Say what I want you to say!

TELLY TALK

Say what I want you to say!

That happens only when the interviewee opens secret doors in the presence of intangible trust and with the knowledge that someone is genuinely interested in what is being revealed. An interview is never about the interviewer.

But few celebrity TV scribes know this because you end up seeing them in the white heat of spotlight rather than the people they are interviewing. The Barkha Dutts and Arnab Goswamis relish long-winding sentences, flattering close-ups, meaningless banter and you end up with a curiously dissatisfying niggle that somehow something was not tapped into.

She is the universal big momma of revelations now but even if you just watch Oprah Winfrey without being smitten by her superbly packaged warmth, you can see why people tell her things. She listens. And she wants to understand. Her body language says, I am here... you are safe. Talk to me.’” Whereas our verbose interviewers wag fingers and suggest, “Watch me! Hear me! Say what I want you to say!"

I refer to an interview Arnab Goswami recently conducted with Neetu and Rishi Kapoor where the two senior actors sat upright and stiffly in chairs while our man sat with a diary which he judiciously scanned for reference points. One never got any clear idea whether the show was designed to pay a tribute to their work, their life or both because like a sozzled truck, it veered from one road block to another, without getting anywhere.

The two looked bored and confined themselves to saying the same things many times over, “Yes, we were the only young actors working in the 70s, so all teenage romances came to us!’” Neetu Kapoor repeated again and again, “I gave up working because I wanted to. I had worked for over 15 years and I have never looked back.”
This just goes to show that political debates and insightful conversations are two different things. Cinematic trivia cannot be squeezed out like toothpaste from actors and such conversations should be left to those who are passionate, well-informed and are willing to listen. Skills which most interviewers lack today.

Far more entertaining are the past life regression sessions on NDTV Imagine. Despite its penchant for a filmy background score and over-the-top production values borrowed from KBC, the show still rings true because of the way people cry over past losses and smart with wounds still crawling under the skin of today.
It’s difficult however to say if there is anything redeeming in shows like MTV’s Splitsvilla where reputations are shredded like tissue paper and insults fly like confetti.

I am dreading Rahul Mahajan Ka Swayamwar that the ‘path-breaking’ Rakhee Sawant has saddled us with after playing the perfect-bride-to-be for weeks on national TV and then breaking up messily with her prospective groom who looked like the survivor of a train wreck at the end of it all.

Why is showing your ugly underbelly in public a sure ticket to fame, today? Who can explain the fame of Vindoo Dara Singh in Big Boss 3? He is today a celebrity. What does that say about the lows Indian television programming has sunk to? And what does it say about those of us who can’t take our eyes off him?    

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