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Bollywood Vs Media

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By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Everyone wants a piece of the sky. At any cost! Newcomers will call you up to give you a career report, and never mind if the report is half even fully made-up. Now that Shaka Laka Boom Boom is around the corner, its publicity-hungry second lead is eager to tell you he has signed half a dozen films with this-and-that producer.

"And you didn't hear it from me," he adds at the end of the breathless monologue on his favourite topic: his own stardom.

Err...so then whom did I hear it from ? An irrelevant question. Because the next day the 'secret' is out in every paper anyway.

Sometimes the Page 3 situation moves the other way. Celebrities genuinely protest against what's written about them. But have no way of stopping the outflow of fantasy information. Ram Gopal Varma protests he is NOT re-making Lolita with Mr Bachchan, that in fact his film Nishabd has NOTHING to do with Lolita.

But is anyone listening? Yash Chopra has gone on-record to express dismay at the news report that he's remaking his own Kabhi Kabhie. "Why would I want to do that?" he bemoans. And yet last week I saw a news channel telling us what Mr Chopra doesn't know.

Yup, Mr Chopra had better believe he's making Kabhi Kabhie. Otherwise how would news stories on remakes look complete?

See, it's very simple. What's the hottest film-related story doing the rounds? Re-makes, right? J.P. Dutta with his tantalizing take on Umrao Jaan... Farhan Akhtar and his feisty flick-on-the-prowl version of Don, Ram Gopal Varma playing take-tack-toe with Sholay....now here's where the plot thickens...and sickens.

Ramu is making Nishabd. But he NOT making Lolita. Rituparno Ghosh is remaking Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam for Pritish Nandy Communications. But he is NOT remaking Guide as Rahgeer.

Unfortunately by the time the director and his producer Pritish Nandy clarified, it was much too late. Dev Anand was already framing his legal notice.

Let's face it. All of us media-persons love a juicy show-biz story. And we should milk it for all it's worth. But the key issue is the worth.

Is it right to thrust cameras into Amitabh Bachchan's face when he's ill and on the way to the hospital? Is it fair to subject Jaya Bachchan to the indignity of making her answerable for her parliamentary conduct when her track-record speaks for itself? Is it fair to pull Lata Mangeshkar up for her views on a particular civic matter?

The anomalies and contradictions on the electronic medium are becoming specially unbearable. Every news channel has a hyper-active film section which thrives on misinformation. When false rumours about Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai did the rounds, the news channels had a field day telecasting snippets of the pair from Raj Kanwar's Dhai Akshar Prem Ke and Rohan Sippy's Kuch Na Kaho. Kanwar's long-forgotten film finally found its 9 minutes of fame.

J.P. Dutta was flooded with requests for footage from Umrao Jaan featuring the two talked-about stars. When he expressed outrage at such cheap hearsay about the actors in his classy film a prominent TV journalist told JP, "There's nothing like good publicity or bad publicity. There's only publicity, that's it. You should be happy your film is being talked-about because of the lead's friendship."

Such reasoning may be applicable to a very large section of the entertainment industry. The section that starts its conversation with you in a conspiratorial tone, "Don't quote me on this..." and then goes on to spill the most shocking beans.

But not everyone in the industry wants to be in the vortex of sensational write-ups. Believe it or not, a lot of prominent actors mean it when they say they don't want to be in the sensational kind of news.

We should respect their need for space and not violate their right to privacy. And let's not be shy of accepting our mistakes. Let's not be afraid of being answerable. If we can question Amitabh Bachchan or Lata Mangeshkar let's not do so from a pedestal. Give them the right to countrer-question you.

If we can ask Lataji why she objects to the flyover, grant her the right to ask us, 'Why not?'

So many times misinformation remains virtuously lodged as a news report only because it has been pushed into a position of unquestionability. I remember an actress was repeatedly linked with a married man until her husband and her alleged lover's wife began to believe the mythic liaison to be the truth.

Two marriages nearly broke up.

Do we really want that kind of responsibility on our heads?

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