The art of the inappropriate
By: K.G. Sreenivas Dated: January 10, 2015
The atmosphere is riven — with frisson. There is an air of suspended animation. It's four in the afternoon.
Shashi Tharoor is expected any moment. A big media contingent has descended on the sprawling Aspinwall House, the main venue of the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014. Other visitors have got wind of Tharoor’s arrival. So you have young burka-clad mothers with children in tow awaiting the ‘arrival’.
Aspinwall House is packed.
Dr. Tharoor's arrival is no mean arrival.
Newsy expectations are high as Tharoor faces up to the newest developments surrounding his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s unfortunate death a little under a year ago.
Tharoor's charisma and good looks ironically compound his persona.
Articulate, therefore, extremely attractive for the media. Hugely popular, therefore, not exactly admired by competitors in the state’s Congress party. Widely regarded as a global personality, therefore, respected grudgingly. Charismatic, therefore, possessed of a ready charm few politicians can boast of. And, last but not the least, a competent scholar, therefore, beloved of a certain reading class.
That makes for a rather fetching package.
Tharoor, a former union minister, arrives and is quickly enveloped by dust and the rising gaggle of reporters. KBF President Bose Krishnamachari and Director of Programmes Riyas Komu are at hand to receive and take Tharoor on a tour of the site. Local Congress legislators too form part of the bustling, and unruly, entourage.
Tharoor makes for a great picture. Handsome, with hazel eyes behind rimless glasses, he stands above the crowd, tall, comfortable, and confident.
The media has now been circling the wagon. Tharoor emerges from one of the exhibition halls and is instantly deluged by a barrage of questions.
The questions are predictable. And far from art. “Mr. Tharoor, why are you shying away from going to Delhi?” Another one: “When are you due in Delhi...”
The response is firm, measured.
“I am here to see the Biennale, an extraordinary event in itself. Let’s not waste time over questions that do not have any relevance to the event. The Biennale is a far more important event,” said Tharoor in a brief statement he made to the hungry press.
The media rarely gives up.
This writer asked a young television reporter: “What would you like to ask Tharoor?”
She smiled, before she walked away, slightly puzzled, into the throng of cameras and mikes and crossed wires.
By then the P2Cs (piece to camera) had begun... “Mr. Tharoor refused to answer persistent questions from the media about his plans to go to Delhi to join the investigations...” And so on.
The Biennale was a footnote.
And that firm and clear line between sensationalism, on one hand, and responsible and relevant reportage on the other blurred by that compulsion to seek that big headline, however transient and meaningless.
Is voyeurism journalism?
Or is journalism the pursuit of the contextually inappropriate?
What do we seek anyway?
Postscript: When this writer sought to speak to Tharoor, he put his arm around him asked who I was. When I identified myself, his response was swift: “No, I don’t want to speak to the media.”