Bollywood's love-hate relationship with the media

By Priyanka Khanna, IANS
6/21/2004 12:00:00 AM
In the good old days, the only professional a female lead in a Hindi film could portray was that of a teacher or, by some stretch of imagination, a doctor.

But post the satellite TV invasion and mushrooming of news channels, all actors seem to want to play the role of a TV journalist.

While such a role has become the first choice for the leading ladies, for the men, it comes next only to the role of a cop or an army man.

Farhan Akhtar's latest labour of love "Lakshya" that released Friday is an ode to both army men and journalists.

While talented actor Hrithik Roshan portrays a yuppie who finds his calling in the army, his love interest in the film is a TV journalist played by Preity Zinta.

It was perhaps inconceivable that Hrithik's character would have been reunited with Preity's at the peak of a war unless she was a journalist. Apparently, Hindi filmmakers have a long way to go before they can envisage the role of a woman soldier, but that is a discussion for another day.

Preity's character in the film, Romila Dutta, is modelled on NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt who achieved fame for her live coverage of the Kargil border conflict between Indian and Pakistan in 1999.

Before this, Preity had played a highly unrealistic journalist who sang and danced in "Mission Kashmir" - which was ironically directed by journalist - Khalid Mohammad.

In the past Raveena Tandon, Juhi Chawla, Karisma Kapoor, Twinkle Khanna, Namrata Shirodkar and many others have enacted roles of TV journalists but perhaps none has got the screen space given to Preity in "Lakshya".

Actors like Anil Kapoor in "Nayak", Shah Rukh Khan in "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani" and "Dil Se" and Arvind Swamy in "Bombay" have all played reporters and glorified the profession. In real life, the same stars get perturbed by journalists.

There is more to come.

National award-winning actor Konkana Sen will wield the pen in Madhur Bhandarkar's upcoming "Page 3", where she plays a journalist covering the lives and times of the glitterati.

But then, cinema is not the only medium through which the visibility of the fourth estate has gone up. Caricatures of journalists are used in several TV soaps and even advertisements of products as varied as detergents and fairness creams.

Says Bhawana Somaaya, editor of a trade magazine: "Be it satellite TV or print, the media has taken over our lives. You cannot imagine any function or gathering without journalists thrusting microphones at a celebrity for a sound byte.

"Show-business has turned into a circus in recent times. The media has to be blamed for this, particularly the electronic media," she adds.

She says that top directors complain that often they come out of a creative meeting and journalists phone them to question about their next project.

Adding another twist to the love-hate relationship between celebrities and scribes is that stars routinely use and misuse the media as a vehicle to settle personal scores and even send out signals to others about their eagerness to work in particular projects. However, they shut the media out at their own convenience.

Vivek Oberoi's press conference where he accused Salman Khan of intimidating him over his closeness with Aishwarya Rai is perhaps the worst example of misusing the media.

Some Bollywood associations have on occasion passed diktats asking journalists not to pan films in their reviews. Recently, one such association asked journalists not to write reviews until after the first week of release.

However, in the current boom time when films are doing well on the marquee and a slew of big-budget films are waiting in the wings for release, all seems to have been forgotten.