The channel war and after

AS `The World' comes to an end with the Monday dawn of March 24, off comes the Mandira warpaint too!

BHARATAN

AS `The World' comes to an end with the Monday dawn of March 24, off comes the Mandira warpaint too! The Final World Cup Hour of Channel War, therefore, is here in which to clear a persisting confusion in all India's telewatch mindset. About whether the So `extraa innings' was ever designed to be anything but the meretricious exercise in glossy vacuity and mediocrity it's turned out to be. Even as ZEE crudely parodied Mandira's `extraa innings' as "extraa fittings", STAR fought the channel war at a commendably professional level. Amazingly managing to ear-hold its own in the face of being without the World Cup visuals zebra crossing viewer mind. Full marks to Cheetah Charmer Bhogle (as STAR's Harsharp-shooter) for keeping us so absorbed via a non-live commentary team unfailingly on the ball, ably aided and abetted by a Jason Dasey ultra-vibrant on `Sportsline'.

Sourav Ganguly for a crucial period refused to speak to either Sony or STAR. -- Pic. REUTERS-

`Advantage STAR' here it was only because telebuffs — so turning to `Follow Through' after 'Taking Guard' — had a mental stake in the World Cup as a serious contest. While Sony proceeded on the Mandira-cushioned premise that "All The World's a stake''! Sony here first professed not really to be interested in the cricket committed audience STAR was evil spiriting away. But as Sony's clueless choice of Asian commentators came home to Kangaroost, MAX had reason to feel concerned. Especially after Sourav, as the Dada of Indian Cricket, refused (for a crucial spell) to speak to either Sony or STAR.

Harsha glibly roped in Tug-of-Warrior Nana (`Krantiveer') Patekar as the STAR salve to Sourav's pride. Even while defiantly keeping Sherry in the telepicture, if discreetly taking Sunil off the sour screen for a while.

Where Sherry had the gift of expression handsomely to hold out the olive branch to centurion Sourav going by that `Kenyardstick', Sony knew no such subtlety of outlook — immediately. The brick Sourav dropped — just before brickbatting his way to that Hero Honda-in-hand 107 (120 balls: 11 fours, 2 sixes) — came as a bolt from the `men in blue' for Sony.

Indeed Sony, `live', fatally failed to resolve the deadlock in good time. Primarily because, as the Gold Digger Channel prospecting out there in South Africa, Sony had no roots in cricket as a world sport. Remember that Mandira, Rithambara, Maria, Sandhya — the whole com commandeering lot lose telly validity, once the World Cup Final is played out (on the SonyMax screen). Sony ephemerally returns to ersatz cricketing view only with the Mini World Cup. A full two years away! Sourav & Co. could, therefore, venture to pinprick the Sony bubble — as set to burst by March 24 in any case. But STAR the Indian team has to live with through countless ODIs and Tests on the anvil right up to 2007. The four aces making up our captive cricket pack could only for now, therefore, afford to act pricey with STAR.

Even such a brief confrontation with STAR was possible, on the pert part of our Pakistan-vindicated team, only because the Sunilabelled Channel was not `instantly' visually live during the World Cup. Yet Sourav should know that no superstar ever won out in a prolonged face-off with the media. Dilip Kumar was the first to wage such a media war. Dilip Kumar could not rationally hold out, once Dev Anand declaimed that he never did believe in our top stars denying the media "Right to Information''. Amitabh Bachchan — as the superstar supreme after Dilip Kumar — declared a similar wet-blanket boycott of the media in the high Rekha-smitten meridian of his career. Even the Big B's peerless status could not sustain the stand-off in the aftermath of the `Coolie' tragedy seeing Jaya fittingly take over.

Likewise Sourav, I say, after illusorily looking like having won the channel battle, could lose the media war in the run-up to our big cricket events after the World Cup. Seeing how EspnStar's hold on our tickety-boo cricket icons is set to abide long after the World Cup. While, on DD, Sourav and his men are face to face with the same Chikka via the same Charu! For Sourav's enlightenment, even Lata Mangeshkar, who cut so many moneybags in our movie industry to size, thought it discreet to keep Sony on her prime programming side.

As for viewers and their disenchantment with Sony, the Indian tubewatcher here overlooks the rude reality that `extraa innings' is brazenly conceded as something Sony conceptualised pre-eminently to announce this moony filmi channel's megabucks' screening of `Devdas' and `Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham'! Now, when the channel is SET to go off the cricketing screen, no use debating if MAX should have let Mandira (as `Third Eye Candy') pay lipstick service to cricket. If Sony should have let her Mandiram home the Mark Nicholas-directed point about why Sourav had not bowled Sachin, day and night, right up to the India-Kenya March 7 Newlands scare-off. ``Grant Flower should retire from cricket, now that he's claimed Sachin's wicket!'' — that was Vinod Kambli at least being original in Anglo-Marathese. It was not Vinod's fault that Sony plumped for player commentators who could neither be creative nor expressive. Pinpoint one fresh idea that Siva — otherwise so articulate in English — threw up to ignite our imagination. If it is the Sony `wooden spooners' you want to flesh out (following the Last Four stage in the World Cup), how do you pick and choose between the deadly duo of Ranatunga-Mahanama and Robby-Venky? For all that, LS and KS remain a contrasting case study in Tam Brahm rivalry. Each, even while commentating in his own distinct idiom, proving a reminder of `The Village Schoolmaster' mindframe that Oliver Goldsmith so tellingly synthesised as: "For e'en though vanquish'd, he could argue still''!