Sans the usual fireworks in his hard talk with the Prime Minister, the mellowed down version of Arnab was a clear disappointment for his scores of fans. The Prime Minister indeed got off easy and that was not his fault…writes Bikram Vohra
Obviously Goswami was out of his depth and robbed of command, unable to raise the pitch of the programme.
You are facing an erudite man across the table and he is not a pigeon in a pigeonhole whom you can control. Shorn of his usual armoury and mildly intimidated by the ‘presence’ ofNarendra Modi the anchor fell back on traditional Indian courtesy and respect instead of being a TV journalist.
People like Tim Sebastian who made Hard Talk world famous brought a style to their one on ones. Even Stephen Sackur has that aplomb and they don’t lead the witness or give him gumdrops to sweeten the path. On the other side people like Jimmy Fallon and Ellen Degeneres have adopted a playfully disarming manner that still has the famous occasionally squirming in their seats.
Either that or you be outrageous like Rush Linbaugh or that redneck Earl Pitts. No punches pulled.
Here is where Arnab was handicapped. His style does not suit a one on one especially if he is shorn of his power. He has become so accustomed to badgering and yelling and holding the reins of the chariot that his style could not display the flexibility of an adult conversation and filtered into a teacher-student affair.
The only way he could have achieved that affect of putting Modi on the backfoot would be to get hostile like he did with Jairam Ramesh or would do with Subramaniam Swamy or even Arvind Kejriwal. Righteous, loud, overbearing. With such folks he would have been in his element and wiped the floor with them.
Modi bested him at his own game. He eruditely disarmed a man who already had a jammed pistol and sprayed his charm which he manufactured as honest answers.
For Arnab discovering an opponent who was unafraid of him or his acerbic manner there was either the choice to surrender the fight or go aggressive and rude and loutish which he just couldn’t bring himself to do.
There is no middle ground for the anchor and he was lost in the wilderness of his own making.
A more sober and may I say mature person would have drawn the PM out.
Since Arnab could not or would not or did not penetrate further and demand more proactive answers to the questions on NSG and China and talks with Pakistan the viewer was left feeling he was munching a wafer, so thin were we on fresh content.
If you interview a leader exclusively you have to break fresh ground. There must be a milestone, either in statement, or in policy or in intent on an issue of fiery importance. Simply ambling along as if you were looking for a nice restaurant to dine in doesn’t cut the mustard. At times Arnab was almost showing the PM the menu.
The viewer has to come out wiser on some subject.
This is mandated. People flock to the screen to hear THE MAN tell us something dramatically new. Not the same old, same old.
That is exactly what happened. No one stung like a bee or floated like a butterfly doing it.
Again, not Modi’s problem. It was not his show. If you do not want to corner him and you are delivering baby punches rather than uppercuts why would any boxer not just shadow box around the ring and play with you.