It’s the Indian Premier League versus Indian news channels — which one will you choose?
Will you opt for ‘Payal Ghosh versus Anurag Kashyap’ on news channels or the Mumbai Indians versus Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Star Sports? Is it to be ‘Rhea aur Diya’ (Aaj Tak) or ‘Mahendra aur Ravindra’?
How about the names behind the cryptic code ‘DDSSNRR’, plus S and J of ‘drug chats’ on Zee News and Times Now up against a super over finish between Delhi Capitals and Kings XI Punjab?
If the choice is to listen to Rahul Shivshankar (Times Now) on Bollywood’s dreaded drugs cartel and the sweet sound of the ball hitting the bat when Aaron Finch sent it for a six?
And what of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers running between the wickets as opposed to Deepak Chaurasia’s tongue running away with him while he decoded the mystery surrounding ‘Gangs of Nashapur’— “Is narco-terrorism being supported by these artists…?”
Then there’s Sanju Samson hitting 50 off 19 balls and four sixes in one Piyush Chawla over, versus the sting interview on Republic TV with the brother of a guard at the apartment building where Disha Salian — Sushant Singh Rajput’s former manager — lived?
Well, at least you have a choice now. Since TV news virtually ignored the farmers’ protests in Punjab and Haryana, the ‘assault on democracy’ in the Rajya Sabha and the day/night dharna by eight suspended Opposition party MPs from the upper house Monday, besides India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) talks, it’s left to Indian Premier League (IPL) to offer stiff resistance to the latest ‘dope’ on news TV.
And from the looks of it, the royal rumble in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi may have hit the news out of the ground just like Jofra Archer did in the final over of the Rajasthan Royals’ innings, Tuesday.
Eyeball on cricket ball
According to the BARC television ratings, quoted by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Secretary Jay Shah, Sunday’s first game between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings recorded 20 crore viewers — mostly in India — the highest ever first-day-first-show for any sporting league.
Take that Arnab, Rajdeep, Anjana, and Rubika.
So what have they got in their armoury to counter attack? A real googly — ‘Deepika’s maal’. Since Monday, when the latest Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) leaks of WhatsApp messages revealed that Deepika Padukone was, allegedly, soliciting hash in 2017, the news channels have her plastered all over their screens — using old interviews of the actress in which she has spoken of her depression (ABP) to “Dum Maro Dum, Deepika kahan kam”, a reference to a song from a Padukone film with visuals of her movies in which she seemed drunk or drugged (Aaj Tak).
There is also footage of anonymous women, only, grooving to sensual music in smoke-filled rooms in supposed exposés of ‘Udta Bollywood’ (News18 India, India Today).
Also, TV reporters have happily rushed off to Goa to stalk the hotel where Padukone is reportedly “hiding” so that they can assault her with their microphones.
News channels are betting that the women of Bollywood who have allegedly been a part of the dreadful drug dragnet — from Rhea Chakraborty and Deepika Padukone to Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor and agent Jaya Saha — and others such as Kangana Ranaut and Payal Ghosh, will be enough to bowl over established cricket stars like Rohit Sharma, M.S. Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, David Warner and Dale Steyn, among others.
But the news channels also face stiff competition from other young IPL cricketers such as the silken Devdutt Padikkal or the fresh-faced Yashasvi Jaiswal who looked charmingly flustered to be in the eye of the camera after he got himself out in a rather ungainly fashion Tuesday.
Viewers’ spirits soar, but not on TV drug
The IPL is going to be hard to beat, despite the absence of crowds in the stands — a recorded crowd soundtrack in the background is some compensation. The ‘biggest news of the day’ that Jaya Saha procured CBD oil for Shraddha Kapoor didn’t have Twitter on song the way Sanju Samson did with his sixes on Tuesday.
There were 33 sixes hit in Tuesday’s game between Rajasthan Royals and CSK, and with them, viewers’ spirits soared. It’s been such a long time since there was anything to celebrate that the IPL may receive a standing ovation in every home — why, maybe even a thaali bajao one.
Where the news has become a never-ending soap opera, the IPL is like an action film with hits and misses, spills and thrills — and moments of pure joy too. When Rajasthan Royals’ Rahul Tewatia did a finger-in-the-ear celebration after each CSK wicket he took, it was well, different, boss, and such clean, good fun. That is something the news just doesn’t offer.
The Dream XI IPL has come with a few extras, too — and not just on the scoreboard. While news channels are busy hounding Bollywood stars, many of them are to be found at the IPL — during the commercial breaks. And oddly, most of them are the male stars who are conspicuous by their absence, so far, from the narcotics nasha on news channels. At least a dozen of them, including Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan (with Alia Bhatt), Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Ayushmann Khurrana and the current reigning champion on TVCs, Akshay Kumar, are all entertaining us during the time-outs and in between overs.
By the way, Facebook has also chosen the IPL to register its presence on TV advertising with an atmanirbhar feel-good story about the social platform helping small-scale garments startup get back into business.
And the Rajasthan Royals are proudly wearing Niine sanitary napkins signage on the back of their jerseys — beat that, news channels.
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