as he/she dawns a role. This is exactly what happened with that 'sexy' remark from NCW chairperson and it baffles me.

      It is almost as if one fine morning you are an officer and lose everything that very moment. I can be a police officer sympathetic with Maoist cause, while carrying on operations as well.

      I know this is like digressing from the subject altogether, but I do not have many whose opinion I would want to hear. And those who are worth the earshot, are difficult to get to. So...:)

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    3. Hmm! Put it this way - it is much like having to wear a uniform if you are a policeman. When it comes to leaders - what they say impacts most people and they may even follow the leaders' example. Under those circumstances, their own personal opinions ought not to be voiced except in privacy, if at all, is it is against the sort of social values that are needed to be propagated.

      I really cannot see the point to this argument. If I use Dettol soap at home but am a salesman for Dove, do you really think that the fact that I am a person and I have my rights to talk about what soap I use is an excuse for my extolling Dettol instead of Dove to a prospective client? In like manner, when people are in certain roles they are expected to control what they say. When a person becomes a public persona, the entire country is their clientele.

      Your policeman can sympathize with Maoists all he likes - but if he starts giving interviews about his sympathy the public will lose trust in the police's will to defend them against Maoists. And, if his sympathy comes in the way of his duty he is being a traitor - no matter the rights and wrongs of the issue.

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    4. Maybe that is the difference between being a salesman and being a leader. Private business is not at all comparable to public discourses. The raison d'etre as well as the terms of employment are miles apart. A leader, I believe, must take sides. Public opinion can get him impeached, and that would be quite alright , but the question is- do we want a leader who is diplomatic and 'manages' OR do we want someone about whom we have a clear idea on issues ? Should his goal be to hold onto his post by a dishonest portrayal of self, or the public good by his understanding of things ?

      The current state of policy paralysis and 'hurt culture' is there because only because our top leaders did not come clear on issues.

      The fear of sounding stupid should not stop one from updating his facebook status :)

      As for the specific case of policeman, I think it will actually help if he comes out with a sympathetic point of view for Maoists. LWE, after all, is not a law and order problem after all. How else can one narrow the existing trust deficit :)


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    5. We, I believe, are talking about two different things. I am talking about the fact that people who are put in place in certain roles need to uphold the values of those roles, at least in public. Thus, a policeman is there to safeguard people who abide by the law - no matter how otherwise unjust they may be - against people who do not. Even if some people are not law-abiding, he can take recourse only to legal means and cannot condone any law-breaking. If the Maoists are perceived to operate within the law, it would be OK for the policeman. If the perception is that they do not, then it is not. Those are the values of his role. If he does not agree with them, he is free to quit the post and do what his conscience tells him to do.

      You are talking about convictions. And, even there, your convictions are bound - even as a leader - by the Constitution of the country. Your personal conviction may be that dictatorship is best for the country but that cannot be your choice of action unless you so change the constitution. If your convictions are not ultra vires any existing social compact like the Constitution you should pursue them.

      I have still not learnt the problem with using analogies. Instead of communicating the idea clearly they only serve as a means to nitpick on the argument. All I meant by the analogy was that every public role is given to a person with the understanding that the values to be espoused in that role will be practiced by the person concerned - at least in public discourse. Like the PM of this country may have his opinion about the people of this country but - if they are negative - he is certainly not expected to voice them rudely in public.

      The first thing about leadership is that you have to carry your people along with you. You do not drive them. To carry people along does require diplomacy. I do not see diplomacy as necessarily something that leads to inaction or status-quoism.

      I think we will exhaust Alka's patience if we carry on here. So, this is all I intend saying here.

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    6. Suresh has given words to my thoughts and summed this up pretty convincingly for me. I also get where you are coming from Sritatast. Being an idealist and preparing for the civil services, you are fighting this duel between what ought to be done and what you really want to do.

      Diplomacy is an inescapable part of any responsible post. And more than saying or doing the right thing at the right time, it is about avoiding saying or doing the wrong things at any time. There are moments when something's are better left unsaid, especially if it is not in your domain. One can always speak softly but carry a stick when convictions are strong. But Katju, it seems is never ready to accept any criticism or any view which is divergent. Tact is to make your point without creating controversies and making sweeping statements like ninety percent of Indians are fools. :)

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    7. Yeah well.. you might be right as far as my state of mind. But at this moment, I do not think that the world needs diplomats and managers. That, however, might just be my opinion of course and I might be wrong.


      "I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
      I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."
      -
      Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

      Rest my case :)

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  5. Hey its quite a race among TV wallah to get the best sound byte..ferocious competition..M also a reporter in Mauritius and lookinng forward to relocate to India. Let's connect!
    A pretty insightful post and love the blog:)
    Vishal
    www.vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com
    vishal-newkidontheblock.blogspot.com

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    1. So you are familiar with the chaotic competitive world of reporting. Welcome here Vishal.

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  6. The news coverage has become another form of entertainment with the sterotype questions which have very little relevance to the subject ! Alka, you do far better journalism than a combined lot of most of these morons, barring a few exceptions:)

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  7. You already know my views on cacophony that has taken over serious journalism. For the sake of TRP and competition anything goes. I remember being seriously put up when during 26/11 coverage, they caught Barkha candidly pointing and yelling to the photographer, "Yahan se dikhao accha impact rahega" without knowing that she is on air. Leaves you with a bitter taste.

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    1. They need to be careful about such sounds. The chaos and cacophony before any news conference does leave a bitter taste.

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  8. Media is a strong pillar in any democracy.
    Unfortunately,some of the editors have taken upon themselves to become a power centre,power brokers.Those who havent heard RADIA TAPES will do better hear it once to know as to how important has media intervention become in politics.
    Look at the holding pattern of any media house.
    Its all owned by big business and no business is business till it givesmoney leading to power

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    1. Time for some professionalism....too much chaos and cacophony.

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  9. Human nature is very complex.Today we dislike something and tomorrow we can go gaga over it. This applies to news channels and media personal more than anyone else. After all ' rozi, roti ka sawaal hai'

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    1. I applaud them for their hard work, but the background noises become really amusing at times.

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  10. I get quite certain each day that the country is overrun by morons. How else does one explain the rampant mediocrity everywhere? You see it in the government, in the public sector, in television, in our blogosphere even. Why should news media be any different?
    The exchange on "kitne upset hain?" really made me laugh out loud!

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    1. Rickie, kitna upset hai and neeli shirt wale haath neeche kar made me write this one.

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  11. Yet another day, yet another story. One thing remains constant though and that is 'Aapko akisa lag raha hai" question.

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    1. They will never get tired of this one. Imagine asking aap kitna upset hai?

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  12. That was a nice tongue-in-cheek (Or was it nose-in-armpit? :) ) piece, Alka! Need to get some scales for measuring how upset I am with TV programs so that I can answer that seminal question :)

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  13. Suresh, the chaos created by cameramen prompted me to write this one. Thanks for reading and spending time here.

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  14. I hate it when the media hounds people forgetting the humane aspect of it completely!

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    1. The way they hounded Priya Dutt was undesirable.

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  15. Hahahaha :) :) I love bloopers!! Working in the media is quite a challenging job and there is always a lot of chaos! Kudos to the media - I admit they are not perfect and there are times when they can really get on people's nerves (esp. those reporters on India TV) but they do play an important part in enlightening nations!

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    1. They do provide great entertainment.

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  16. Lovely. Half the time I can't hear a thing in a press con because of the background score, so I wait for the after analysis, where I can read what the person has said instead of hearing the analysis.

    And, oh, the facial expression of the politicos after a meeting- well I was taught that, those are a major give aways in the field of political drama and for the subject of political science :D

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    1. They are so thick skinned these days that it is tough to decode them.

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  17. Alka, once upon a time, in my growing years in high school and college, journalism was my dream profession. Inspired bye people like Prannoy Roy and likes, I dreamt to be a journalist. However, when I see the news reporters these days, I keep thinking, OH god!! I would have run away by now :) Enjoyed reading the post..

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    1. This post was written in jest. Its a tough job to work under political pressure, more so these days.

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  18. I guess media people really have to keep their focus and have good hearing too in order to scoop out what they need to get!
    Enjoyed the read! BTW was expecting a Sanjay Dutt pic too! :)

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    1. Danny, our papers and magazines are brimming with his pics. Besides this post was more about media bloopers!

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  19. "Aapko kaisa lag raha hain" is indeed a joke? I wonder what answer do they expect for a question such as this!

    Loved the post.

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    1. This reminds me how they twisted the same question and repeated it zillion times when a lady won 5 cr on KBC. Remember?

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  20. I think they should be asking questions like - Kitne % upset hain? That will give a fair amount of idea. I can even see the headlines.
    Dutt family 87.6% upset over Sanjay's conviction.
    I have stopped watching news channels. I prefer reading newspapers.

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  21. It is unfortunate that journalists are after more juicy news. But it is well known, that there are people who seek news too and are more than willing to reveal that extra.
    Hope you are also aware of the "haathi ke daanth, dikhane ke alag aur chabane ke alag" behaviour of politicians. They are great actors and most of the news we read are deliberate arousal of political gains and are most of the time non-factual. Like let us say, a lot of progress may have been made on Aadhar issue but revealed in such a manner to enable maximum gains by some vested interests.
    "Kitne % upset hain?". "Pehle aap yeh batiye ke aap apni biwi se kitna pyaar karte hain?". If you love a lot, then you would switch off the TV as you probably do not want to see hurt Maanyata. The way I would have done. Ha !! Ha !! Ha !!

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    1. Ha ha.

      Frankly,it hurts when the powerful are jumping around with pardon letters in the era of paid news and no one is asking what 200 odd victims of blasts have to say.

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  22. Journalism has been dead for a long time now. R.I.P.
    But yes my sympathies are for those honest few who are forced to write an article full of falsehoods just because the media house they work for only print paid news.

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    1. Samadrita, I was reading your comment on a previous post and thinking of you. How have you been? Welcome back after a long time.

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  23. Hi Alka, though I have a degree in Journalism, I prefer writing features and stories than tackling such reports where I have to get obsessed with how much someone is getting upset about something.

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  24. background score...
    lovely way of presenting the topic..
    sometimes it becomes too sonorous and turns in to background noise :P
    but there are times when Background Scores leave you astound and are much gripping than any song..
    Sadly, much noise these days..

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  25. Doing things for impact has become a way of life -- in all spheres, why journalism alone? In fact, catering to an audience while under pressure from their political masters or opinion-makers who can make or mar your career, is a tough task. And when combined with little professionalism, it can indeed become a veritable circus, which is what we watch these days.

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