Monday, July 13, 2015

Ignorance or Bias?

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Keeping up with India’s news online on a regular basis is simply part of the daily routine for myself and millions of other Indians.  It’s a part of my daily routine and fodder for my weekly blog and also chitchat with friends and family.  We still have the love for cricket, movies and politics.  We troll the internet to check on what our fellow countrymen are doing.  Along with breaking news and sports (mostly Cricket) and movies, the online updates from various web links provide a close connection to homeland on the other side of earth.  I am no different from any other NRI, I love my mother, motherland, cricket and movies, all long side of politics.  My likes have remained what they were since my first step to today.  Nothing changes, except where we live and what we have done, but roots remain.

Until this weekend, I would not notice bias in internet coverage of South Indian states.  I lived in North India for a few years before my journey to the USA. And being referred to as a Madrasi was of little offense to me in general.  I was young and did not know Hindi beyond a few words, but by the time I left I was proficient in one more language, gotten a degree and made lots of wonderful friends, and took the train back to Madras a happy man with great memories, and not the term Madrasi.  Things have changed, including the name of the City of Madras.  I am sure that my friends have not, and I have not.  I am sure of this.  We remain besties after a life time away from each other, still find brotherhood whenever we can find each other, and whenever we continue to find one more of our friends in the old gang.  I don’t believe that there was bias or bigotry in the term Madrasi from people of North India.  It was actually endearing to have them use the term, and also teach them the different languages of South India and also the people of South India.

Online news and coverage of India mainly focus on Delhi and politics with coverage for Mumbai and big industrial houses.  Movies focus on Bollywood, with a sprinkling of tidbits on other industries.  Although death, destruction and scams get great coverage irrespective of where they happen India.  One thing you notice if you start to dissect the coverage is the minimal effort that the writer’s out into the coverage of events that are outside of their comfort zone, especially when they cover south Indian news. One of the blatant references the idiots who write about movies always refer to the actors as south actor, south siren, or something with a south attached to it.  You will never hear a north something when they use 99% of the space in covering Bollywood.  The most idiotic stories are written about children of stars, clothes, homes, vacations and whatever so called life style of the movie actors. Force fed through the internet.  Till date it really did not strike a chord, when the south tag was used for just about every reference to the work of the movie industry.  I thought the age old ignorance was the reason rather than bias, when the coverage was about movie industry outside of Bollywood.

This week’s release of the Telugu movie “Bahubali” was a celluloid event that is worthy of the whole nation taking an interest.  The local Telugu media has been covering the making of the movie for almost 3 years.  The national media just started to cover the movie, days before its release.  What was surprising is some of the news starting to write about movie was somehow “Karan Johar’s” along with giving a second preference to the director of the movie S.S. Rajamouli.  It was only after part 1 of the movie was readied for release, Karan Johar got himself involved in distributing the movie is North India, and nothing else.  He had no involvement in making, producing or any other aspect of this movie.  Just because he became associated with the distribution of the movie, it all of a sudden becomes Karan Johar’s movie?

This is where you certainly notice the Bias.  Karan Johar is definitely one of the names to be reckoned with the Hindi movie industry.  There is no questioning his credentials on his continued contributions to movie making.  But the news of making him somehow a part of being the architect of a movie that has been in the making for 3 years was quite a stretch, that Karan himself would find amusing.

The movie has released and at the end of two days, has shattered every record of all Indian movie box office.  We really don’t know what it will do in its full run but for a Telugu movie it will certainly establish a bench mark that will be hard to beat for years to come, perhaps may be its part 2 that should come out in a year.  It is the most expensive Indian movie to be ever made.  All the lead actors and actresses are accomplished and successful.  Nothing has been written about them.  S.S. Rajamouli, the director has made hugely successful movies his entire career, and has been in the movie industry for more than a decade.  No mention of his accomplishments except for a tidbit about of his movies.  There is absolutely nothing written about the producers of the movie.

Definitely there was hype about the scale of the movie, and its graphics and grandeur, and the scope for the movie to be a global product.  The movie got released and lived-up to every expectation of the viewers.  The two day box office performance is phenomenal and certainly promising for the long run in brining smiles to the producers, distributors, actors as it has so far to the audience.  The national media is silent on the movie after its release, outside of releasing a few numbers here and there.  The same web channels have information on crap movies and gets them tracked on a daily basis.  Even the mention of the plot release related reactions are far and few in between, while referencing to movies that might come next week and may dent into the collections of the movie that puts Indian films on the world map.  My impressions on the national media went to zero.  Such blatant bias?

What is wrong with these guys? Is it that the regional movie makers are not wining and dining the national media?  For a movie that was made on the scale of Bahubali, and with pre-release expectation sky high, and the movie reaching the expectations should have been legendary in coverage.  Why there is no hype and pomp for such extraordinary cinematic achievement?

There is no number tracking, no actor interviews, no follow-up to movie goer reactions, no fan reactions, nothing in national media.  Just a blimp and gone.  This movie has not only lived-up to expectations, but shattered box office records on day one and day two, and will continue to do so in coming days.  For sure the movie has the song and dance sequences that cater to the Indian audiences.  The movie is also a grand adventure filled with excellent performances, great technical values and more than anything audience acceptance.  It has delivered rare cinematic excellence, and still the national media ignores it.

It’s a clear case of regional bias.  The hero, the villain along with the rest of the supporting cast deliver first rate performances, they get very little ink.  What else can be more biased than not covering the director’s vision, the technician’s brilliance and the producer’s belief in a quality cinema, on a global scale?  I am sure we will start hearing about one more superstar this and one more super kid that, and some other unbelievably stupid and personal cinematic news from the national media by Monday AM.   What else can we expect? We are still from Madras (that’s all of South India).

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