Bashful Rahul Gandhi, feisty Nimki

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Yes, there is television before, during and after the news but first, some quick takes. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was absolutely right: Narendra Modi is a far superior communicator than him. The PM combines rhetoric with pithy catchphrases; Rahul relies on a bashful boyishness, engaging in coffee table “conversations”, inadequate at the high table of governance.

His interaction at Berkeley on Tuesday, lacked powerful, meaningful messaging so necessary in these contentious and media cluttered times. And, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proved, if you aren’t particularly charismatic, you must be solid and substantive.
TV reporters at Ryan International School, Bhondsi walked that extra mile to cover the murder of a young school boy last week; they took us on a virtual walking-talking geographical tour of the school/premises. So, the NDTV 24×7 reporter showed us the victim’s classroom, his entry point into the school, the distance between his class and the toilet where he was later discovered, his exact movements that morning.

Now, while our reporters/anchors are blown away by their own hyperbole, CNN’s reporters in Florida were swept off their feet by the wind. Rather than “Singin’ in the rain”, they were soaking in Irma’s downpour – didn’t their mothers teach them they would catch (a) cold? Surely, the dangers of such hurricanes can be captured without reporters drowning in a sea of words?

On to Star Bharat, the spanking new channel. It celebrates an odd coupling of realism with predestination, a sanyasi with polygamy.
So there’s the devotional song contest, Om Shanti Om a la Bollywood; a man married to not one, not two but to five women in Kya Haal, Mr Paanchaal – soon after Pehredaar Piya Ki ( Sony) was sacked following protests over its absolutely shameless attempt to exploit love and marriage between a 10-year-old boy and a woman at least twice his age.

There’s also a feisty village lass who wants to takes on everyone (Nimki Mukhiya); a Robin Hood straight from the Amitabh Bachchan school of hero-anti hero (Saam Daam Dand Bhed); and finally, a young boy haunted by his brutal murder in an earlier life (Ayushmaan Bhava).

Speaking of Bachchan, he’s back (Kaun Banega Crorepati, Sony), selling dreams, Jio digital payments and several government schemes.
First, Baba Ramdev. He’s not just a guru but a Mahaguru on Om Shanti Om which is devoted to “divine voices” – the contestants – who sing devotional songs. Ramdev ji is his usual spry self, willing to fool around in the spirit of things. He also sings. Ahem: His vocal chords could use a few stretching exercises. Sonakshi Sinha, Shekhar Ravjiani and Kanika Kapoor “judge” the 14 youngsters.

How do you make devotional disco? With sets from the interior of Baahubali’s palace and contemporary costumes/dances as in other talent shows. Also, extend devotion to desh bhakti – the trending national pastime. So when young Ali sang “Vande Mataram” everyone watched with rapt attention – why, Sonakshi actually stood up.

When Kanhaiya, 37, marries five women to fulfill his mother Kunti’s preposterous requirements in his wife, courtesy Lord Shiva, you’re aghast at the results: Five simpering women vying for his attention. Is this Hindu dharm? Is it even legal? Puerile, morally and otherwise offensive, Kya Haal, Mr Paanchaal should join Pehredaar in oblivion.

Nimki, a carefree, spunky, self-absorbed brat who always gives better than she gets, is delightful (Nimki Mukhiya). A taxi driver father and two younger siblings cannot control her wildest longings – or her tongue. Everything from gender issues to Swachch Bharat trip off her tongue guilelessly. Meanwhile, local elections in the village involve her with local politician Teetar Singh’s family politics. Winsomely satirical, watch it.

A rollicking poor-boy-rich girl romance with mafia dons and distasteful politicians sees Robin Hood Vijay as the right-hand man of local strongman Pankaj who is the chief minister’s lackey (Saam Daam Dand Bhed). His good guy brother, Prabhat, is pitted against Pankaj as MLA of Kausalpur – Vijay is caught between the two. Meanwhile, he has fallen for the CM’s daughter.

A powerful, realistic serial not without humour or violence, explores the seamier aspects of Indian grassroots politics. Just one question: Why is everything and everyone in the show, the colour orange tangerine?

A question worthy of KBC (Sony) into its 17th year, along with Bachchan. Somethings old, somethings new. Old: Contestants still tend to belong to rural or second tier cities like Hisar, Phoolpur, Sikar – why are metros discriminated against? And there’s the gushing adulation for Bachchan – very embarrassing. New? A Rs 7 crore jackpot, an extra lifeline and digital payments. Also, questions are more topical: Demonetisation, GST, Swachh Bharat, President Kovind, voices of Amit Shah, Jayalalithaa mingle with Hindu mythology and culture. Hmm. Ninety minutes of this and you long for Nimki.

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