Honestly, I felt no sympathy for Sridevi or her family, when she died four days ago. I have never really been her fan. Rather, I always liked Madhuri Dixit. And in any case, the last time I was deeply affected on hearing the death news of someone from the entertainment world, was way back in 1992. That of course was, and still is, a different story. But then I could not help but feel sorry for her soul, on seeing what has since been going on in Indian media by the name of news coverage, after her death.
I thought the greatest depth to which Indian media could stoop for sensationalism, was already achieved in the aftermath of the Uttarakhand floods and the earthquake in Nepal. In the latter case, they were deservedly booted out of the country. But then Sridevi’s death was a tragedy that perhaps had all the ingredients required for a dream orgy by Indian editors. She was a still-glamorous diva, had a history of husband-stealing scandals, suffered a mysterious death, and above all, there was a bathtub.
And what orgy did they have. From anchors presenting news in front of the picture of what was outrageously named Maut ka Bathtub, to others reporting from a studio that resembles—hold your breath—a bathroom with a tub and a glass of wine. Worse still, was a morphed graphic background of Sridevi floating on a tub. The channels were brazenly courting one-upmanship to be the most bizarre. But the pole position was taken by a regional news channel where the reporter actually tried the ‘drawning’ experience firsthand, with a disclaimer that the act was performed by a professional. Eccentricity ruled the roost under the garb of news coverage.
That aside, how could India’s scream-master generals, the Shivshankars and Goswamis, let the opportunity go and not have a panel discussion on how the actress died. A veteran political leader even claimed to know how much the deceased actress loved her alcohol.
But then, who ever had high hopes on Indian TV news? Did we? Also, are we really in a position to blame these news channels, when the society as a whole had a field day playing Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot? Instant messengers were flooded with theories like how the plastic surgery and/or crash dieting killed her. People pointed out how both wives of her husband Boney Kapoor died prematurely (the earlier one died of cancer, so unfortunately no conspiracy theory here). The few things that could have made the saga perhaps more interesting was a byte from the stepson, checking the alibi of actor Shakti Kapoor, some random politician blaming western culture for the death, and a contortionist baba promoting a desi drown-proof bathtub.
Even the print media, widely considered the last bastion of journalism, made Sridevi’s death an all-page fodder. Conspiracy theories, bordering on insanity, were cooked up and the news was catered as possible murder, investigating the role of alcohol and drug abuse, without even reaching the crime scene. A newspaper even indicated the possible curse of Kapoor’s first wife in Sridevi’s death.
As I write this, her body has just arrived in Mumbai from Dubai. The last rites of the actress are still at least a day away. But that won’t let her rest in peace. The Indian media, in a shameless dog-eat-dog battle to bag the highest TRP, will make a story out of every teardrop shed in her hometown. The agony of her daughters, her family and friends, will be forgotten. More than what actually caused her death, Sridevi died in a tub of sensationalism and voyeurism.
RIP ethical journalism, RIP Indian media.