Friday, 1 January 2010

Outrage and then be outraged

The Kannada film world (a.k.a Sandalwood) lost two key family members in the span of two days.  

C Aswath 20th December 1938 to 29th December 2009  
  • To get an idea of why he was popular for his music take a look at Banthu Shravana on YouTube 
  • I have been a die-hard fan of C Aswath ever since I heard him perform at the World Spiritual Music Festival in Bangalore. That concert ranks as one of the best performances that I have ever had the privilege of attending.
Vishnuvardhan 18 September 1950 - 30 December 2009
  • I confess I have never seen a Vishnuvardhan movie.
  • I am very aware that that he was the undisputed heavy-weight champion of Sandalwood and he inherited the crown after the demise of legendary Rajkumar. [A YouTube link via @churumuri that has clipping of these two men sharing screen space]
  • Like Rajnikanth, Shivaji Ganesan and Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan would not have been able to reach such stardom without being able to connect to his huge fan-base through his films.
Media Coverage of C Aswath's demise:

In the National Press, the demise of C Aswath received less coverage than Amitabh Bachan’s birthday. But then, C Aswath does need the coverage. He does not support brands neither does he require a brand-building exercise. The people who wanted to mourn him did not need sponsored reminders that he was a precious gift to music fans. His music celebrates his life and his fans don’t need any other reminder (sponsored or otherwise). It does pinch that that the national media did not pay adequate attention to his contribution to Sugama Sangeet.

Media Coverage of Vishnuvardhan's demise

  • Vishnuvardhan’s death in NDTV was repeatedly announced with a two part headline (in the same breath). Part a) his death part b) The fact that schools and colleges were being closed.
    Note: most schools and colleges were already closed as a part of the Christmas/New Year break. Why the emphasis on the closure right at the very beginning of the announcement?

  • As rumours went around like wildfire around violence, one got the feeling that Bangalore was about to burn. Here is an example of how the news media were part of the rumour-mongering (courtesy Times Now)

    Elaborate police arrangement were made for the procession, however, protests erupted in large scale. Police even resorted to firing in numerous accounts, which reportedly could have lead to death of few. The entire city was brought to the edge, even as mourners continue to pour in numbers to pay their last respect to the legendary actor. 
    It transpires that there was no "firing" other than tear-gas. This incident took place near the site where the body of the actor was laid in state. Nobody was ever injured or killed by police bullets. Certain specific parts of the city were affected by violence but the entire city was NOT on edge. Bangalore was being pushed to the edge by media reports that were forcing people to "safety".
  • Incidents of violence were most common where the police failed to control crowds trying to get a last glimpse of their idol. A few trouble makers were mixed in with the crowd and it was proving difficult to control the crowds.

  • When I started getting SMS messages that Madivala in Bangalore was getting affected, I decided to take a walk. The vegetable market was it's usual self, Total Mall was closed (with signs saying mall is closed), half the shops had their shutters down and traffic levels were normal. A crowd was gathered around a poster of Vishnuvardhan and there was loud music blaring from speakers. Before I knew what was happening, cops had pulled up in a jeep and the crowd promptly dispersed. There was NO sign of "violence". It was not a tenth as bad as the rumours that were doing the rounds.

  • Three regional channels were relaying the funeral "live". We can be crtical of the fans, but I think the channels went overboard in their continuous coverage. Before we look down on the thousands that came to the funeral, I think we should also question the need for such a broadcast.

  • There WAS violence. Trouble makers were at work in Gandhi Bazaar and Jaynagar. But, media coverage and speculation around the city grinding to halt was perpetuating a vicious cycle.

There was a cameraman who lost his camera and the above image says it all. I condemn the violence, but I also see a role that the media played in increasing tensions.

That bring me to this last gem. 


  1. As for the 'national media', it is dominated mostly by 'global' Indian who think that Bollywood is the only 'culture' India produces. Dont be surprised if they demand a national holiday on the day a Bollywood star dies. There is also the case that they really care more about the exigencies of the elite migrant white collar class, therefore the stress on school closures.

  2. a similar experience of mine with respect to the media coverage during the recent Telangana agitation.. I mean, there is just no control on this menace :(

  3. I remember the Dr.Rajkumar episode - wonder what kind of solidarity and respect do people show to their loved icons by setting buses on fire and burning tyres in the middle of the road !

  4. Following week TV9 was notorious enough to spread the rumors behind the vishnu death(nagavalli) creating a hype and attracting viewers