Arnab's one-sided screamathon with Aparna Sen was vicious; it's time he brings decency to nightly gig

Day after a motley group of artists, filmmakers, social activists and medical specialists signed an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighting the atrocities against Dalits and minorities in recent times on Tuesday, Republic TV's Arnab Goswami went ballistic on-air questioning the purpose of the aforesaid letter and seeking to viciously attack Aparna Sen, one of the signatories of the letter.

Only that Aparna didn't hear the questions screamed at her over a mobile phone with no one to attend it on the other end as she engaged herself in answering questions of reporters who assembled for her press conference. Arnab was not in the venue of the press conference choosing to go with the onslaught from the studio itself completely missing the point that despite the massive use of lung power the intended target was out of range.

 Arnabs one-sided screamathon with Aparna Sen was vicious; its time he brings decency to nightly gig

A screengrab of Arnab Goswami's show

Around 49 signatories including Anurag Kashyap, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Shubha Mudgal, Shyam Benegal, Soumitra Chatterjee, Ramchandra Guha and Mani Ratnam expressed their concerns regarding a number of "tragic events that have been happening in recent times". The letter sought to highlight the importance of dissent in a democracy saying "criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country. Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments."

If you like to de-stress by watching others engage in a frenzy with deadly earnestness then the Arnab Goswami show is made for you. There is so much deliberate gore, bloodletting and indictment that one can get rid of built-up angst (like it was lactic acid) through visual surrogacy.

The other day I watched this one-sided screamathon between him and filmmaker activist Aparna Sen with bemusement because the subject was tolerance and every moment of the broadcast was a testament to intolerance.

It was almost ridiculous the manner in which Goswami, who was on the phone asking questions to Sen during a press conference, became apoplectic and hysterical, far exceeding his already over the top performances.

Has a touch of despair gotten into India’s number one heckler on TV that he now so violently guns for his social enemies? The sharper the crescendo and the closer it gets to a sort of hair flopping Hitlerian madness (whether contrived or real) as one witnessed that evening, the more one feels that there is a certain ‘losing it’ element entering his mental makeup.

What does one do next following such a vicious and hostile exhibition that makes even the subject under discussion redundant? It was ironic that the subject was intolerance as one saw an abundant display of this commodity.

A showman like Goswami needs aggression to keep it going. But as one level of rage becomes jaded, he has to up the ante to keep his audience numbers and TRPs intact. The one-sided screamathon was so out of kilter that unless he can throw stones or break chairs and engage in orchestrated physical violence, the future performances will come off as tame and tedious. Goswami’s major problem is neither credibility nor his disdain for debate, which he keeps asking his panel to do and then does not let them but to keep them coming.

Rightwingers, leftists, his Lutyen foes, leftist protestors, progressives, Pakistani generals, religious bigots and kooks are his feed and without them, he would simply fade away. If he continues to berate them as he did Sen and raise the stakes to the level of desperate going on nuts, he might suddenly lose them all and end up with tamed pussycats, if they collectively decide to boycott this show. They are his flip side.

This once, even public opinion was sharply divided with a fair number of comments deriding the overwhelming bad manners. At times, his hectoring of the filmmaker activist sounded like he had lost control and was on a verbal rampage — the sort despots display just before they are toppled.

Somewhere during this show, there was a feeling of discomfort in the TV audience. It is fun to watch liquid malice as people in high places get their comeuppance but this behaviour was almost feral in nature and since Indians are basically decent family-minded folks, this verbal violence did not sit well.

Goswami made few friends that night, and now, he must save himself and his show by cooling it and bringing back some sense of decency to the nightly gig. A couple more such vicious outbursts and viewers will switch off.

Updated Date: Jul 26, 2019 16:07:43 IST