Saturday, 29 January, 2022
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On KBC, Amitabh Bachchan asks about pressure cooker, and media puts Chidambaram in it

Is Chidambaram ‘underground somewhere?’ asked India Today, sniffing a good chase. ‘CBI returns empty-handed’ lamented Aaj Tak, sounding disappointed.

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Amitabh Bachchan crossed his legs, laced his fingers together and smiled indulgently. He was on the set of Kaun Banega Crorepati. Bachchanlooked pleased to see police officer Vivek Bhagat seated opposite him. Which of these items whistle—refrigerator, toaster, pressure cooker, oven? — the superstar asked. “Pressure cooker,” replied the officer, promptly, to thunderous applause from the audience.

Bachchan turned his gaze to the policeman’s parents and, in a jocular tone, asked them that all-time classic TV news question: “Kaislag raha hai?” Came the standard reply: “Bahut achha!” Everyone burst out laughing.

From the happy scenes of Kaun Banega Crorepati Season 11 (Sony), Wednesday and Tuesday night, travel thousands of kilometres away to the sombre atmosphere in New Delhi’s Jor Bagh where a genuine pressure cooker situation was developing—and, not only on account of the monsoon’s humidity.

Also read: How KBC and Big B killed a good show with wife jokes and inane questions

A former home and finance minister

Wednesday, it was one for the film sets that became a TV melodrama: hordes of grim looking men hovered outside a house, rattled its gate, admired the premises before at least one of them could be seen climbing over the wall — almost taking the TV news crews with him as they strained to capture the proceedings.

Presumably, he landed on his feet and rushed inside, for a short while later, he along with colleagues emerged with their trophy: P. Chidambaram, Congress leader and former home and finance minister, had finally been arrested in full glare of TV news.

And so the two-day “manhunt” had ended (Republic TV).

Since Tuesday evening the CBI, the ED and a phalanx of TV news teams had camped outside Chidambaram’s residence, awaiting his appearance. Together, they had peered intently inside the premises—if they looked hard enough, could they perhaps conjure up P. Chidambaram, who, television news informed us, was not at home?

Is he “underground somewhere?” asked India Today, sniffing a good chase. “CBI returns empty-handed” lamented Aaj Tak, in a disappointed tone. Imagine the optics— Chidambaram in handcuffs?

File photo of Congress leader P Chidambaram | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
File photo of Congress leader P Chidambaram | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

Earlier Tuesday, the whistle had been blown on the former Congress home and finance minister when the Delhi High court stripped him of immunity: “No bail for Chidambaram… Chidambaram in panic…Fears arrest,” reported Republic TV.

The news channels showed little mercy. They behaved like they were chasing down a murderer – “Wanted” announced Times Now – and so they launched their own “manhunt” (Republic TV). They formed teams to “hunt” him down (India Today). CNN News18 deployed 12 reporters, India Today seven, and Times Now at least 10. “What’s he running from?” asked Times Now – er, arrest, maybe?

An all-night vigil proved futile: till Wednesday afternoon there had been no arrest of Chidambaram. “Missing,” proclaimed Republic alongside a photograph of him. “No trace,” added CNN News18, punctiliously.

Perhaps, they ought to have enlisted the services of Sony’s popular CID team, which has been unemployed ever since the show went off the air last year. Or else, appealed to Savdhaan India (Star Bharat) where officers of the law always catch their prey….

In the absence of the main character, TV news did the next best thing: shifted to the Supreme Court with minute-to-minute updates on the ‘interim relief’ plea for Chidambaram.

And then, in true filmi style that Amitabh Bachchan would have approved of, Chidambaram reappeared–and held a press conference at the Congress headquarters, cool as cucumber. Well, not quite but with not a hair out of place…

Also read: Congress leaders Rahul & Priyanka Gandhi say Chidambaram being ‘hunted down’

A quiz master, a doctor & an MLA

Meanwhile, back at KBC, Big B reigns supreme—resplendent in bright blazers, electric blue Tuesday—with brighter socks (orange) and ornate neckties. He continued from where he had left off a year ago, so you could ease back into the comfort of knowing exactly what to expect: 90 minutes of Q&A on everything from Indian mythology to cricket, history, entertainment—and of course the pressure cooker.

In between the customary chit-chat with the contestants, their families, the video about them, the lifelines and the Rs 7 crore jackpot—what’s changed? Well, there’s less idle chatter, a more businesslike approach and thus far, the contestants are not bending forwards and backwards to pay their compliments to Amitabh Bachchan.

Kaun Banega Crorepati is light, happy and allows everyone from the contestant to the viewer to take home something—such as relief from the newsroom where you get nothing but an earful and a headache.

Nimki in Nimki Mukhiya (Star Bharat) was someone else who had the ability to make you smile. She’s moved onto becoming Nimki Vidhayak (Star Bharat) as she shifts from her village to Patna and is now an MLA. The storyline has changed: her villainous in-laws are out of the picture, but she is estranged from her sister. She lives with her chachi and her brother, bemoans the past and only really hits her stride when she’s playing MLA. Meanwhile, Sweetie is married to Nimki’s old flame Abhimanyu. Warning: you may not recognise him because the actor has changed. By the way, note that in the show’s government offices, the portrait on the wall is that of Lal Bahadur Shastri, former prime minister, although the show is contemporary.

Sanjivani has returned to Star Plus with the lead characters intact so many years later—its earlier run had ended in 2005. Now Dr Shashank is in Dr Juhi’s hands, literally, as she has to perform brain surgery to save his life. Of course, she succeeds. The story is more about Dr Ishani and Dr Sid, the younger generation of doctors at Sanjivani Hospital. However, by far, the best aspect of the show is that everyone is shown doing some work—most serials work hard to do nothing. Honestly, when last did you see anyone standing in the kitchen and cooking?

Also read: Dog-whistling against Shehla Rashid sets scary precedent for mainstream media, free speech

A political activist

Wednesday was ending as it began: chasing Chidambaram. However, Hindi news channels have made a point of covering the floods in north India, especially, throughout the week. Name one 9 pm news anchor, on English news channels, who has discussed the distress, disruption and destruction wrought by the floods, in the last month?

Lastly, CNN News18 conducted a poll asking if political activist Shehla Rashid should be arrested for her comments on the Army’s conduct in Kashmir. This, after news channels – including the usual suspects Times Now, Republic TV – had gone for her jugular, Monday with headlines like, “370 Baiters exposed” (Times Now), “Army shuts Tukde gang” (Republic TV). The channel removed the poll after a huge backlash. Since when do channels suggest the arrest of individuals for expressing an opinion? News channel anchors air their views nonchalantly all the time—should they be arrested too?

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