ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Prime-time News or Television Saga?

Vamping It Up

Rhea Chakraborty’s demonisation on the news and on social media is straight out of the vamp playbook from television serials.

When Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput died by alleged suicide in June this year, India did not know how to make sense of it. Television news channels did not have a lot to go on by way of reporting something as sensational as the tragic death of a movie star who was a presence in his own right in the famously cut-throat industry. There were few journalistic templates available for treating the issue with sensitivity, although television templates were aplenty. It made for a good story, but something had to be churned out for a 24×7 format when facts were not immediately on hand. Six weeks after the fact, therefore, when the Rajput family filed a first information report against the late actor’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, the story began to take on a shade that is familiar to most of the country. It made for a good serialised drama.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” boom the anchors in the countless segments dedicated to the issue—eyes gleaming conspiratorially, hands shuffling papers in order, seemingly about to deliver the judgment of a lifetime. Depending on which episode of the serialised drama one has tuned into, the hashtags #ArrestRheaChakraborty, #IndiaForRheaArrest, #RheaLieCaughtOut, #RheaMalignsSSRFamily, #RheaArrestedForDrugs flash, spin and collide with our line of sight with great urgency, frantic at the bottom of the screen, clamouring for our immediate attention. Juxtaposed with these are loops of images and videos of Chakraborty where she is seen working out, modelling for a photoshoot, practising yoga, laughing by a poolside—all presented in coded messaging that audiences are meant to see as uncultured and unbecoming of an Indian woman, unsanskari. What follows is an assortment of phrases meant to portray her as a conniving woman whose conspiracy to kill has been dramatically found out: “We have been following the WhatsApp chat dossiers that Rhea Chakraborty never wanted the world to see,” declares one such episode, triumphantly.

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Updated On : 28th Sep, 2020

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