Sunday, 5 June 2016

A NUMBER OF QUESTIONS TO VIR SANGHVI FOR VIRTUOSITY

This relates to a program recently aired on News 18 Channel.I felt it lacked the depth of analysis, of looking at an aspect from all angles and unfortunately appeared to generalize all those who expressed angst over Tanmay Bhat's video as intolerant. I have therefore taken considerable pain to raise point by point objections in the form of questions for this particular episode. I hold Mr. Sanghvi in high esteem for his intelligence and caliber and was rather dismayed as to how he agreed to present such a binary view of this issue.

I am not sure whether it was the fault of the script writers of the research team, but I am posing these questions to Mr. Vir Sanghvi, since he is the front face (host/ presenter) of the show.

This blog was written, because the program on such a reputed channel by such a reputed outspoken host, has the huge potential to influence millions and hence it is really important for me to bring out certain very crucial points which the program has missed out on completely. 


News 18 seems to have just jumped into the bandwagon to glorify Tanmay Bhat with their program Virtuosity hosted by Vir Sanghvi 
(Indian print and television journalist, columnist, and talk show host. He has been a member of many professional, academic and government bodies.)




On having seen it, I was amazed at the number of inconsistencies and half baked facts that appear in the program. It is also amazing, how Mr. Sanghvi appears to speak of multiple, distinctly separate issues in the same sentences,in the same breath. Hence it was important for me to break down and examine his words piece by piece. (No marks here to Researcher VV Padmanbha Sharma- credited with research for this program)







Vir Sanghvi - Click on image for link to image



The title of the program is "Satire : Where do we draw the line ?"

  

Sanghvi introduces the word "satire" to us and tells us that it has been a part of Indian culture for quite some time. 
So here he is building up the argument that the Tanmay Bhat SnapChat video was nothing more than a work of "Satire". On looking up the meaning of satire, I came up with this definition :

"the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues."

Now the questions to be asked are :


  • Where did Tanmay Bhat expose and criticize Sachin ji's or Lata ji's stupidity or vices ?? 
  • The use of words like "Phuck" and "Kutrya" are part of which category of humor, irony or exaggeration ?
  • If a court is to decide whether the video was "satire", then let them decide. Why and how is this program classifying it as "satire"?
  • Tanmay may be using satire for his other jokes, but here we are talking about this particular video.Besides, what about his tweets about child rape, little girls, girls of the Parsi Community and North Eastern community ?
So the title of the program itself is questionable in relation to the context of it's content. Everyone will support a tolerant view of satire, but why is this program in a hurry to categorize Tanmay Bhat video as satire , is unknown.

The host then refers  to the west - quotes comedians and shows abroad which may have been more bolder with various timelines. Now again this begs the question :



  • If one society is tolerant towards abortion, should it be mandatory for all societies to be so? Why can't Indian society have it's own mind?


He then illustrates examples of shows in India -  Comedy Nights with Kapil and The Week That Wasn't - 


  • Can the host team or the channel please upload clippings where celebrities are shown using abusive words ? 
  • Cyrus Baroacha and Kapil Sharma's programs are a class apart from the video uploaded by Tanmay Bhat. Why is the program aimed at clubbing Comedy Nights with Kapil and The Week That Wasn't with Tanmay Bhat video ? Is to establish a logic that if you love Kapil and Cyrus, you MUST love Tanmay? 


He then cites the plight of other comedians who were criticized and subject of public outrage/ action painting them as victims :
Kiku Sarda - Ram Rahim case and Vir Das - Abdul Kalam case. In the former case, Kiku was portraying a religious leader as a monkey and in the second case Vir Das refers to Former President of India hosting MTV cribs, having swag and defending himself against a fictitious lesbian assault. In both cases, the comedians were let off albeit after some police action. An interview excerpt from Radhika Vaz (her video - not the interview is on the top) is played who expresses concern over the Kiku Sharda case. 

Radhika Vaz


  • I was once asked by the police to provide my identity papers and questioned for about 10-15 minutes when I was travelling late on the road. I actually appreciated the police for doing their job. So should I have played victim? So now it's a crime for police to keep checks or try to prevent a situation from getting out of hand?
  • So are you trying to say that people who insult the sentiments of millions of people should not be restrained/ cautioned in any way whatsoever?
I wan't to bring to the kind attention of self styled sympathizers and judges like Radhika Vaz and Vir Sanghvi, that even Kiku Sharda condemned Tanmay Bhat's video. 

  • Why didn't the program show reports of Kiku Sharda condemning Tanmay Bhat ?


Comedians now feel under threat declares Sanghvi. He then singles out 
North Indians for their inability to take jokes as compared to South Indians?? "North Indians are allergic to satire," he declares. 


  • Has he ever heard of a Sardarji ?
  • Ever heard of Khushwant Singh ji?
  • What's the point of creating this differentiation between North India and South India?
  • Does he have any data to show that North Indian's are intolerant/ allergic to satire?


He then talks about Kerala's art forms on satire. Then shows excerpts of interviews with some comedians. One of them calls politicians "intolerant" - the most over rated word doing the rounds.

Next, he declares that the Law is on side of the Satirists 
!!! How does he conclude this ??? 

He quotes excerpts of an interview with noted lawyer Sanjay Hegde as if to illustrate his point. Sanjay only says Tanmay has not broken any law so long as no one files a case of defamation against him - Both criminal and civil cases can be filed. So Sanjay DOES NOT SAY LAW ENDORSES TANMAY 


  • What was the basis of inferring in any manner that the Law is on the side of the satirists?
  • Who has decided that the Tanmay video is satire?
  • Law is on the side of everyone who follows it. Why single out Satirists?
The use of Freedom of Speech and Expression have been thrown around many times during the course of discussions to justify the Tanmay Bhat video. But this is not without its restrictions. I am reproducing below the restrictions :


Under Indian law, the freedom of speech and of the press do not confer an absolute right to express one's thoughts freely.Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian constitution enables the legislature to impose certain restrictions on free speech under following heads:
  • I. security of the State,
  • II. friendly relations with foreign States,
  • III. public order,
  • IV. decency and morality,
  • V. contempt of court,
  • VI. defamation,
  • VII. incitement to an offence, and
  • VIII. sovereignty and integrity of India.

  • Would Mr. Sanghvi or the channel please like to comment on the highlighted subheads 3,4 and 6?
  • Why were these restrictions not discussed in detail?
  • Why is only a part of the law being quoted on the program?

"On what basis did police ask video to be taken down??",Mr. Singhvi then asks. Well please refer to the above sections of our Constitution.

Then he plays another partial excerpt from Mr. Hegde's interview :
"Police generally lock up artists to protect them and then make a case. !!!"

But has it happened in this case ??Has Mr. Bhat been arrested. 


  • Why is it wrong for the police to request social media channels to take down a video if millions of people, including some celebrities are offended by it  to maintain public order??


"That's why satirists feel threatened with violence", says Sanghvi. "So does the police justification of keeping the peace keep working ??"


  • What is your process of declaring a person as a Satirist?? Is this process validated ?
  • If such a process has been validated, what evidence or conclusive data do you have to validate that they are feeling threatened with violence on account of police action ?
  • How many case can you cite where police has threatened a satirist with violence ?



 "I am on optimist", he says." I believe that technology will defeat the censors and the vandals."

"You can complain about 1 Tanmay Bhat , but what if 100s of satirical videos are loaded onto the net. ", he predicts.


Well thanks to your support, they just might and it would be a rather sad and unfortunate day for India is what I feel. 


  • Why are you "optimistic" that one day 100s of videos like the one Tanmay Bhat posted and which you yourself say you don't like , get uploaded for everyone to see? 


Cyrus tells us that  "You can't(prevent people from uploading objectionable content) so just look away if you don't like it ." 

Mr Singhvi then asks ,"Why pick on comedians? Why does police not arrest all those who post hate and threats of violence on the net ?"


  • Won't this create a rather bizarre scenario Mr. Singhvi, where, if I threaten a thief for entering my house, I would be arrested for threatening him?
I feel rather relieved that our laws don't operate by the logic or lack of it being suggested in this program.


Then he challenges the vigilantes, "how will they keep on complaining ??"


Then he credits AIB for promoting net neutrality!!!! He says net neutrality gained strength because of a video from AIB . 


  • AIB may have posted a video. But what is Mr. Sanghvi's evidence to support that the net neutrality campaign gained strength only on the basis of their video??
  • Does he mean to say that those who did not watch the video do not support or oppose or don't care about net neutrality?


Now he talks about people who are offended by the video by Tanmay Bhat and feel that a line must be drawn on satire. 

"Only the courts can draw that line" he informs us and that too only if the affected party files a defamation case.

This is again misleading. Here is what the law says : 


"Locus – standi for defamation cases: 51. No court shall take cognizance of the offence except upon a complaint made by the person aggrieved as provided in section 199 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This is so because the words “person aggrieved” does not mean “person defamed”. The words “person aggrieved” has a wider connotation than the words “person defamed”. Section 499 of the IPC provides that any person whose reputation has been damaged (or was intended to be damaged) by the material in question can sue for defamation. ‘Any person’ refers to a single individual, an association or collection of persons or a company..  . 


  • Why is the audience being misled ?
Any "person aggrieved" can file for defamation and not necessarily "person defamed" or in this case Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar.



"But there is also the power of public opinion to be reckoned with." and the   "political activists " 

Why is it a problem if public or political activists voice their opinion ?

He then tries to question as to why Balasaheb Thackerey ji was not criticized for his cartoons - "One man's comedy is another man's insult. What about Bal Thackerey who was ready to lampoon Jawaharlal Nehru and many others in his cartoons?" he asks. An excerpt from an interview of a member of Shiv Sena is played in response to Mr. Sanghvi's question where the person responds by saying that the cartoons had a certain caliber of humor and even those lampooned, always showed respect and admiration towards Balasaheb Thackerey. 


  • Do you think it is correct to compare the works of Late Shri Balasaheb Thackerey ji with video of Tanmay Bhat ?
  • Why was the response of member of Shiv Sena shown when everyone knows that Balasaheb is the founder of Shiv Sena?Would it not have been better to seek a response on this question from the member of the opposition? It would have been more credible. 
  • Does it not appear that the channel is trying to affect the credibility of the Shiv Sena and if so, why??


 Cyrus then laments that comedians cant touch (insult) high profile politicians, Gods, ,,, "don't get me started (sighs) We work with what we can." 

"Why should you care ? "pops the question on screen - "You should care",answers Vir Sanghvi,"for 2 reasons: 
1. This issue is not going to go away. As new generation gets more enthusiastic about satire, there will be more videos like Tanmay.
2.Technology will make it impossible to remove all videos"

For once I agree with you Mr. Sanghvi. 


  • Isn't this program presenting a one sided view which might encourage people to upload more crass videos which may offend the sensibilities of more people?
  • Could there have been the possibility of showing both points of view in equal measure?




"So we must (MUST ) come at a consensus as to how to respond to satire. We need to decide whether we are a society of law or one what crumbles at the first sign of violence and pressure", declares Sanghvi



  •  Who is crumbling ?
  • Who said there is any doubt as to the response to satire. The question still remains as to whether the Tanmay video was indeed satire or blatant insults in crude taste? 
  • Who has any doubts as to whether we are a society of law? 
  • Are you trying to tell the courts, the police and people of the country that we are not a society of law? just because some people got upset with the video?


He then summarizes that he doesn't like the Tanmay Bhat video,"it is offensive", he agrees,


BUT

 "BUT what I don't like even more , threat of violence, intimidation, and that some people should never be made fun off."


  • Is it O.K. if someone you don't know makes insulting comments about your close relatives? and make money out of it ?
  • Is it O.K. for someone to make fun of the God which billions of people worship? and make money out of it ?
I only support the part where Mr. Sanghvi says there should not be threat of violence or intimidation by vigilantes. But Mr. Sanghvi, it is equally wrong to support the instigators of the public outrage by misusing words like tolerance, Freedom of Speech, it's Satire so take it sportingly etc.


 It worries Mr. Sanghvi that police wont take action against those who threatened violence. 


  • Are you not worried at all about the hurt caused to millions of youngsters who look upto Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar?, who could be practicing cricket day and night or singing till their throats went sour in front of a photograph of Lata Mangeshkar?


  • Would it not have been correct to at least feature an interview of a youngster who goes to a singing audition and just before the audition seeks blessing of Lata Mangeshkar by looking at her photo in his/ her wallet or purse ? 



"Whats at stake is not only freedom of expression but also freedom of choice" he declares. 

"I have a choice to watch or not watch what I like and others deserve that right too. "


  • How can you declare whether Freedom of Expression is at stake ? Is it not a matter of judicial interpretaion? 
  • If this is your personal view, then why isn't this clarified in the beginning of the program? 




"So is satire here to stay?", he asks 


  • Who has made you the authority to declare Tanmay Bhat video as satire ?
  • Even if it is satire, if Tanmay Bhat faces some legal action later and is convicted by law, how does it affect the status quo of satire or humor for that matter ?




I am betting it is," he says," We are living in an India that is rapidly changing."


It would be rather interesting to note your reaction when someone makes a "satirical" video on someone you love and idolize on the same benchmark and standards of the Tanmay Bhat video . 

"Eventually, technology, demographics and higher education will work in favor of satire'" he declares.



  • Again Mr. Tanmay's video is not necessarily satire and is subject to interpretation. 

"We may not laugh at the joke but eventually we will have to stop shooting the joker," he ends.




  • So what is the extent to which the joker can go? Where indeed will the line be drawn Mr. Sanghvi? 
  • Why didn't you answer the question which was the title of the program and instead conclude by saying that the joker must be protected at all costs?
  • Had the lines already been drawn and this program is trying to redraw them by using strategies such as categorizing Tanmay's video as 'satire', police is vindictive, North Indians are allergic to Satire, Society is crumbling?
  • In which definition of satire does this tweet of Tanmay Bhat fit in,"Feel really weird everytime I see naked baby pics of girls. In my head I go 'Ha Ha! I saw your boobs!Ha Ha!' - would this tweet be acceptable in other countries also ?
  • How about this tweet by Tanmay Bhat '" How do you know children don't love rape?" ?
  • Why didn't the program cover these tweets while debating about how one should be liberal about the satire utterances and expressions of Tanmay Bhat?


Well, the perverted Joker in the Batman saga too had to be dealt with. A vigilante had to do it, when society continued to either join the Joker or look the other way. 


"WHY IS INDIA SO SERIOUS ???", MANY IN THE MEDIA SEEM TO BE ASKING. KIND OF REMINISCENT OF THE WORDS OF A FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD PSYCHOPATHIC CHARACTER WHO CRAVES ATTENTION AND KEEPS ON COMMITTING ONE HEINOUS ACT AFTER ANOTHER, SINCE SOCIETY IS TOO TIMID TO CONFRONT HIM - PLAYED BY LATE HEITH LEDGER.ENJOY THE VIDEO



IMAGE OF COMEDIAN TANMAY BHAT (LEFT) AND THE JOKER(RIGHT) PLAYED BY KEITH LEDGER IN THE BATMAN MOVIE
WHY SO SERIOUS? 



While in real life our society has taken legal course and sought the help of the law, lets not jump the gun in defending him and making out a case that we are intolerant.That the police are generally in a hurry to lock up artists. That any action against Tanmay Bhat is an action against all comedians and works of satire. 

Just like the people you don't like who are threatening Tanmay Bhat, I would like to advice you to have patience before jumping the gun to defend him like a vigilante yourself, through this one sided program.  Let due civic and legal processes take their course.










1 comment:

  1. Vir Sanghvi is a known Khangress stooge and part of the sickular librandu brigade whose only claim to fame is licking back sides of Congress leaders. His defence of mentally abd socially deranged elements of society like Tanmay Bhat is therefore not surprising.

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