Powerful feel the need to muzzle media: Swara Bhaskar

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Kolkata: One would expect an exciting discussion when actress Swara Bhaskar, radio jockey Jimmy Tangri, actress Saayoni Ghosh, film director Arnab Middya and author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu came together for a talk show at the 44th International Kolkata Book Fair on Tuesday. And they did not disappoint!

The session– Media, Literature and Society, was a successful one. Though the discussion was, how media and literature affect the society and the vice versa, the panelists could not but talk about how the media and the literary world is affected by what is happening in the society presently.

The Nil Battey Sannata actress Swara Bhaskar, who has been very vocal against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and visiting different forum campaigning against it, did not mention CAA issue, and remained focused that the media is being muzzled by the people in power. Bengali actress Saayoni Ghosh too was forthcoming with her version on how the people from the acting fraternity are being sidelined for expressing their opinion against the government.

First to speak at the show, Saayoni said today it is being told that poets are not real, they live in fantasy. She said she could rather wake up to a dream than to a bitter reality. She rued the fact that people, in general, are happy with what they have and not move out of their comfort zone. “We see students being compelled to protest, they are not studying. If people are not literate, how can they be literary?” she asked. She pointed out at another problem the society is facing today is that children are more interested in information than knowledge, more interested in getting updated than being educated. “The media is supposed to give us a true narrative of the society. But it has changed. There is yellow journalism. People who have an opinion are being showed aside. The society is getting drifted from the truth and the more the drift, the more it will hate the people who speak it. Today, there is an historian who is being heckled on the streets, a professor in Varanasi who is being boycotted from teaching Sanskrit because of his religion. What is going to make India rich is its homogeneity that binds us together, said the actress.

Continuing from where Saayoni left, the Bollywood actress, who has a strong voice of her own and has raised it against injustice in the society, said media does the job of amplifying stories for the society. The stories are powerful. But, the system feels the need to control the stories the media show.

What binds the three aspects of our lives, she asked. “Society is where strong stories are born, literature tells those stories. We do something similar. Literature sometimes takes the form of cinema. Media does the job of amplifying those stories. But we live in a time when people in power feel the need to control even the stories being told. That is the power of stories. We have all our lives being told of Ravana from someone else’s perspective. When we hear Supranakha’s story from her mouth and not from a man recording the story, it makes us wonder if what happened to her is completely unjust and unfair. Stories teach us empathy and humanity. We live in a time when in the society where there is a paranoia of such powerful stories being disseminated. Today, our country is being mired with protests by common citizens who come to the streets to stand up for our constitution. Standing at the literary platform I must say the first set of protests started, when this government came to power, was when authors refused and returned awards by the government. That was a powerful gesture, rejecting hate,” she said.

But before making her thoughts known she gave a disclaimer that she is a polite person at heart. “I have to keep proving myself as on Twitter I come across as being possessed by some ill-mannered spirit,” she said.

Author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, whose latest book Status Single: The Truth About Being Single Woman in India is being sold out well at the fair, she has tried to bring out voices of the people to the fore, be it the topic of sedition or the story of a young girl, who was being brutalized by a godman in the pretext of teaching her how to become a mother. RJ Jimmy Tangri talked how using a medium of radio he was able to save people from committing suicide and connected 26 couples on air. For him that is the power of the media, while director Arnab Middya talked about how telling a story on cinema is so difficult.

Prof. Ujjwal K. Chowdhury, pro vice-chancellor Adamas University moderated the show.

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