Have Deadlines Killed Our Conscience?

 Is that why they’re called dead-lines?  Have deadlines killed our conscience?  Have we media-persons become uncaring insensitive news  maniacs? How  else do we explain our appalling insensitivity  towards the  violation  of   Taimur’s  private space or when actors visit doctors and hospitals.

It’s easy to  forget celebrities  are human, so busy are they  posing as  super-human.

 It isn’t easy to deal with an illness. We all know  how it stresses us out, makes us  edgy and anxious. When it comes to the first- family of filmdom, the anxieties during a crisis are manifold.   When Amitabh Bachchan fell ill, chaos prevailed.

  There was  the added pressure of mediatized hospitality, thrust on them  by the constant inflow of VIP guests whom the cameras captured from outside the hospital…In a strange and bizarre way the cameras parked outside the posh venue of the Bachchan crisis  reminded me of  the celebrity circus outside the J.W. Marriot on the superstar’s 60th birthday …the same frenzy of celebrity floating   on camera.

   To their credit Jaya  and Abhishek played immaculate hosts to the steady stream  of visitors. Everyone who has been there  speaks   about the light-hearted positive atmosphere at the hospital. The conduct was more hospitable than hospital. ..though on several occasions some members of  the electronic media got thoroughly pushy and insensitive.

   “You’ve to  understand  their compulsions. Every channel was breathing down its staffers’ neck for tidbits from the hospital. Anyone who visited was collared for some morsel of information on what went on inside,” a tvjournalist told me.

         Given  the ghoulish curiosity for Bachchan bytes  in the media  can we blame journalist-friends of  the Bachchans for making news reports out of very private friendly visits to the hospital?

   They reminded me  of my favourite actress Shabana Azmi who once told me  how she found herself  observing mourners after a death for expressions that she could probably use later as an actress.

 We’re professionals. But we need to keep the human side at the forefront.  Given a  choice, I would rather be  a good friend than a professional journalist.

   The prime focus of the media this whole week  was on getting sound and sight bytes out  of guests, relatives and sundry visitors at  Mumbai’s Leelavati hospital  where India’s biggest  entertainer was recuperating after an operation.

 It mattered little to  us  in the media if the star whom we loved  the most was feeling smothered by our attentions. Oh, we love to shower those whom we love with our affections, unwanted or otherwise.

It’s like those extra helpings of puri and jalebi that grandma  insists on putting on our  plates even if we’re filled to the gills. Throughout his valiant battle with his sudden ill health  Mr Bachchan was seldom given the space to be on his own. He was badgered  and hounded all the way to the ICU.

      Abhishek  was portrayed as  the villainous offspring who kept dedicated media-persons from doing their jobs. He  was only doing his duty as a  son.  While the country’s most powerful entertainer was in hospital  Abhishek  ceased to be a Bachchan.  He was just a son fiercely protecting  his  father from constant media attention.

      It is another matter that Abhishek  couldn’t stop  family friends from going on television to comment on   the Big B’s  health…And never  mind if they  didn’t get   even a small glimpse of  the big man in the ICU. They got the chance to go on tv and talk about their close encounter with immortality.

 Fame is  flame.  Everyone wants to touch it without getting his or her hands burnt. And what better claim to ‘flame’ than  the Bachchan name?

In our hurry to get associated with  anything to do with the Bachchans,   we all forgot one important detail. At the end of the day Amitabh Bachchan is a 74-year old work-weary professional who needs the time and space  to bounce back.

    Did anyone think of  what he went through when he fell ill? Till the moment he  was down-under he kept believing that the acute pain  was just a routine  tummy ache …something he ate that didn’t agree with him. Till an hour before he was hospitalized  he was telling me about his packed schedules for  the coming week.

  Once in hospital the entire nightmare of  1983 when  he nearly lost his life came rushing back to him.  Speculation    in the media went on unabated…doctors’ reports in the papers, medical reports flashed on television, self-appointed experts and voluntary  well-wishers…oh , they all had a field-day.

   I think some of us owe the Bachchans an apology.

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