Thursday, January 25, 2007

Shilpa Shetty, Neo, Water, STAR, AXN: what a line up

It’s been a funny ten days or so. Consider:

The Shilpa Shetty – Jade Goody racism row
The Neo sports commercial racism row
The nomination of Water to the Oscars
The ban on AXN
The Neo-Sports – Prasar Bharti spat
India’s two victories against the West Indies
The launch of the SRK – KBC
The resignations of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair from STAR TV

Some line up, that.

First, Shilpa Shetty. The media (including the English Media) goes hammer and tongs at Jade Goody’s alleged “racism”. The Indian Embassy senses an opportunity and releases ads in leading UK papers inviting Goody to India, so that she might, through her experience, become a more understanding, accepting and tolerant human being. Goody is voted out of the show….
…. And applies for a visa to India.

Does the Indian Embassy issue a visa? After their more than public invitation, it will be egg in our collective faces if India does not extend a visa.

That’s when it gets interesting, and I’ll cut to Water. The shame of it – that Deepa Mehta had to shoot in Sri Lanka because Hindu fundamentalists in India destroyed her set and prevented her from shooting. And that we haven’t seen the film yet, while the rest of the world has.

And the Government of India will have to ensure that Jade Goody is safe, that she is not attacked and abused and, indeed, subjected to racist remarks during her proposed stay here. And that, I believe, is impossible to ensure.

And that’s why I’ll cut again, this time to Neo Sports’ commercial. Which, to me, is racist. Which, to many, is not racist. But when I saw the TVC for the first time, I did not jump out of my chair and yell “Racism”. Because we see racism in our midst all the time. We have pejorative appellations for Caucasians, for Blacks, for Tamilians, for Bengalees, for Sikhs, for every caste, creed and colour under the sun.

And we, as a nation, are upset with Jade Goody? Lovely.

Which brings me to AXN, which quickly apologized to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for their transgressing the policies set out in the proposed Broadcast Bill. Which I did not feel they had transgressed. But who wants to get into conflict with the I&B Ministry?

Neo Sports does. And they’re right in their stand. This is a business deal they’ve entered into, not a charity. And I’ll postulate an absurdity: What happens if the Ministry decides that it is of national interest for the terrestrial subscribers to watch KBC? And DD has to show it, and DD will not encrypt it, and DD will make the feed available to Tata Sky and Dish?

And for Neo, It’s worse because the Indian cricket team, though not playing well, is winning against the West Indies.

As SRK KBC is winning against anything else on TV, if the initial numbers are anything to go by.

Which brings me to Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair. Peter, who built the organization that is STAR India, and Sameer, whose instinctive touch made STAR Plus a winner.

And one wonders:
When will we stop being racist?
When will we have laws that regulate broadcasting instead of knee jerk, politically motivated decisionss?
When will we see Water in India?
Will the Jade Goody trip to India be a PR disaster for India?
Who will fill Peter Mukerjea’s shoes? Who will fill Sameer Nair’s?

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