Friday, October 06, 2006

Greasy choices

Last weekend Angana was in town and being the media celebrity that she is (she actually has people stop her on the streets and ask – Don’t you anchor for such-and-such news channel everyday?), a conversation with her is like a personally delivered, live scoop on the fourth estate.
On one of our nights out, she told us the story of a certain Well Endowed Starlet who was in no real need of further exposure (pun obviously intended), but who was happy to have been asked to appear live on air. She stepped into the studio, demurely dressed as compared to her onscreen persona, ready for her interview.

The producer took one look at her and barked, ‘What the hell is she wearing?’ And instructed one of the anchors to take her to the green room and dress her more appropriately. Well Endowed Starlet was handed a tiny ‘inner’ that news anchors wear under their sophisticated formal jackets.
So, did she do it? Those of us (two of us, actually) who strayed from mainstream media long ago asked, wide-eyed and hungry for greasy media kibble.
Angana gave us a look of pity reserved for stray dogs.
‘Then what? The top Hindi news channel, dahlings. She’d be an idiot to refuse.’

At that we sipped contemplatively at our spiked juices; all of us readying to launch into an animated conversation about feeding the gaze and media ethics and gender discrimination at the workplace. But suddenly we sipped so much that it didn’t matter for the rest of the night.

Because we’ve come to understand a few things between us. Things that J-school doesn’t teach you, but you learn once you leave the shelter of the crowded computer labs and shared apartments and the comfort of a crowd that becomes your family in the course of ten cramped months. We’ve learnt that we’re all idealists, only that some of us are more practical than others. We’ve learnt not to question each other’s choices so much. Especially since our reunions are so few and far between.
Media is media. Non-profit work is non-profit work. Columns will be read and forgotten. And documentaries will be made and watched only by those who care.

And sensationalism is what sells. It’s what we buy, you and I. Even if it’s only to wrinkle our noses and express contempt at what passes for news today. It’s why my editor used to tell me I’d never be taken seriously. It’s why Angana quietly hands over her inner to Well Endowed Starlets who will never be seen as anything else. It’s why women as individuals are seen as one-dimensional and only when it serves a purpose, they acquire (or certain parts of them acquire) a 3-dimensional reality. It's why our tolerance levels for scandal have shot up so much that we’re in need of a bigger fix everyday. There are no more raised eyebrows anymore.

Because greasy fries are a hard habit to break, dahlings.