Anuradha Paudwal & Anup Jalota Sing Bhajans on “News” Channels. Bhakti Has Replaced Journalism

Social Commentary

Anuradha Paudwal & Anup Jalota Sing Bhajans on “News” Channels. Bhakti Has Replaced Journalism

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

News channels in India have made it a habit to turn the function of delivering news into an absolute farce. To cover Sridevi’s death, they created the whole bathtub scenario in the studio using snazzy graphics. To cover the surgical strikes, anchors indulged in roleplay, wearing army jackets and bringing 3D models of the terrain into the studio. To cover the Sushant Singh Rajput case, they have crossed all boundaries of privacy and sensitivity.

As the Bhoomi Pujan for the Ram Temple was around the corner in Ayodhya on August 5, news channels went into bhakti overdrive. Singers were called on shows to deliver “news”, getting guests and sadhus to sing bhajans was the norm and in case singers were scarce, anchors themselves decided to give their Indian Idol audition on air.

Zee News created a “Shri Ram Darbar”, with footage playing on eight tiny screens simultaneously. Singer Anuradha Paudwal was hired to deliver the “news”, and it was difficult to tell if one was on Aastha channel or a news channel.

Aaj Tak didn’t want to be left behind with their competition hiring singers. So they went ahead and got Anup Jalota to sing bhajans on the show. With of course huge-ass ads and a picture of Prime Minister Modi tucked in a corner. At one point, Aaj Tak’s anchor said that “Goddess Saraswati herself must be sitting on the prime minister’s tongue. His longtime aspiration is being completed today.”

Times Now hadn’t planned their Bhoomi Pujan programming as well, so they had to improvise on the go. Navika Kumar herself started singing on live TV, then requesting BJP leader Sambit Patra to have a go. He also joined in, as Navika’s co-anchor Rahul Shivshankar looked at both of them with puppy eyes.

While everyone was interviewing Sadhus in Ayodhya and getting people to sing bhajans, India Today decided to go down the tech route, giving everyone a floor by floor 3D tour of the Ram Mandir right from the studio. In times of immense competition among news channels regarding who can be more bizarre, having a differentiator is key.

“Journalism is dead,” said many users going through the TV coverage. It is becoming a recurring pattern on TV, no matter what the issue or topic being covered. “News” has been abandoned for drama, entertainment and gossip. The day is not far when the 9pm news slot will be competing with the prime time K-serial drama.