Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sanjay Dutt: Only 'Bhai', not Munna

I sit and wonder what is it that the TV news channels take us for? Are they really here to do social good, as they constantly keep proclaiming? At times I think, yes. Then incidents happen that completely change my opinion on the noble channels. Two incidents are standing out, and both involve Sanjay Dutt. The honourable court has already pronounced that Sanjay Dutt is guilty of possessing illegal arms. In short, the bollywood actor is a criminal. But the media seems to be trying so damn hard to ensure that he gets away scot-free.

The two instances that I am talking off occurred once on CNN-IBN and the next is about to appear (or has appeared, not sure because I read the transcripts on the net) on NDTV 24X7. Before the judge pronounced Sanjay Dutt guilty or not guilty in the Mumbai bomb blasts case, Karan Thapar had interviewed him on his program Devil’s Advocate. There the actor tried to build up so much sympathy for himself, talking about his dead father, about the good work he does so on and so forth. One felt that he was trying to influence the judiciary using the media. Now, I just read the transcripts of his interview with Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV. Not surprising, the interview has come about just about when the honourable court is about to hand down the sentence to Sanjay Dutt.

The actor has said the same things. ‘God is great, I love my country, I respect the court, I work for a cancer foundation’ etc., etc. Jain asked Dutt if he was favourably treated. Come on!! He is being treated extremely favourably by the media, for sure. I might even go thus far and say that the media is trying to build a sympathy wave for Sanjay Dutt. It happened when the judge was about to pronounce him guilty. The media raked up stories of him being ‘Munnabhai’, a person with a heart of gold. Are they so na├»ve that they do not realize that the on-screen persona is rarely what the person is off-screen? Some of his colleagues of Bollywood even proclaimed, and the news channels shamelessly carried the stories, that Sanjay is ACTUALLY like Munnabhai. The role that he played in the two wonderfully entertaining movies has, in some way, seeped into the real Sanjay Dutt and that Munnabhai was not a fictitious character, it was the convict.

What a sham! If real life influences a screen image and vice-versa, why can’t we look at it this way? If Sanjay Dutt was Munna, then he also was the person he portrayed in Vaastav. In fact, he is closer to his character in Vaastav. In reel life and real life, Sanjay Dutt was an errant child/person, he was a druggie, and he possessed illegal arms. Why don’t his friends draw a parallel to that Sanjay and not confine themselves to Munnabhai? And why does the media not highlight this part of Sanjay Dutt’s life, when he is about to be sentenced? If they can bring out favourable stories about this villain, they can jolly well remind the people and the courts that possessing illegal arms to use upon his own countrymen is not the only blot on this super-star’s canvas.

The minimum sentence for Sanjay Dutt’s offence is 3-years’ imprisonment and a maximum of 10 years. The person who supplied Sanjay Dutt with the AK-56, Samir Hingora, has been awarded 9-years’ rigorous imprisonment. The person who removed the rifle from Dutt’s place, Dhakla, has been awarded 10-years’ rigorous imprisonment. It will be a shame if the person who actually possessed these arms is given any less a sentence. It will be disaster if he is let-off on probation. Let’s hope that justice prevails. Unlike Manu Sharma, if Dutt is convicted then it will not be because of the media. It will be despite the media. Why was it so tough for these holier than thou channels to tell the truth, that Sanjay Dutt isn’t Munna, he is simply ‘Bhai’. Jail is the right place for him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Graham Ford snubs the BCCI: Serves them right

Yet again, the incompetent BCCI has managed to put one foot in the mouth and shoot itself in the other foot. Graham Ford saying ‘No’ has now shown how inept and incompetent the people running the board are. Everything about the selection process of the coach has been a sham and has been done extremely professionally. In fact the BCCI, in general, and this regime, in particular, should be used for case studies in business schools across the world as an example of how not to run an organization.

Ford declining the post of India coach is something that cannot be held against him, and should not be, as some voices in the press and television in India seem to suggest. One of the so-called experts has even gone on to say that ‘if Ford cannot join due to family problems why did he come to India for the interview?’. What a stupid statement to make. Everybody has a right to assess future prospects and everybody also has a right to decline an offer. Haven’t we all done it? Why can’t Ford do the same? Some sections of the press also allege that Ford has used the package that BCCI offered him to renegotiate a higher pay package at Kent. Well, good thinking, Graham Ford. Almost all of us have done the same in our lives, or will do the same at some point in our lives.

The villain of this whole piece is the BCCI. Let’s look at the way these events have panned out since the start. Dav Whatmore had indicated a willingness to coach Team India. Even before Whatmore met the committee that was supposed to appoint a coach for Team India, Niranjan Shah, the Secretary of BCCI proclaimed that the Aussie was going to be the coach of India. The unprofessional and incompetent Shah did two grossly wrong things here. He undermined the authority of the selection process and the selection committee that was supposed to appoint the coach, and he also seemed to send a message out saying that he is the last word on these matters. When Whatmore was turned down by the committee, Shah would have realized that it was not his job to appoint the coach.

The next chapter was even more ridiculous. After rejecting Whatmore, none of the BCCI mandarins even had the decency to call him up and thank him for showing interest in the coaching job. Then the BCCI decided to project Ford as the front-runner, obviously thru media leaks. Haven’t we all read the quote “sources in the BCCI”? John Embury was called in so that it looked like the committee was appointing out of various options it had. What a sham, yet again. The last chapter is the most ridiculous of the lot.

The BCCI should have known that an appointment is announced after an offer is accepted. BCCI had made the offer to Ford, but the latter had sought time to get back to the board. But, the treasurer of BCCI, N. Srinivasan, went ahead and spoke freely to the media proclaiming that Ford is the next coach. And that Ford was to get back as to “when” he would join as the coach of India. The honourable treasurer should have kept his mouth shut. Had he wanted to open it, he should have said “Ford will get back to BCCI on “IF” he would consider joining as India’s coach. And sections of the media make it sound as if Graham Ford played truant.

We now have some fantastic situations in Indian cricket. The players’ contract isn’t finalized nearly a year after the previous contract ran out. The BCCI decided on some knee-jerk reactions on player endorsements that were based more on rhetoric and less on sound judgment. The Indian cricketers have not been paid by the board since October, 2006. We have no clue as to who the next coach of India is going to be. The team selectors are dictated by the board for choosing a side. And then, the BCCI wonders why is it that the team doesn’t do well. People of the world, are you laughing or are you laughing hard? Don’t tune off from this, its going to get even more ridiculous.

P.S. The biggest joke is that there was, supposedly, going to be a clause in Ford's contract that would have barred him from speaking to the media outside pre and post match conferences. Will anybody gag these big-mouths in BCCI first?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Amitabh Bachchan - The farmer is reaping what he sowed

Well, well, well. Amitabh Bachchan is a farmer these days. I'm sure that everybody has understood what kind of fraud he has indulged in. What has left me aghast and shocked is some of the reactions I have been hearing and reading for the actor, and the premises of those reactions are, to put it mildly, silly. Let me, first, give you a list of the reactions that I have been hearing in Bachchan's favour.

1) He is not the only person who has committed a fraud. Why pick on him alone?
2) The Congress and the BSP are maligning him because; a) He has fallen apart from the Gandhis, and; b) He is close to the Samajwadi Party.
3) Just because he is a big superstar, the media is picking on the 'Oh so victimised Amitabh Bachchan'.

Let me, try and squash these silly views. Firstly, about him being not the only person committing this fraud. I agree that many politicians commit frauds of probably larger magnitude. But that does not give Amitabh Bachchan a license to do whatever he has done in Uttar Pradesh. Big B should have realised that given his stature in this country he should have shown extra caution and gone that extra mile to be on the correct side of law. He is a tax evader anyways. Now he is a land stealer too. Just because some unscrupulous politicians are doing somethings wrong, Bachchan does those misappropriations as well. Is he so naive at 60+? Probably his closeness with Amar Singh is showing. I don't know which fraud is affecting the other.

Now for the second point. The Congress and the BSP could not have touched Bachchan had he been on the correct side of the law. Amitabh Bachchan had been using the Samajwadi Party for all his gains. Be it for making his movies tax-free in UP, or fudging documents making him a farmer. This actor also tried to mislead the people of UP by telling a pack of lies before the elections. Can we forget 'UP mein dum hai, kyunki jurm yahaan kum hai'. What a pack of lies. And he cannot plead ignorance. All he should have asked for were records of crimes in UP. I mean, he claimed after the Dairy Milk ad that he had asked the Cadburys people if he'd get 'Man ki shaanti' after doing an ad that sells chocolate (because of the insect scare). If he could be so judicious and such a good man for selling chocolates, how could he not take care when the future of the people of UP was at stake? His supposed home-state. But, all he was doing was quid pro quo for Mulayam and Amar Singh. Probably, as a return gift. Moreso, his wife, Jaya Bachchan would address rallies and give interviews to TV channels during the UP elections, saying 'the Congress uses and dumps people, but Mulayam and SP don't'. They were the ones who started throwing stones at others when they were themselves living in glass houses.

Thirdly, about the point that media is only picking Bachchan because of his stature. Well, he has made his money because of the media. He is the one who had used the media so utterly cleverly. Be it for his son's wedding, or promoting his films. I completely disagree with the theory that the media is being unfair to him. Why did nobody object when Amitabh Bachchan's name was given in polls choosing the "Role Icon of India" and other such gibberish? It was all so fine then? How, if the role icon finds himself with his trousers down, why blame the media? The coverage that the media gave to his son's wedding was uncalled for. It didn't deserve 1% of the coverage that it got. But the Bachchan scam should get much more publicity.

This is one chance of the media to redeem itself. Let the citizens of this nation see that the high and mighty cannot get away by committing crimes. If they could get justice for Jessica Lal, the media can jolly well bring Amitabh Bachchan to jail. And for that matter, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt. If Amitabh Bachchan goes scot-free this time, he might as well say that all his income from endorsements are because of selling produce from farming. If the land fraud flourishes, might as well allow tax fraud to flourish. We, the stupid middle class are there anyways to be ripped off by the Government.