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India TV Anchors Get Baked In California Play
CALIFORNIA || A small theatre group started by students of the University of California 25 years ago, Naatak, now comprising members from India who have been living in the US, has been staging plays for 25 years.
At 8 pm on Saturday in California, which was 8.30 am on Sunday in India, the group did a live theatre performance of ‘Ultimate Breaking News’, a new play by Vikram Ramanarayanan. Since theatre went on Zoom in times of pandemic, it was available for audiences in India too.
The play had a rather bizarre plot – four TV journalists, two men and two women, are kidnapped and put through the difficult choice of either killing a colleague or facing death themselves. One could tell that one of the actors was modelled on a certain TV anchor whose case in India’s Supreme Court recently was fast-tracked. The others were combinations of TV anchors in India, to represent archetypes drawn from real life.
Even at the verge of being murdered, the journalists squabble over their different shows and strategies. There is talk of “editorial control” and why the format of a show was changed after “focus groups preferred that format”. A reference is also made to questions of justice, and what TV news could do, when a “man of law abuses the law” – a reference is made to the former Chief Justice of India, and the case of sexual abuse levelled against him by his clerk.
One of the four kidnapped anchors apparently had a “scoop”, where the CJI was at the verge of making a confession, but his boss would not let it run!
The whole kidnap drama is apparently a show itself, being broadcast live – so the actors cannot find a way out of it, but realise at one point that perhaps they can leave evidence of what happened by just recording their stories for the camera. Just as they begin to do that, however, the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle begin to fall together.
But let me not give it all away just yet. If you’re looking to watch the play yourself, a show will be performed again next week. For details, please go to https://www.naatak.org/. It’s not free, though, and costs five US dollars, which is about Rs370.
-- Rosamma Thomas
(The writer is a Pune-based freelance journalist)