The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Doordarshan telecast of Mohan Bhagwat speech is a challenge to constitutional ideals

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Misusing a medium

On Saturday, national broadcaster Doordarshan decided to telecast Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s traditional Vijayadashami address, ignoring the widespread criticism that emerged in October 2014 when the channel decided to cover his speech live for the first time.

Bhagwat used the religious occasion to articulate his organisation’s positions on an array of topics, including cow protection, the Rohingya refugee crisis and Kashmir. Though the telecast of his speech on the state-funded channel has become routine, this year’s event was marked by a sharp irony.

Only in August, Doordarshan refused to broadcast the Independence Day speech of Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. The democratically elected leader’s address to the people of his state was halted at the last minute, as the Doordarshan management asked him to tone down some of his remarks, which presumably criticised the Narendra Modi government and its perceived divisive policies.

The RSS, the fountainhead of Hindutva, the ideology followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, is an organisation that has been banned three times since 1947. RSS chiefs have frequently made inflammatory comments that run contrary to the constitutional ideals of the country. On Saturday, Bhagwat chose to address the Rohingya refugees problem, describing the embattled community as a national security threat, an allegation the Centre is currently struggling to substantiate before the Supreme Court. He also chose to defend cow vigilantes, claiming that gau rakshaks were not involved in the incidents of violence reported against cow traders that have been over the last two years. In fact, he claimed that many gau rakshaks have themselves come under attack. On Kashmir, he sought amendments to the Constitution to protect Hindus in the Valley. The Jammu and Kashmir government and members of civil society have been up in arms against attempts to alter the state’s Constitution, a matter now pending before the Supreme Court.

By allowing Bhagwat’s comments but censoring Manik’s speech, Doordarshan, managed by the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry, has once again proved that it lacks the independence essential to run an impartial national broadcasting agency. Given the profound impact that unfiltered, divisive statements from the leader of a powerful organisation could have on social peace and their potential to undermine some of the very basic tenets of the Constitution, the foremost being its secular nature, broadcasting Bhagwat’s speech is positively dangerous. Doordarshan cannot afford to relinquish its responsibility to the Constitution and become a propaganda machine for the ruling party’s ideology.

The Big Scroll

  • RSS broadcast is only one indication of rising control over Doordarshan, insiders complain.
  • Censoring the Tripura chief minister: How Prasar Bharati became a propaganda tool for the Modi government.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Avijith Pathak writes that Gandhi’s moral engagement with self and society must be revisited as a protest ideology.
  2. Mumbai cannot cope, let alone be true to its dreams, unless the confusion of multiple authorities is sorted out, Sachin Kalbag says in The Hindu on last week’s deadly stampede.
  3. Exclusive focus on demonetisation hides NDA’s broader economic mismanagement, claims Salman Anees Soz in the Times of India. 

Giggles

Don’t miss

India allows 16 new thermal power plants that violate stricter air pollution standards to come up, reports Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava.

“This revelation comes on top of the fact that the Central Electricity Authority, which is controlled by the Union Ministry of Power, has already devised a plan to help existing power plants – numbering more than 300 – to dodge the December deadline to retrofit their plants to adhere to the new pollution norms. The Central Electricity Authority has laid out a phased plan for the plants, which requires them to follow these standards only starting 2020. This has been done without the environment ministry formally amending its 2015 notification that imposes the new norms from December.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.