Long generations of Goswami men have snarled at terrified courtroom witnesses to “Answer the question…no, we don’t care about your thoughtful and intelligent opinions…JUST ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION!”, so Arnab’s aggressive badgering of guests on The Newshour is in his blood. The only difference is that Arnab (being more ambitious than his paternal grandfather) plays judge and jury and prosecutor all at the same time.
How do we know? We don’t. But it’s a safe assumption that nobody, not even Arnab, can be a raving loony 24×7. He has a family, after all – Mrs Goswami and all the little Goswamis would never stand for all that “the nation wants an answer!” nonsense at home.
Though overuse has made it sound now as appealing as steel claws being dragged across a chalkboard, Arnab’s catchphrase “the nation wants to know” is Psychology 101. Divide and rule, baby. Us versus Them. You, dear viewers, are the proud nation and Captain India is heroically demanding answers on your behalf from a rotating gallery of corrupt villains. It’s an unbeatable formula. Hello, Bollywood? This is Arnab calling.
Despite being backed by a massive media and publicity machine, Arnab occasionally makes blunders. Big ones. Case-in-point, demanding that the government stop rival channel NDTV 24×7 from airing BBC filmmaker Leslee Udwin’s controversial documentary India’s Daughter. The editor-in-chief of a major news channel supporting the government in gagging freedom of the press? WTF, dude.
Imagine being this close to a hungry Great White Shark for an hour every day. Hypertension? Sweat? Racing heartbeat? Rapid breathing? Weakness of the bladder? It’s the body’s fight-or-flight response to threat, and that’s what watching Arnab’s nightly outpouring of rage and conflict on The Newshour does to you. Like chugging 36 straight cups of black coffee in under 60 minutes. The good news? There is none, sorry. Actually, on second thought…
…the fight-or-flight response does boost adrenaline levels which, in moderate doses, helps you feel alive and energized. Like those annoying invitations to play Candy Crush that make you want to throw your smartphone against a wall, watching Arnab can make you feel like getting up and doing something. Anything. Like smashing your bare fist through the TV.
His father’s contesting of local elections on a BJP ticket and Arnab’s own ultra-nationalist stance on most issues aside, he treats political panelists on his show with absolute impartiality viz. he bashes them all senseless. Whether they are affiliated to the BJP, AAP, Congress or BSP, all politicians equally must face the hammer tongue and eardrum-shattering volume of our bespectacled superhero.
Ever wonder why in any Indian city, when there has been an accident on one side of the road, traffic gets jammed on the opposite side? Because everybody slows down to watch. Indians love tamasha of any kind. That is what Arnab has figured out as the secret to high TRPs (target/television rating points). The entire country gathers to watch in equal parts horror and excitement as he skewers one after another of his guests every night.
Remember that app back in the nineties that allowed you to beat up your boss by proxy on your computer monitor with a cartoon baseball bat? Watching The Newshour is a bit like that. Because what do you do if you get pissed-off with your elected representatives? When Arnab verbally bitchslaps a politician or three, it is balm to an urban taxpayer’s soul.
Maybe they’re sickos who enjoy pain? Wh-tsshh *whip crack*! Just kidding. Actually, there are 2 theories. One, Arnab’s assistants lie to them about how gentle the show will be and they fall for it again. And again. And again. Or, more likely, the negative publicity a politician would get for failing to appear to defend his/her party far outweighs the temporary discomfort of being yelled at by Arnab for an hour or so.
Arnab, while anchoring The Newshour, is not a journalist but a master performer in the theater of the absurd. The mistake people make is in criticizing his journalistic ability. That’s like criticizing an apple for not being more of an orange. If Arnab did what he does on the movie screen instead of behind a newsdesk, they’d shower him with acting awards. Or at least give him a lead role in the desi remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.