Monday, February 13, 2017

Today's Media - A Boon or Bane?


Reach of Media today is global and diverse - be it Mass Media (Press, Print, Television, Radio...) or Social Media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs..). The Community that plays a vital role in collating, and delivering news, information, ideas, opinions, through the Media, need to realise the fact that, what they put out there will remain (thanks to Digital), be (sp)read, inferred and acted upon by people from different countries, cultures, social backgrounds & age groups. Hence, the reported information should be factual, unbiased and/or needs to have an open mindset that can ignite healthy debates or discussions on varied topics. But, off late, it is quite depressing (and saddening) to read or see news, or follow posted information on networking sites, as everything gets "sensationalised" for no good reason. Anything and everything is presented with a gossip-like tone, without clear rationale or factual references. Adding to this, are some subscribers or followers, who dwell into such poorly-complied information and fight it out with a do-or-die fervour and make comments / judgements, without verifying the sanity of the source of information.

Some of you might relate this to "Echo Chamber" effect, rising the readers' "tunnel vision" or Upvoting (aligning to similar personal opinions) ideas or memes floated around, and in turn increase the popularity of such unverified information and "trending" them. This indeed promotes a "false" sense of opinions, against the stark truth of reality. Eventually, the involved parties are shocked to discover / digest true facts and go back to playing the "blame game" of finger-pointing rather than looking within or open to changing their personal views.

Today, everyone has easy access to voice out their opinions. If someone does not share the same view, it is becoming a norm to start using abusive language, to fuel rage and attract maximum "digital attention". During pre-Digital era, if such behaviour was displayed in public, most of them were looked down with utmost disgust. Even within the walls of one's own home, such unwarranted arguments were unwelcome by families. Today's growing fad is to lash it out though social media, wide open to the world, using expletives, with no guilt or sense of social responsibility. Such people forget the fact that ill-mannered behaviour will be etched for ever in the Digital realm, to be read by their future generations (including their own children and families).

How many of you can think of the last time, when the cover page of your newspaper had a positive news in its headline? While "sensational" news start to take centre-stage, most positive or pragmatic information (considered boring) are now are pushed to an inconspicuous corner. The most "trending" information on social media inadvertently tends to be news that promotes rage (e.g. War, Terror..), fake news, Gossips or dwells into private affairs of Civil Administrators or Celebrities. Most talk-shows and debates that are broadcast today on televisions & radios, promote sensationalising topics, rather than to focus on healthy & factual presentation of information. In some cases, the hosts, panellists or broadcasters are already affiliated to certain political or cult organisations, strongly fuelling such thoughts and spreading biased information. 

The freedom of anonymity that social media seems to give us, has made us forget the basic "etiquette" of sharing our opinions in public forums. All of us become news/gossip reporters, chain-cascaders and critiques, without understanding of the impact it can create. With the advanced tech gadgets and apps, it is very easy to "fabricate" information as an authentic one. Tons of such fabricated information being generated and circulated around every day makes me wonder about the quality of information accessible to our next generation and the impact it will have on their thought process and mind conditioning. Will they be able to "filter" out the junk and verify & absorb only the right information or will they soon be "corrupted" by the information overload around them and evolve into "shallow" citizens, with a restricted view? Does Big Data or Internet of Things (IoT) come to rescue? 

It seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, where people seem to ignore Mainstream (authentic & verified) media for news & research, while relying solely on Memes and other "forwarded" articles (It is ironical that sometimes even the mainstream media picks information from social media). Isn't mainstream media all about giving unbiased views without sensationalising them? Present only facts and leave the interpretation and polarisation to the readers and viewers? For example, during the Chennai floods in 2015, I kept surfing news channels in the hope to learn if things were okay with people of Chennai (as that was the only thing I could do staying abroad). But there was not a TV channel or News website, that could give me this assurance and instead they were successful in instilling fear for the safety of my family showing devastation (with strong background music) on a continuous loop. Yes, nature had its devastation, but there was also humanity at work. There were thousands of humanitarians who came out to the streets to rescue and provide support. That was probably a few seconds of the screen time, while the dramatisation of the havoc and ruins, took up most of the prime time and headlines. It has been the same during recent Serbian War atrocities, hordes of Immigration to EU or terror incidents across Europe. If negativity is what sells, then how can we expect positive thoughts to prevail? Everyday heroes are not idealised as they remain invisible despite doing their social responsibility correctly. One such recent example being the people who worked for years together for lifting the ban on Jallikattu (Bull Wrestling) in Tamilnadu and who are still working towards the goal of saving native breeds all over the Indian nation), while on-screen heroes are demonised by media irrespective of what do (or don't).

Many celebrities have also raised similar concerns across the world, including Denzel Washington (a victim of fake news and appeals to the media to differentiate "Truth" and "Gossip"), Meryl Streeps (to do responsible reporting and be able to question the wrongful happenings, irrespective of the power equation of the perpetrators involved), Kamal Hassan (challenges the media to report facts to common man and then have them deliberate), Shahrukh Khan (calls out on the media's ability to twist every opinion uttered by famous personalities to suit their personal vendata and TRP ratings) and the most recent one by Renuka Sahani.

We collectively fail to understand that it is always easy to be opinionated, when you do not have to "walk-the-path" that the person or groups about whom you are being opinionated or criticising. If we all start living the lives of the people whom we criticise, even for just 24 hours, before we are given the right to criticise, I am sure none of us will have anything better to add than what that person has to say. Let us be open to hearing alternate views, instead of shooting it down even before someone starts talking about it. Let us learn to "walk-the-path", before blindly criticising someone and to maintain decency, to challenge others' views politely, without hurting their sentiments.

It is our utmost responsibility to create this awareness to our today's generation, to help them filter such information and teach them to identify unbiased news & factual reports to help them channelise & articulate their opinions with an open mindset and encourage healthy debates with their families and friends, without being offended or making the others uncomfortable.

We still proudly make references to our classical texts like Avvaiyar's Aathichudi and Thiruvalluvar's Thirukkural, because they remain neutral to every facet of life or belief systems, and not biased. Don't we intend to leave behind such learning and experience sharing in the Media, for our future generations to cherish?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hello Dear Zindagi!

After watching the entire movie, my 9-yr old daughter asked, "Is this the end of the movie?" 
B: "Yes. That's the end." 
M: "That's amazing Appa (father in my mother tongue). No love or lived happily ever after?"
Now, I join the conversation between father and daughter to make a point - "There is happily ever after Dear. Why do you ask so?"
M: "No boy-girl love, senseless pursuit and then struggle, no kissing on the lips (ewwwwwwwww - her expression) and then finally happily ever after?"

That was the discussion at the end of the movie in addition to many more such Q & A session during the course of the movie. The parent in me felt really happy that I do not have to explain (read having to justify against my sense of better judgement, just so that she does not get scared of the big bad world out there) to my child that some of the scenarios that are portrayed in the movie does not necessarily happen in real life (mind voice cynically saying, "Really??" at the exact same instance).

For the first time, watching a movie with a fast-growing-up toddler moving towards her teens, was not a stress but a pleasure. Thanks to Gauri Shinde for another wonderful movie, that was a pleasure to watch with the entire family. It is a movie that we could relate to with our everyday problems in modern context. Personally, I felt that the movie beautifully conveyed a lot of important things that are so much the need of the hour and also, it does the job of a "counsellor" pretty well and costs way less than what one would spend to get themselves treated by a DD "Dhimag ka Doctor" (as the movie calls the psychologist). 

Dialogues like:

1. "Do you go to a DD because you want to tell the world that you are gay?" "No, I go to DD because I want to tell myself that I am gay."
2. "Why should you have to choose the tough path to reach for your most important dream and why not take the easy route if you are not even ready to navigate the tough route that lays ahead of you?" - a wise suggestion for anyone facing a dilemma in life (which is ever existing is everyone's life irrespective of the age or role).
3. "Who are these people that keep following you around who get to decide what is right and what is wrong about the choices in your life?"
4. "When you are comfortable with what you want from life and accept who you are now, then why worry about what others would think?"
5. "Don't let your past blackmail your present to ruin your beautiful future"
6. "Think of your parents are normal people and then look at their actions"

are learning that each of us need in our lives to move forward and embrace the present and welcome the beautiful future that can come tomorrow. Dreading what the future will hold, is a sign that we have let our failures or disappointments from the past to take over our present and hence our future to be scary.

To write one post about the greatness of this movie is not enough. Looking at the movie from various perspectives only makes me in awe of the director's finesse to have handled the concept and importance of Psychotherapy, the taboo attached to getting help for emotional stress one faces in their life, the emotional baggage all of us carry around with us trying to compare us with the unrealistic expectation (which is also probably a self interpretation of what the society wants from us), the misguided mindset of wanting to credit someone other than the one deserving of credit alone to their success in life, attributing personality and status to the dress code and conduct (I can go on and lose track of what I wanted to say when I started the statement). 

The part where Kaira (played by Alia Bhatt) opens up about that one instance that created a fear in her mind which has ruled over her entire life up until that point was well captured. To define what is that one thing that pushes you into the disruptive cycle of depression and fear is a very difficult thing and to bring it on a screen using imagination is even tougher. But the writer, and the actors both have done a phenomenal job. Also, the point where Kaira and Dr.Jug (played by King Khan) part during their last session, is also a brilliant portrayal of reality. This particular concept has been talked about in many movies both in Bollywood and Hollywood in varied levels fo elaboration right from a passing comment in speed "I have to warn you. I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work." to the Kiss that the teacher gives to the blind girl in movie "Black". This movie has dealt it with openly talking about it and saying it is okay to have such strong feelings towards someone who has emotionally or physically helped you, but equally reciprocating might not be possible or even if a similar reaction is existing from the other person involved also, it may not always be ethically right and/or have a detrimental effect on the emotional progress and then bid adieu and part as just a therapist and patient to go about their separate ways.

The movie ended on another great message about how you just need to fight the battle outside yourself and not within, only then will you be able to achieve your dreams in their fullest glory. This was not the only strong message. When Kaira's uncle (or father) tells Raghuvendra (played by Kunal Kapoor) that she achieved her dream because of him coming into her life for which Raghuvendra pauses a couple of seconds, and then says "She did what she did only because I was NOT part of her life" and raises a toast to it, then both Kaira's father and his uncle tend to agree reluctantly. 

This is one movie, I would probably be buying a personal copy to keep to myself. After movie "Salangai Oli", this is one movie, I am sure I am going to be seeing in repetitions and never get tired of watching even after the point where I can narrate the dialogues by heart. 

#DearZindagi