Indo-Asian News ServiceNew Delhi, (IANS) Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, smarting over the panning of his film “Mangal Pandey”, says the fourth estate should be the watchdog of society – not its lap dog.
“Because they want more advertisements, they are destroying what is a very important part of the society – news reporting. It is wasting important national space that should be used in a more productive manner,” Aamir said, breaking several months of silence in an exclusive interview to Tehelka newsmagazine, during which he spoke at length on the state of the Indian media.
This is for the first time any actor has dared to do so. He said it wasn’t just the cynical decimation of the professionals or the intrusion into the deeply personal matters like his divorce and remarriage that irked him, but the misplaced emphasis on sensation that was cause for worry.
Aamir feels that as a public person he should voice his opinion because news reporting is a “matter of national concern”.
Talking about his current release he said that despite the expected media interaction that the film’s release demanded of him, he couldn’t bring himself to deal with “this kind of people… this monster that the media had become”.
Aamir said he shunned the tinsel press even when he was just a beginner.
“At that time, the mainline newspapers never reported films, there were no hundred channels, only Doordarshan – so effectively you were cutting yourself off from fans if you didn’t speak to film magazines. I understood that, but I chose to do what was right.”
Even today, he feels the same about the press because the core principle of journalism – that of being a watchdog – is being violated.
“The media is meant to be the watchdog of society, not its lap dog! Some restraint you have to show, boss,” Aamir maintained.
Commenting upon the sting operations he said: “Sting operations are admissible if they are governed by public interest. But the non-stop ‘absurdity’ of mainstream media content – be it the Salman (Khan)-Aishwarya (Rai) tapes in Hindustan Times and The Asian Age, or Channel 7’s faux interviews with myself, or the India TV sting on Shakti Kapoor, or alarmist file footage of the Mumbai floods for the second round of monsoons that hit the city, or poaching on an ailing Amitabh Bachchan, has forced me to stop reading and watching most papers and channels.”
The actor, who finds both Hindi and English media guilty of overkill, prefers watching Doordarshan.
“At least one is spared the theatrics, deep sighs, wiping of tears and background music,” said Aamir.
“Some news channel has to get up and say I am not indulging in this. It might lose viewership for the first month or so, but it will establish that it is not indulging in all of this, and I am sure people will come around.”
The actor said: “This is where even channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN, who set them up to be different, have not made the mark.”
He said that trivialisation or degrading of news is something he won’t take and feels in something as sacrosanct as news reporting, commercial priorities must take a backseat.