This week is full of intrigue. First, there’s the mystery of Antilia, then there is the mystery behind the mask-less faces — and finally, there is Mamata Banerjee’s version of the film My Left Foot.
Each case is riddled with questions that the super sleuths at India’s TV news channels have been unable to answer.
A Scorpio, a Mercedes and confused Republic
So when confronted with mystery No. 1 — the ‘Antilia bomb scare’ (Times Now), which involves India’s biggest industrialist, Mukesh Ambani, who just happens to own and live at Antilia, and had juicy Bollywood mafia movie written all over the Scorpio parked outside his home filled with explosives — news TV was confused. “One death, a police inspector, a bomb scare outside business magnate Mukesh Ambani’s house,” Aaj Tak presented as evidence but didn’t know what to make of it.
On Wednesday, TV channels were baffled by the role of three vehicles: the Scorpio, an Innova that was seen tailing the Scorpio, and a black Mercedes Benz with cash and fake car plates in it that police officer Sachin Waze, apparently, drove: “Money, Mercedes & murky trail,” announced Times Now.
Even Republic TV, which treats the Mumbai Police and Maharashtra government as its Public Enemy No.1, reacted more in puzzlement than outrage, barring anchor Arnab Goswami making statements like “this is the dirtiest scandal” involving a police force.
Otherwise, channels have simply reported leaks or statements from the National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s probe — ‘Explosive’ news break—‘Waze suspended’ was Republic TV’s bland headline after Sachin Waze was detained for questioning in connection with the suspicious death of Mansukh Hiren, the reported owner of the deadly Scorpio.
And there were more questions than answers in the TV news studios: ‘Did Waze kill Mansukh?’ (Zee News); ‘How is this car (Mercedes) involved?’ (Aaj Tak); ‘Why kill Mansukh Hiren?’, ‘Who is the guiding force behind Waze?’, ‘What is the motive behind planting explosive in the Scorpio?’ asked Mirror Now in rapid-fire succession.
The farthest their own investigations took them was to quiz the former owner of the Mercedes Benz, Saraansh Bhavsar, but the questions were of questionable value: “Was it shocking news?” to learn that the Mercedes was allegedly involved in a crime, Times Now asked him. “Who did you sell it to? Are you connected to any political party?” Poor chap was so bemused by the questions, he simply said he would tell the authorities whatever they wanted to know.
‘Mask hata, corona bomb phoota’
On to mystery No. 2—the ‘Maha surge’ (Mirror Now) in coronavirus cases with over 26,000 cases in 24 hours, raised eyebrows. To their credit, news channels made this one of the top three news stories of the week, often letting it upstage the Antilia case or the ‘Bengal Battle Royale (CNN News18).
While the controversy surrounding possible blood clots forming due to the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine — Covishield in India — did prompt queries like “Is Astra safe?’’ (NDTV 24×7), “What does it mean for India?” (CNN News18), what really puzzled news channels were members of the public who refused to believe that rather like Spiderman or other superheroes, wearing a mask was truly empowering – in this case, against the world’s biggest enemy right now, the coronavirus.
As channels fanned out across cities, they asked themselves: What had brought about the ‘Corona spike’ (India Today) just when India seemed to be in a commanding position against the virus? They had no answers but they did ask one question again and again.
At Mumbai’s Juhu Beach, India TV encountered throngs of revellers — “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” the reporter asked person after person. “Oh, I was just wearing one,” was the standard response.
At a Haryana bus depot, the News18 India reporter was offended by the “irresponsible” behaviour of passengers alighting a bus from Jaipur —“Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” he asked passengers who simply brushed past him. “Mask hata, corona bomb phoota,” he said in dire tones. At Dadar market in Mumbai, NDTV 24×7’s reporter had to really search through the crowds to find masked men or women. At Ghazipur market, Aaj Tak was equally perplexed: “People are just not wearing masks—how can this happen?’’ the channel’s reporter asked.
Times Now finally asked the question on everyone’s minds: “Did we let the mask slip too early?”
A splinter in Bengal
Finally, mystery No. 3. Whatever happened to Mamata Banerjee’s left foot? What happened was it became the undisputed star of the Bengal elections. As she rolled down the road in a wheelchair, at her first rally, in Kolkata after the injury, Sunday, NDTV 24×7 proclaimed, “That photo (is) going down into political history….”
Dunno about history but certainly every single story on ‘Battleground Bengal’ (India Today) featured Banerjee seated in her robotic wheelchair, her left leg, in a cast, thrust out before her.
Since the weekend, news channels have tried to discover whether she was “attacked” as the Trinamool Congress alleged, or if it was an accident, as the Election Commission concluded.
In their investigations, TV channels circled round and round the footage of the vehicle with Mamata standing at its open door as it drove through crowds in Nandigram, last Wednesday when she was injured. But the footage didn’t throw up any answers. “Questions on Mamata injury—why did the driver not stop the car?” asked ABP News. Why, indeed.
On evening debates, BJP spokespersons and other panelists wanted to know how it was possible for Mamata to be back at the hustings, within a few days of the injury — some even demanded her medical history be made public. On Mirror Now, Monday, journalist Gautam Mukherjee claimed that not even a bone was broken in her leg.
While these mysteries will linger on, there’s one that TV can claim to have solved, courtesy a parrot on Zee Hindustan: asked who would win the Bengal election, it replied, ‘Modi’.
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