When exchange4media invited me to write on this subject, I chose to write from the media industry perspective and not from any political point of view. This is not a piece to understand Modi or what he said, this is on the ABCDE of what this conversation means to our media and entertainment industry.
A: the Arrival
#ModiSpeakstoArnab is good news for Indian news media. Rahul Gandhi’s interview may be the landmark in the evolution of news media, but this one marks a respectable position for news, especially television news. One interview, right in the beginning of the season, nearly put a brake in leaders’ march towards toying with media. We didn’t see hard talks, we didn’t see interviews and we couldn’t even hope, forget to see a good debate between two top leaders. And the reasons were nurtured on both sides: the accusation of trivialization by interviewer and the lack of straight answering by interviewee. #ModiSpeakstoArnab takes a landmark position on how both sides will think and behave for the good of newsmaking.
It was evident in Modi’s talk that he and the party took a calculated call for agreeing for this interview. He said, “I agreed to give an interview for answering questions.” And am sure, there is no regret after this one. So Arnab has been able to bring to Indian television a much needed respect and this is the arrival of high quality interviews.
B: Bring it on the table
Arnab came prepared, not just with the questions but with the facts and the figures. So did Modi. When there was a question of giving land for an x amount to Adanis, Modi had an answer for him. At times when provoked, Modi asked for facts and Arnab presented them to him. Yes, there were banters and there were comments by Modi like “Main jaanta tha Arnab bahut research karta hai”. But thankfully, there was no blame game, there were facts and figures, right on the table from both sides, not just one. Arnab made references to past interviews, past rallies, showing his personal preparedness and not just tele-prompters’ or notes. The subject range of the interview was large, from own lands to inter lands, from co-politicians to leaders, from Didi to Beti to Madam, from opponents to collaborations, from the namesake religion to the way of life, from politics to governance. Arnab in that short period gave us a peek into wide range of subjects, each being strong in its own and each loaded with comments and facts.
I remember answering a questionnaire for our son’s admission at Bombay International School and they had one question on ‘What is being religious?’ pointed to the mother and ‘What does religion mean?’ pointed towards father. Same subject, two approaches. I wonder, if Modi had to write that paper, would the school authority reject his answer because he says Hinduism is not a religion, but is a way of life.
No, C was not cool as cucumber, it was c for courteous to achieve the objective. Arnab carried a meditated calmness around him. Twitterati went berserk to see Arnab’s cool quotient. They forgot he was doing a Frankly Speaking and not a News Hour debate. He was not instigating a debate. He stuck to his points of probing without hindering the talk. He was conscious of his language and courteous enough to say, “I don’t know how to translate animosity”. One tweet goes, “Why are we giving so much importance to Arnab? He is not PM candidate, Modi is.” Exactly.
Modi was quick in his responses; he did get edgy for a fraction of seconds but quickly composed. He did say, he has been mature in his reactions in some context and he maintained maturity all across. At one point, Modi even commented, “Aap apna naam history mein darz kara dijiye, aapne jiska interview pahele kiya tha aur aakhiri jiska kar rahe ho... to which Arnab replied, “I don’t want any credit. My job is to speak to all people in this election.” Arnab exuded not self-love as he is portrayed, but sheer duty.
‘Done’ is the word for the tone of the conversation. It was a notch above confidence, almost in the zone of declaration of results. Some statements went on these lines: Aap kab tak politics ki baat karenge... Mujhe sabko saath le kar chalna hai, 12th May ke baad baat karte hain.. . It seemed, the situation was not if or but, the situation was that decision done. And I didn’t find Arnab debating the same. He did say- Abhi toh politics ki baat karni hai but he didn’t contest much. It was just in the air. The conversation was more than ‘if’. And as a good news program, it just allowed to permeate the air with the tone.
I have only one word for Arnab: an erudite news professional. Kudos!
Vishakha Singh, is an entrepreneur and runs a shopper marketing firm. Disclaimer: She was a part of launch team of Times Now in 2004-07. Views here are her personal.