To distinguish between the real and the unreal—the truth and the other truth—has always been tricky in India and often a source of much strife. In a land of multiple faiths, sub-faiths, identities and sub-identities, rainbow seekers abound. Even in our politics, Bharat and India are debating points, one supposedly more real than the other, though at the moment both sides are struggling to grasp the idea that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is for real. It was only a matter of time before the hundreds of entertainment television channels began their own experiments with reality. Reality TV today is the popular genre, even surpassing the soaps in ratings. Of these, shows meant for youth have been blockbusters. Their impact on teenagers and a new-adult viewership deepens by the day.
Our cover story “True Lies” profiles MTV’s Splitsvilla, India’s most popular youth-based reality show, now six seasons old. Planned to a T, the show is all about getting real people do obnoxious, often sexist things on TV. Its fans are legion, with many in small towns forming their ideas about love, life and women through the gospels of Splitsvilla. You would think the impact of shows like these would be a subject of academic study, but it seems not. Our brightest at our best universities and research bodies have not yet examined the phenomenon, says Alia Allana, who spent more than two months on the story.
Investigation of terror cases in India, across states, is strikingly similar. Apart from framing innocents and achieving an abysmal conviction rate, police forces pin everything down on a core group of about 70-odd individuals and an organisation called Indian Mujahideen. Cases are cracked in record time, masterminds are always eager to sing, and individuals from this core group are conveniently loaned from one state to another. Govind Krishnan V’s investigation “Haunted by terror” chronicles the story of a Hyderabad family, whose members, spanning generations, have been arrested in different terror cases. Yet no one has been convicted; sometimes they are acquitted after years in jail. Even in ongoing cases the prosecution is on thin ground.
Don’t miss the essay (“Wasseypur to Shanghai”) on the films of Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee about how their works engage with politics. The photo story this month (“Moving with the reel”), an award-winning work, documents the travelling cinemas of Maharashtra and the wondrous expression on the faces of its patrons as they watch the films.
Saurav Kumar, Editor