Missing ‘Rhea Rasam’ in Chennai: southern TV channels miss the drama, focus on the disease

There is perfunctory coverage in southern TV channels of the ‘murder mystery’ that turned out to be about consuming marijuana. But the indifference of southern TV to the soap is revealing

Photo Courtesy: ANI
Photo Courtesy: ANI

SS Kumar

Coming down South on the slow train [correction, not slow anymore, they do middling speed, and we have some bullet trains coming, but not down South yet], you could be pardoned for wondering if you are still in the same country.

Let’s say you hop off at Chennai Central, sip your filter coffee after your excellent tiffin, reach a friend’s home and switch on the TV… horror of horrors, there are only southern channels available, your host has opted for the southern bouquet, you see; and switch channels and switch and switch, but no Rhea Chakraborty, no baying anchors, no breathless reporting on #justiceforssr; don’t you guys know it’s a burning issue, the issue; just a clip or two alluding to it in the most perfunctory way.

What is one to make of this? Hey, are we living in the same country, or what? You could have fooled me; thought we had crossed into another and very strange land; still can’t believe this. Welcome to the South.

If you’re a news junkie, and get your daily diet of what’s going on, and what’s going down, from the Hindi or English TV news channels, then you know what we’re talking about. Border clashes with China? No big deal: didn’t the Prime Minister himself assure the nation that there are no PLA troops on our side of the LAC [line of actual control, a total misnomer if anything, because: one, it doesn’t actually exist, two, if it does, it’s not mutually agreed upon]. It’s another matter that the Army which actually has to deal with the situation on the ground, and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the suave IFS-turned-foreign minister, ponderously titled the External Affairs Minister, has to contend with the diplomatic fallout of the whole sorry business.

The economy? A 23.9 pc contraction in the GDP last quarter, spiraling unemployment and no signs of recovery on the horizon? No big deal either; look, the US economy contracted by even more… by 33 pc. Ask S. Gurumurthy, the auditor turned economic pundit, now ideologue and member of the board of the RBI, India’s central bank. Didn’t Nirmala Sitharaman tell us it was an act of God; what can we do about it?

And how dare you ask about it? The impertinence of it all: I’ll have you know we’re here today to discuss something far more serious and important in this panel discussion: the mysterious death of Sushant Singh Rajput. Tune in, folks, we’re going live and we’ve got lots and lots to tell you about what actually went down. Our ratings have exploded, thanks to you, dear viewers; forget about what actually happened, what might have is far more entertaining than anything you can think of.

Rhea Chakraborty dunnit, didn’t you know? Stay with us and you won’t be sorry; we’re going to blow this whole sordid thing wide open, and you can have a ringside view. Of course, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, or ahead of the investigating agencies now [btw, 3 of them no less: the venerable CBI, the shadowy Enforcement Directorate and a third one many may be hearing for the first time, the Narcotics Control Bureau, or NCB].

Round here in Chennai, it’s more of that depressing stuff no one wants to hear about: corona news. New cases, recovering cases, cumulative number of cases, vaccines, treatment ... Give us a break.

Wait a minute, here’s something: Karnataka lifts all curbs, no tests, no quarantine, all are welcome; that’s not too bad, wish the TN authorities could follow suit, and Kerala, Andhra and Telangana too. A 15-minute news bulletin in Tamil -- wait, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada too in the southern news bouquet on the cable -- and nary a mention of the riveting soap drama being played out in Mumbai? No, just a brief clip or two on Rhea Chakraborty [now, who doesn’t know her?] being grilled, arrested and sent to Byculla jail; sadly, none of the salacious stuff one is looking for.

Oh, and a couple of minutes on the clashes in Ladakh in the bulletins; goodness, one had almost forgotten about them; the Chinese don’t seem to go away, despite banning all those apps. So, matter of fact, these southern TV channel news bulletins; really miss the high-octane stuff on Bollywood, drugs, murder and mayhem which our Hindi and English channels put out; but that’s how it is down here.

Welcome to the sedate, sober, even sombre if you like, South

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