Important to critique, record and lift veil from journalism: Ravish Kumar - Hindustan Times

Important to critique, record and lift veil from journalism: Ravish Kumar

Jun 03, 2024 04:23 PM IST

Important to critique, record and lift veil from journalism: Ravish Kumar

New Delhi, If a housing society starts to collapse, people start looking for better options and move out, says journalist and YouTube star Ravish Kumar about the debate over the decline of mainstream media and the rise of alternatives.

Important to critique, record and lift veil from journalism: Ravish Kumar
Important to critique, record and lift veil from journalism: Ravish Kumar

The schisms between different kinds of journalism and alternative platforms that have come up in the last few years are no longer a matter of discussion just for media insiders. From village squares to big city drawing rooms, the issue has been dissected thoroughly, more so in these elections. And, according to Ravish, this is being recorded whether through documentaries or song.

The journalist, who has over 10 million followers on his YouTube channel and is considered a trailblazer, is also the central protagonist of Vinay Shukla's riveting 2022 documentary "While We Watched".

"If a housing society starts to collapse, people start moving to a better one. It is not like it is no longer needed. Which is why you will find the reflection of the times in many films, songs and in other ways,” Ravish told PTI in an interview.

“I don't see this documentary as the story of one journalist. I can't even see myself in it. I see different things, sometimes I remove myself and imagine a female protagonist or a journalist like Siddique Kappan and the story starts to appear more horrific," he said.

Vinay's documentary, which has fans such satirist-host John Oliver, won a Peabody award last month. It records Ravish's last months in NDTV India where he constantly battled staff exodus, doxing, abuse and death threats during the course of his anchoring and reporting.

The 49-year-old, one of the most recognised faces in Hindi journalism, said he sees the documentary as a sort of "intervention" as it focuses on recording the near beginning of the crisis in his profession.

He said people in journalism know the decline it has suffered and how the larger picture is disturbing.

"Many have stopped watching news on television and they are searching for alternative mediums. I am not going into the merits or disadvantages of the alternative medium but the work that's being done... for example, people who worked on the story of electoral bonds, were from alternative media," he said, adding that he worries about new journalists joining mainstream journalism.

"Vinay keeps saying that more than one film is needed to record this process in depth," he said, giving the example of senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta's songs on 'Godi media', a term that has come to be associated with those supporting the government.

"... most senior journalists, what are they doing? Their work is mostly the critique of the profession... At least, it is being recorded which is a good thing. It was time to lift the veil from this profession and I am sure something good will come out of it," he added.

Vinay, whose documentary is streaming on MUBI India, likened it to "Titanic". Instead of this being the story of Jack and Rose , his protagonists are the musicians who went down with the ship playing their violins.

"Making this film was heartbreaking for me. This film is a love letter to journalists and the profession, but not to the legacy media. Some people keep obsessing that this has happened in the last 10 years but I would say that this process began much earlier, it just became fast in the last decade,” Vinay said.

In November 2022, Ravish left NDTV India after the company changed hands and went on to start his own YouTube channel.

Vinay, who with Khushboo Ranka has previously documented the rise of Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party in his 2016 documentary "An Insignificant Man", shadowed Ravish for more than a year, capturing him at his job, saying goodbye to his colleagues one by one, writing, anchoring and worrying about his relevance.

"Those cake cutting scenes are humorous but also heartbreaking... I wanted people to know that tragedy happens in today's time while a chocolate cake is being served," Vinay said.

The filmmaker said he was curious about the world of journalism and wanted to show the nuts and bolts of the profession today. “The people who are still in it and trying to do their work honestly, how it is becoming increasingly hard for them," he said.

Ravish added that he has learnt a lot from legacy media but it is not for journalists to "generate false hope" and people should be made aware about the kind of journalism that they should not accept, an issue he kept highlighting while on television.

The Magsaysay Award winner said he was familiar with filmmakers as he had seen them during his coverage of A and its beginning but found it strange that they wanted to record his life.

"I thought they would leave after 10 days or a month because I live a boring and lonely life so there is not much variation in it... It was a time when my family constantly worried about my safety. After a while, their presence became a comfort of sorts. Looking back, I am surprised they managed to record so much."

Ravish said he didn't worry that they were capturing him warts and all. Some days, his family would remind him to at least wear better shoes or clothes.

"But I kept doing what I was doing and also I didn't have much time to think about their cameras... Anyone could guess my frustration at that time just by looking at my face. People in the office knew how I was barely managing."

He loved watching Hindi movies but left that after 2014.

"I won't say I was watching great movies. I actually came to know about Satyajit Ray later. Before that, there was no one better than K C Bokadia for me,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek.

“I caught up with some of Ray's films only during the pandemic. I was just buried in work and I think Vinay's film somehow has captured that intensity and anger."

He is still writing and working as an independent journalist on YouTube and jokingly refers to it as "Dublin devi ki kripa" as some of his cheques come from the Irish city. He has written books, including "Ishq Me Shahar Hona" and about things beyond politics and the state of the country, but it’s now in the past.

"Vo sab chhoot gaya hai. What I do is boring but I take interest in it, sometimes beyond the scope of exhaustion with whatever my ability and resources are... I don't remember the past much but worry more about the future," he said.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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