Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Reality Check

I decide to have an evening outing, drawn out by Bangalore's genteel weather. With a friend I visit a photographic exhibition on child labour. The photographs exhibited are part of a project called 'History Expediton' and have all been taken by street kids between ages 10 and 18. These kids picked up from the street (rag pickers, pick pockets, etc) and NGOs and trained in still photography at the Born Free Art School, Bangalore cycled 4000 kms and took about 25000 pictures. While they were clicking whatever to their judgement looked relevant they also collected background information and bio-data of their subjects. The result, after painstaking sifting and editing, is a poignant compilation of kids - underfed and overworked, broken toothed and tender hearted.

I see snaps of little girls plucking out stems from red chillies, carrying stocks of wood, working in the fields. Then I set my eyes on scrawny boys working in garages, laying bricks and wielding sledgehammers. They've made sure the photographs are life size. They already are life like - huge things hanging from the walls beckoning me to have a look at 'India Shining'. They aim at the viscera. I wonder if they had gone inside homes they would've found thousands of little domestic helps. And then they could've taken the photos of respected, dignified gentlemen who employ them without even teaching them to read and write.

We all know many such mass graves exist. We just hope we never stumble upon it. I come back with a set of photographs as a token of remembrance, willing to be disturbed on some other balmy Bangalore evening.

We feel, my friend and I, we still haven't been entertained. So we go for a Danish movie at a film festival being held at Pallavi theatre. The movie is about the world of journalism and politics, and how the two are so inextricably and so unscrupulously tangled. In the movie I see that 'honest journalists' are a misnomer and politicians at best are not absolutely corrupt. A rookie reporter, with an influential father and expected to be pliable to pulls from above, is mysteriously handed out scoops and the editor, rather too generously, puts them on the front page. And when the same reporter decides to see more than what meets his eye, he digs up some nasty skeletons, then loses his job, then realises his dad is also one of them - the bad guys. All in the space of 3 days of honest, ethical news reporting! There is a brilliantly shot footage of the main protagonist being coaxed by his father to apologise and salvage his career. Its then we see a son coming out of his father's shadow, shocked and bitter that his father is just one more link in the chain he's trying so hard to break.

I wonder if the same happens in our country, if our front pages are full of scoops planted there for a reason, if our news channels continuosly drum out slanted perspectives, if those aspiring to pursue serious ethical journalism are fighting a lost cause, and if they'll become the very movie chracters they revolted against.

I find this movie a little more hard hitting than what the pamphlet hinted at. Maybe they should've printed it in bold. Why do we watch such movies?

For awareness? No, we're already aware and even if we're not what difference shall we make?
For entertainment? Surely no. Atleast I respect all those who make no pretensions and eschew watching movies which leave you disturbed.

But then there's no reason to lose sweat over. I've seen many such realistic portrayals and I am sure there are many more to come. I am dwelling in excess and things are getting to my head.

My friend and I agree the movie was great and part our ways, not sure about how enjoyable the evening had been.


PritS said...

I remember, not long ago, for me news meant what was written in India-Today or what they showed on Aaj Tak. I regret to say but I formed many opinions based on them. I had no clue and I am sure I am not the only one like this. Whole country and world are caught in web between the truth and false. Some people get the strength and wisdom to understand whats wrong and whats right. At that stage in life, we face two ways, First- to let everything happen, right or wrong. Second- to fight for the right.
Sadly very few belong the second category. But to look at it from other angel, the first kind of people are much better that rest of the ignorant population. They may become second type some day.
And to make that happen, we need movies like what we saw yesterday. Truth must come out, however bitter it is.

satyajit said...

I can understand. I used to explain the Hindi and English news to my grandma and used to keep her abreast of whatever happened around. Sadly I think I may have given her many twisted views based on what I saw and heard. The news that filters down to us is at best doctored truths.

I hope such movies bring about change, however slow it may be.

P.S : This is the friend who went along with me yesterday :-)

recreating space said...

apart from news being manipulated etc, dont you think news per se is biased as journalists 'select' only what they think is important and what they think is 'news' ?

satyajit said...

Yes, I've to agree with you. I am concerned though with the reason behind it. Should I sympathise with the journalists and reporters who've become puppets at the hands of news channel producers and editors who want news with TRP potential or is there a distinct lack of effort to refrain from yellow journalism?

Maybe it's time for the tabloid culture to start in India. Asian Age and Hindu are at the opposite ends of the seriousness-of-news-reorted spectrum, but both fall under the same category of national dailies.