“A dangerous game is about to begin”. And with that Amitabh Bachchan, in Aankhein, launched a daring scheme to rob a bank with two men who could not see (Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal) and one man who could not see or act (Arjun Rampal).
It is not a coincidence that “A game is about to begin” was what Arnab Goswami chose to ominously utter to his staffers in Times Now before making his final exit. Whether he intends to start an international channel to take on the BBC and Al Jazeera or whether he merely intends to get his hands on Pirzada’s jewels we know not, but something tells me he will , like a Cyborg sent from the future, be back. Whether the magic he created at Times Now will ever be recreated, like the Anil Kapoor-Madhuri chemistry of Batata Wada, I do not know, but Arnabs of the world, at least the ones I have known, never fade quietly into the night.
It is just not in their nature.
Arnab Goswami is, and I hesitate to use the past tense for him, many things. An arrogant, self-important demagogue who broke news into a million pieces. A human mute button. A paper tiger. A showman in love with the amplitude of his own voice. A TRP-hungry wild boar. A narcissist who would shame Narcissus himself. Mother-in-law to the nation, in that he was always right, and he never let anyone else speak.
Whatever you may choose to call him, and we can get as imaginative as we want, Arnab Goswami was the closest we ever got to an independent pundit. When people call him a BJP stooge, they reveal their own bias, if not their unbridled jealousy at his success, for he has been an equal opportunities offender throughout these years, and it is, if you remember, Subramanium Swamy who called him a dumbo and an ignoramus, and the spokesperson of the BJP who accused him of “taking money from the lobby” and he has been subject to choice abuse by “Internet Hindus” and I know because I get mistaken on Twitter for him. When people call him a Bill O’Reilly wannabe, they forget (perhaps because they don’t know and they are using a name that makes them sound knowledgeable) that Bill O’Reilly’s main plank is social conservatism, and his bread and butter is “attack on Judeo-Christian values” and he rails and rants against the secular progressives who are ruining America’s “Christian” culture, whereas Arnab Goswami has consistently been progressive on religious Hindu issues—be it temple entry for women or being anti-377.
This independence I believe stemmed purely from Arnab Goswami’s core beliefs—that there is only King and only one God.
How do I know? Because I am an Arnab too, and that’s how we roll.
Pompous jackass he might have been, but here is one thing I can say. He talked to no lobbyist and he roughed up no critic and he sent no abuse on social media. And he went where no man has gone before. He took on the NGOs, and laid bare their agendas and their funding, and at least raised awareness as to the insidious ways they influence policy and opinion. No major media personality has done that before, maybe because they are all part of the same system. Arnab took on that system, the ones he called “Lutyens media”, and in a world where the media operates on an Omerta, it was refreshing to see someone major calling out his peers, all without taking their names, peers who would compare a terrorist with a freedom fighter or try to spin a extremist religious agenda into a resistance against the fascist Indian state.
Did he lack nuance? Of course he did. Did he simplify and stereotype? Guilty as charged.
But he brought balance to the force, and if his hypernationalism seemed overwrought, it was more than countered by the programming on the other side, of the “And they hanged Yaqub” and the secularization of an Islamic fundamentalist agitation, and the equating of a Burhan with a Bhagat Singh. And if his self-importing appropriation of national interest was cynical and transparently hollow, he displayed no less chutzpah than those who similarly appropriated the word “anti-establishment” as semantic cover for being “anti-a-certain-establishment”.
He took a lot of flak, from every side, and because he went after the media, from some of his media colleagues too. But instead of getting into Twitter wars and sending legal notices or shaking them by the collar, he just looked into the camera, and refused to even address them by name. It was a confidence that came from not just an undoubted ability to get high on own’s own supply, but also from a sincere belief that his show was the one that got the most conversation. He knew it, because even though he let no one speak on the show, and the guests would subsequently write angry articles on how Arnab Goswami bullied and cut off their mic, they would be back, each and every time as repeat guests, hoping to get 2 seconds of talk time on his multi-ring daily circus, all just to feed off Arnab’s popularity.
The lightening rod, the totem pole, the horn in the fog.
That was Arnab Goswami.
The only show in town.