Arushi…resurrected!

Arushi is back…after a hiatus of a couple of months, she is resurrected and how!

4 months back, the media spotted the double murder case. Aarushi was found murdered in her room and fingers were immediately pointed at the house help, Hemraj, who was also found murdered on the rooftop the day after! What followed thereafter has been talked about and screened a zillion times! I am not getting into a crash course of how the media played up the story…but as someone who belongs to the world of television journalism, let me dissect it slightly…

When the infamous Tandoor Case happened in 1995, and when Priyadarshini Mattoo was murdered right inside her home, satellite television was almost non-existent. When the Uphaar tragedy happened in 1997, we were still growing. In 1999 when Jessica Lal was shot dead at point blank range in full public view and when Sanjeev Nanda ran over six sleeping television was in its testing phase…by the time the Nitish Katara was murdered in 2002, television was more or less a confident entity. Crimes involving death have a history of cases being long drawn and tedious. Each of the these cases have been a yo-yo of emotions, where the drama has been no less than the masala of a typical bollywood pot boiler. The villian is rich, he commits a crime (either knowingly or unknowingly), there are a few accusations, some witnesses, lots of denials, endless trials…and finally a verdict where the villian is happily put behind the bars! But in this post modern television era, you can hardly dismiss the role of the electronic media in all these cases.

As an insider in the world of electronic media, I say we suffer from the herd mentality. When Rajesh Talwar was released on bail, a young lawyer turned journalist in my office told me that she was disturbed by how he was chased on his way out of jail! “I told myself, I will never get so desperate! Why can’t news channels behave themselves and let the man be!” With just a little more than three years in the industry, I shared with her the most important lesson of this medium…”If you don’t do that, you won’t be considered a good journalist!” Journalistic ethics is more than just door stepping the man from whom you want a sound byte…it’s about drawing a line, telling yourself, “It’s enough!” Unfortunately, we say these words only when we feel that it is a stale story!

“Do TRPs really count?” a friend asked me some days back. I told her, “Well it does…to the people who run the channel…not the one’s who watch it!” Popular belief is that the content must be TRP driven, so that viewers tune into your channel for its stickiness factor. Arushi murder case gave all channels to exhibit their ‘gluey’ skills! One channel (hindi no doubt) went ahead to connect with Arushi’s soul! Another used her mobile phone details and called up her friends on air and asked them to speak about Arushi…! Bizarre…that’s all I have!

The fact that all channels chased the story in its initial days was because everyone covered it! If a channel’s rundown didn’t have the story, it was not worth watching…the country was waiting to watch, and we were there to show it to them. But no one spared a moment for the family. Whether they were party to the crime or no is a separate story…the fact that they lost a child is what should have been heeded to!

When the House of Horrors was discovered in 2006, the media charged the house and showed live the explorations around the house. Both Pandher and his man servant Koli were accused of abduction, rape and murder…the whole theory of organ trade also came to fore. While Pandher was later absolved…no one knows what’s happened to Koli! Do we care now?

In the Arushi case too, the investigations were considered closed when Rajesh Talwar was released on bail and absolved of all accusations! His compounder and his neighbours house help and driver were held accused…but 90 days later, the CBI has turned up saying, “Sorry…we couldn’t find any evidence?” So while we news channels had comfortably forgotten the story, we are pushed yet again into door stepping the Talwars…hoping to get some valuable sound bytes!

Will this chase ever end? Perhaps no…it might die out from time to time, but the chase to put a story together and get an exclusive will never die! Learn to live with it…but the moment the viewer says “It’s enough” and decides to switch off all channels, will the news gatherers really cut the chase!

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