Of Tollywood, Press Freedom & Depiction of Women

While there has always been the conflict between whether media is a reflection of society or vice-versa, there is enough evidence that it is never going to stop commodifying women.

Even Tollywood contributes to this trend. The stars of Telugu film industry, on one side, take part in public rallies, participate in marches, candle-light vigils and make public speeches on protecting/respecting women, etc but fail to implement it in their movies. 
For example: I recently happen to watch “Power Star’s” Gabbar Singh that is supposedly a hit. Firstly, I failed to understand what made the movie successful because it lacked story. To keep Pawan Kalyan’s “Power Star” image intact, the story revolves around him where it is acceptable for him to make condescending statements against anyone he dislikes in the movie. He can disrespect anyone he wants, beat up any one he wishes to and touch/boss over the female lead.

A still from item song Kevvu Keka in Gabbar Singh

He falls for the girl in the movie (which is but obvious) and ever teases her (which is considered trivial), pesters her to marry him (which isn’t an issue because it is Pawan Kalyan) despite her rejection. Eventually, she falls for him (or is made to) without which the story would fall through. 
Not only this, but plenty of Telugu movies have a similar storyline where the motto of the (male) protagonist and the antagonist to “get” the girl. This depicition of women in media has been rampant despite hue and cry about censoring content, changing mindsets, etc.

Greekuverdu movie poster
Another example is that of Nargarjuna’s latest film Greekuveerudu. The yuva samarat (title bestowed upon him by Telugu film industry) in the movie’s poster stands with a few girls on two sides “doing justice” to the title. Though one might not find the movie poster objectionable dismissing it as “just a movie poster”, it is an example of how we are making it acceptable for a man to play around with girls while the same is objectionable in case of woman.
These two examples also point to skewed representation, interpretation and coverage by media in Andhra Pradesh. That also brings us to the recent incident involving the spat between Nalsar students’ and Telugu news channels.

For those unaware of the incident, this is what had happened. 
When Nalsar University students were celebrating at a pub in Jubilee Hills, local TV channel reporters recorded some footage of the students through their mobile phone. When the girls who were being filmed in the video raised an objection, the mediapersons had a heated argument.
To make matters worse, the entire spat was recorded while the girls were using cuss words. And, irritably, the TV channels blurred a girl’s dress as if she was semi-nude. when that wasn’t the case. This created the uproar among students when the TV channels (one after another) aired a program related to pub culture, showing videos of the students repeatedly.

It was an unpardonable case of skewed coverage by Telugu news channels. Though I’m part of the media myself, it is not acceptable to frame those girls and run a story on “Pub culture”.  Even the newspapers called it a “pub brawl” and such like without making an effort to know what exactly happened.

A TV grab of a program following the incident

Points to ponder:
Point one: There was no need to shoot  the footage outside pub. 
Point two: Just because the journalist was desperate to do a story on “pub culture ruining India culture or (whatever)”, he made the girls scapegoats.
And, what’s more? They were portrayed as drunk women when they actually weren’t. 
Point three: Girls raising their voice against the media person and using cuss words was not right. And, to add to this, they weren’t wearing Indian clothes. Now, that was their biggest mistake — looking SEXY!) (Do you expect young girls to wear a cotton saree and full-sleeved blouse to a pub?)
Point four: No one (even if you are a journalist, it is always acceptable to ask) has the right to shoot anyone’s video anywhere without his or her permission. 
Point Five: Press freedom has limitations. No one is above law. Not even a journalist.
In  another case of skewed coverage, a newspaper on Page 1 claimed that Foot over Bridges (FOBs) in Hyderabad were being a threat to girls/women. What is the news actually: It was a Lokayukta notice to ads makers who were covering up FOBs with ads, with the court said could be a potential threat to women.
On the other hand, there was another report where the police commissioner claimed there were no such cases booked so far. These are two contradicting reports in the same newspaper. 
Points to ponder:
Point one: If the newspaper’s claims FOBs are a threat to women, it should have examples indicating such threats to women’s security. 
Point two: If the police commissioner is saying that there are no cases registered, then the story falls. 
In a story on faulty weighing machines at gold shops, a TV channel was making people of how some gold traders cheat customers by using weighing machines that have been banned by the legal metrology department. The TV channel got some footage of gold shops and banks that it claimed were cheating customers. While running viewers through the list of gold shops and banks, the TV channel had footage of those shops that weren’t part of the list but wrongly framed them as cheaters. The same was the case with banks. 
Points to ponder:
Point one: If you do a story, is it necessary to frame someone just for your footage?
Point two: Even some banks were wrongly framed in the story
Point three: The story fell through as they did not take the bites of those they claimed were cheating public. 
Point four: Neither did they have the opinion of the legal metrology department.
While there has been outrage all over the country over the recent spate of crimes against women, these still show how the mindset, even in the media, hasn’t changed. While media itself blows up an issue, makes or breaks stories, mediapersons also should introspect and examine themselves on what is right and what is wrong. They are NOT above the law. Period.

4 thoughts on “Of Tollywood, Press Freedom & Depiction of Women

  1. The problem with local media(and national media too at times) is that they're educated media professionals, but not educated journalists. When I say educated, I don't mean well-informed, with common sense and wise enough to to know when a story actually holds any news value at all.

    “Stories” like these are just easier to do, I guess.

    With the NALSAR girls fiasco, people actually do watch and believe the shit that they've said in the story, and as long as they have that audience, they're not going to give up on doing it.

    Out of curiosity, are there ANY news channels in Hyderabad that ensure they don't do shitty stories like these?

  2. Nice post Teju.

    I have been following the Nalsar girls case and I honestly wonder how people cannot see how badly it is framed. But the multiple TV channels covering it like its 'hot news' makes me sick.

    I question where we can as journalists and media watch folk attempt to change this. Because as Chris says, the representation of women is bad across. How do we hope to change it practically I mean? Cause honestly, I feel helpless sometimes. Especially after they announced a ban against women being in pubs after 10. Ridiculous really.

  3. Chris, there are no TV channels in Hyderabad that make an effort to do honest reportage.
    And, the reason for that is because once one news channel gets the footage, it is circulated to others. That's how the Nalsar story was framed wrongly.
    And, worst was that none of them even apologised for having done such a blunder. Even newspapers in Hyderabad have not been running corrigendum for the errors they commit. The callousness in running such stories and not owning upto them is what upsets me.

    Nidhi, been sick of their false stories. I think, like how Katju said, “one should have certain qualifications to be called a journalist”, the rule should be there. At least that would weed out such ill-informed mediapersons.

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