When Gautam Adani became the biggest shareholder of NDTV last month, we thought it was time to bid a warm if somewhat tearful farewell to the company’s owners, Prannoy and Radhika Roy. We sighed and fondly remembered the bygone days of The World This Week and the heydays of NDTV 24×7 as the leading Indian news channel, at the turn of the century. We thought, regretfully, that this was adieu — we had seen the last of Prannoy Roy.
But it seems we were wrong: the grand (old) man of television news in India has not only reappeared on NDTV 24×7 but promised to “see you again”. He hosted the show ‘Top Trends of 2023’ with economist Ruchir Sharma — as he has done for the past many years — and told viewers that the two of them would “certainly do this again next year”.
Oooh, does that mean the Roys remain involved with NDTV? Will Prannoy Roy continue to be on air? Will he do what he does best, analyse elections? Remember there are 10 assembly polls this year before the blockbuster Lok Sabha election in the spring of 2024. Will Roy be there, decoding the results?
It’s a mouth-watering prospect but one that can only be answered by a cliché: wait and watch.
Meanwhile, it was a treat to watch Roy with Sharma on the 60-odd minute show of predictions for 2023: what’s been Roy’s hallmark as a broadcaster is his ease before the camera, his simple conversational style with a gentle humour, and his ability to explain abstruse, complex economic or election data in layperson language. So we hope he is as good as his word and returns to the screen very soon.
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Equally alluring is the enigma called Gautam Adani — at least to the general public. Although we know of his phenomenal rise to become the third richest person in the world (according to Forbes magazine), interest in him has grown since his takeover bid for NDTV last year. What’s he like? What are his views on media, politics, why, just about anything?
Well, call it coincidence or good timing, Adani has been highly visible on television news in the last week – after the NDTV acquisition. The first interview was on India Today, which named him its ‘Newsmaker of the year’ for 2022; he was, then, in the hot seat at ‘Aap ki Adalat’ with host Rajat Sharma (India TV). And while we didn’t learn anything about his plans for NDTV, we did get a peek at the man and the businessman.
Gautam Adani was composed and articulate in both interviews. He answered all questions, but was the soul of discretion. At no stage did he betray nerves or give a ‘sensational’ reply.
Raja Sharma is rather like Prannoy Roy in that he is a natural before the camera and often asks tough questions with beguiling wit — this takes the sting out of them. For instance, in the Q&A, he joked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi making Adani famous by his constant allegations that the industrialist had prospered due to his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “You never thanked him (Rahul),” Sharma said to Adani with a sly smile as the audience burst into laughter.
Adani simply said that Rahul Gandhi’s claims were the stuff of politics and that Rahul wanted the development of the country – that’s it.
As for PM Modi being responsible for his meteoric rise, he dexterously credited Congress leaders Rajiv Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Keshubhai Patel (former Gujarat BJP chief minister) as well as Modi for their enabling economic policies.
What could be more diplomatic than this? On ‘Aap ki Adalat’, Adani was relaxed. In the company of Raj Chengappa, Editorial Director, India Today Group, he was more formal and studied in his replies — politically correct but less conversational, delivering statements rather than replies. Chengappa focused on his business and Adani allayed fears about his “debt”, appreciated Modi’s “visionary, inspirational leadership” and called Dhirubhai Ambani “inspirational”. Always and ever the seasoned industrialist, sounding like a diplomat.
Overall, the image Adani projected was of a solid, measured man who didn’t put a foot wrong.
Also read: Why Adani bubble won’t burst: 10 takeaways from 3rd richest man’s interview with Rajat Sharma
Now, the Duke of Sussex put his foot in his mouth, all the time. He was just being ‘Harry’ — not your regular British royal with a stiff upper lip. On the contrary, he was disastrously frank during two TV interviews, one to the American CBS ‘60 Minutes’ and the other to the English ITV.
It’s as if he had been waiting for the chance to spill the beans on the royal family, which makes sense for the man who said that “silence is betrayal” (CBS).
Well, he got his chance with the release of his autobiographical book Spare – and boy oh boy, did he land a few punches. What he said must have floored Prince William — who Harry claims in the book had once pushed him to the ground — and unnerved King Charles III. He accused them of slights to his wife Meghan Markle and palace politics against them.
Spare a thought (forgive the pun) for Queen Consort Camilla: aren’t you dying to be a fly on the wall of her bedroom at Buckingham Palace and overhear what she makes of Prince Harry’s revelations about her? If his mother, Princess Diana, is spoken of with pain, his stepmother emerges as the villain of his piece, complicit with the media in the unfair treatment of his wife. That, it appears to have been his intention.
In a workmanlike shirt and sweater, a neat beard and open gaze, Prince Harry was composed but keen to publicly reveal his family—it’s the portrait of the British royal family as just another ordinary one, where the warts are more strikingly visible than the beauty spots.
The author tweets @shailajabajpai. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)