The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It was news that made proud headlines in India. Aishwarya Rai had made it to the cover of Time magazine, leading “the invasion as Bollywood goes global and gets hip”. Inside, the story by Alex Perry (yes, the same Alex Perry who created a stir with his health report of Atal Bihari Vajpayee a few years ago) is pure mind-boggling hyperbole. Ultimate, incontrovertible proof that India had really arrived on the world showbiz scene.

Sorry to be a spoilsport, but it’s no such thing at all. Not if you go by Time’s own actions. The beautiful Aishwarya graces the cover of only Time Asia, the special edition published from Hong Kong and meant exclusively for this part of the world. The same week’s cover of the US edition couldn’t have been more different: the “New SAT Test”. Rai and her Bollywood don’t even merit a brief.

That’s the way it is with international magazines like Time and Newsweek, unless there is news of such universal (read American) importance that one cover fits all. Separate editions fashion content and cover for their own readerships and Rai and Co., as we all know, are surefire circulation-boosters in this part of the world. Not so in America — not yet anyway.

Richard Corliss, Time’s film critic, gives the game away in the Bollywood issue itself. “I am that strange, nearly solitary creature,” he confesses, “a non-Indian fan of Indian movies…The ones that no serious film critic west of Suez notices, let alone cherishes.” And goes on to really let the cat out of the bag: “When Devdas was shown at Cannes, I was the only critic still there at the end.” Still, who’s to say Bollywood’s time on the global scene won’t come soon'

Apple Singh’s back

Remember Apple Singh, ESPN’s cricket-crazy fruit-seller who became the most enduring image of the 1999 World Cup' Well, he’s back. But as Dharti Pakkad, covering elections on Sahara Samay every evening.

The same earthy humour (“What happened to the 12,000 buses you promised to put on Delhi’s roads' Tyre kam par gaya, kya'” he asked Delhi’s transport minister), the same pragmatic mindset (“Pyaz, dengue, balatkaar” — Delhi’s three biggest issues à la Pakkad), the same insouciance (“Diggy-jija, ye Madhya Pradesh ka bijli jab jaate, who jaate kahan'” he quizzed the chief minister) is adding up to an election programme that is refreshingly different.

Way to go, Sahara. It’s high time the Indian media was a little less grim about elections and their coverage. It’s started already, po-faced pundits pontificating over caste divisions and vote swings, earnest journalists looking askance at the ritual squabbling over seats, wide-eyed young reporters scouring dusty lanes and by-lanes in search of the “voter mood” (inevitably sullen over unkept promises and untraceable MLAs) and “burning issues”. Amidst all this high seriousness which often adds up to nothing (journalistic etiquette means you never ask anyone about their election predictions), a “common man”, albeit a trained actor but also a voter, pulling the leg of leaders is a welcome change indeed. Why hasn’t anyone signed up Mandira Bedi as yet'

Hindi cool

It has happened in politics already, it’s happening in journalism now — the break-up of the hegemony of the English-knowing class. The numbers were always with the regional language press, now they’ve got the glamour, the power and the money too. So Deepak Chaurasia, the political editor of Aaj Tak, can move to DD News at a reported salary of Rs 1.5 lakh, give or take a few hundred. Among those who vied for the job are said to be pure-blooded English journalists like former BBC star Satish Jacob and Outlook senior correspondent Saba Naqvi Bhaumik. At this rate, speaking proper Hindi will soon be cool. Certainly, at least two former colleagues have signed up for evening classes in the language they never thought they’d have to “learn”. How long before English journalists are seen as dinosaurs, out of sync with the India they report on'

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