Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Real journalism is dead – and channels like Times Now are to blame

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Media watch

In the battle to attract a bigger audience and at the same time take its frustration out on Republic TV, Times Now has completely lost sense of ethics (“Times Now’s Tejpal tapes mark a new low for journalism. Now, it’s the turn of viewers to speak up”). But, when was the channel ever ethical? Even when Arnab Goswami spearheaded its “campaigns”, all I could sense was a different kind of PR practice! Earlier, we had one such channel and now we have two.

It is time the audience becomes more active and puts a stop to such nonsense. However, this is easier said than done as such media houses have huge monetary backing from the groups that own them and the political parties that govern them.

Real journalism is dead and that is the harsh truth. And even if it does exist in the form of alternative media outlets, the trust among the active audience is thinning by the day. Channels like Times Now and Republic TV force the audience to get used to taking news with a pinch of salt.

It is a shame that the Fourth Estate is digging its own grave. While some are doing it in the form of PR campaigns, others are writing editorials that mock sensitive issues like the Kathua case (like The Sunday Guardian’s Anatomy of a Concoction”). – Utsav Basu

***

This outrage on Times Now’s Tarun Tejpal tapes is not only misplaced but also biased. The channel is not biased the way Scroll.in is. Please do not try to sell your agenda at the behest of the pseudo-secular and anti-Indian lobby. – Ganapathy V

***

The author has hit the nail on the head. Other than making noise, this channel does nothing. I stopped watching Times Now a long time ago. – B Shiv Kumar

***

I find nothing wrong in airing the crime committed by Tarun Tejpal, who had entrapped Bangaru Laxman in a most wicked manner. It is poetic justice that he is at the receiving end now. You seem to be more worried about Tejpal than the survivor. As it is, journalists have already stripped all clothes, why hesitate to remove the cap? Your sympathies and concerns are selective. – Shriram Bapat

Cobrapost expose

Most mainstream media channels are of no use to man or beast anymore (“Cobrapost exposé shows Indian media is sinking. Now we can fight back or be drowned for good”). As viewers, we were well aware about the propaganda by the BJP and its associates. They are dividing this country, manipulating the vote bank through the media (paid goons) and social media networks like its IT cell. But Cobrapost has ripped apart the mainstream fake media. Their work must be appreciated and followed up with legal action (even the Constitution is in danger). – Kousar Sheikh

Highway politics

It is a sad state of affairs in the country if the public, who funds these projects through taxes, has to wait one-and-a-half months to use them after completion just because the high and mighty don’t have the time to cut the ribbon or arrange photo-ops (“The Daily Fix: Does the Modi government expect to win 2019 by becoming Inauguration Sarkar?”). The prime minister hogs photo sessions and the media focusses on his face, clothes shoes, spectacles... and then of course, there’s a long speech, to show how bad the Congress has been for the country and how good the BJP is! So for all this drama, the grand inauguration of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway was delayed and the Supreme Court had to issue an ultimatum! Shame on this model of governance. – Anjana Kumar

***

I started reading Scroll.in with great expectations. Increasingly, I find it to be highly biased against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it seems to be part of the anti-Modi brigade though it is hiding its real intent cleverly. Sorry to have to say this. – Ashok Kumar

Lessons to learn

I am an American who knows very little about Indian education (“Fake news, paid news thrive in intellectual passivity – in India, blame it on the education system”). But I spent a few weeks working with an NGO in Kalwa slum near Mumbai earlier this year. The programme I was connected to is one about supplemental educational. We were there primarily to teach English to local kids in Class 3 and Class 4. One of the things my co-volunteers and I noticed was the lack of critical thinking skills or creativity in education. The focus of the programming these kids received was to buttress their regular school education using the materials they used in their classrooms. The focus was on rote learning, designed to help them pass their exams at the end of the school year. (Also, the books they use in their regular schools look like leftovers from the British – they have few Indian stories.)

When we tried to conduct various activities – for example, seating the kids in a circle and playing games using English words that required them to either tell us something about themselves or create a story – they had great difficulty. It wasn’t a language issue; we had translators in the classrooms so the children could express themselves in Hindi if they didn’t have the English words. We all knew that kids this age are great at playing games on their own and making up stories, but for these children, the concept was foreign to them in a school context.

So while you point to education as complicit in the acceptance of fake and paid news, I agree, but I think there are much more fundamental problems with government education that result in this acceptance and passivity. When children are taught to think critically and creatively in the classroom, those skills manifest in life outside of school and into adulthood. Again, I accept that as a non-Indian who hasn’t studied in the Indian education system, I may be speaking out of turn and I may be wrong about how the education system works. But I can say with confidence that developing critical thinking skills would result in less passivity and acceptance of fake and paid news and would benefit everyone.

In the US, we face the same issues with respect to fake and paid news, and one reason for this acceptance among part of our population is the same lack of critical thinking. – Carol Spanbock

Thoothukudi protests

Those who work in Sterlite’s Thoothukudi plant may have a lot of faith in their organisation (“View from the other side: Sterlite workers attacked by Thoothukudi protestors recall the terror”). But the many poor and illiterate people living in the vicinity of the factory were enchanted by job opportunities and unaware of the consequences of having such a plant in their neighbourhood even as the company and the government failed to create awareness. Now, nearly 2,300 people are suffering from cancer or skin disease because of pollution from the plant. The groundwater is also not potable. And several people have lost their lives in the police crackdown on the protests. – Gladson Durai

Tainted banks

It is time the endless saga at ICICI Bank is brought to an end to ensure ordinary people’s faith in the Indian banking sector, already under huge strain in the wake of the scam unearthed at state-run Punjab National Bank, is restored to some extent (“Market regulator SEBI sends notice to ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar over loan to Videocon Group”). Deadlines should be set for completing inquiries by multiple agencies that are looking into the allegations against ICICI Bank. The government should put in place an effective oversight mechanism to ensure that investigations are better coordinated and move speedily.

The board of ICICI Bank, which has been very vocal in its defence of the bank, should also, in the highest traditions of corporate governance, cooperative with the investigative agencies to ensure the truth comes out. – Sumali Moitra

Literary legacy

Brilliant! Bharathiyar’s impassioned songs bring tears to my eyes (“Why does Subramania Bharati mean so little to non-Tamil India?”). I have always wondered why he is not present everywhere in India. Can someone start a movement to bring him to the attention of people across the country?

We can begin by asking advertising agencies to use his songs and messages in advertisements. You have opened a window. Now show us the way forward! – Geeta Ramakrishnan

***

Why doesn’t the article even acknowledge that language restrictions is one of the reasons why Bharati is not known outside the Tamil linguistic communities? This omission makes the whole article appear as if the north is responsible for Bharati’s relative lack of countrywide recognition! – Nehal Medh

An inspiring story

Seldom have I come across a story so pure and heartwarming that it has beckoned me to go beyond merely reading and forwarding it online (“Why a 66-year-old Maharashtrian villager has been sending congratulatory postcards to strangers”). The story of Annappa Chougule was one such. In today’s day and age, where we are constantly bombarded with news that is replete with doom and gloom, stories of such inspiring individuals serve to reinstate my faith in humanity and the importance of doing good in this world. I can’t help but quote Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings when he said: “There’s some good in this world Mr Frodo, And it’s worth fighting for.” – Somesh Mathur

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

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.