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An interview with Monideepa Banerjie: Chetan Bhagat up close and personal

Feb 2017

An interview with Monideepa Banerjie: Chetan Bhagat up close and personal

Monideepa Banerjie needs no introduction and is a face and voice Kolkata identifies with. She has been with NDTV for 22 years and discusses folklore, music, society, politics and everything in between. Here is a chat session with one of the greatest personalities in the Kolkata media, it was so humbling to talk to her, she’s extremely gracious, kind and acknowledges every single person around her. She had me in splits with the answer to her last question, Read on…
·How does media see literature in contemporary times?
Almost as important as the media itself. I think contemporary literature could help people form opinions about a range of issues from politics, to society to all the obstacles that come in the way of being a good person. It’s important not to forget the past, tons and tons of books to read. It’s a good idea to find a balance between the two. I hope media is also doing justice to that. I am in the media you know to make some kind of a difference to somebody’s life. The funny thing is that Chetan Bhagat also said the same thing. So clearly somewhere the two meet.
·What is the role of traditional media vs the current slew of social media – do you think traditional media has taken a backseat and is losing its reach, influence or voice that it used to have at one time?
You know you are asking this question to somebody who is all of 54, and I hate the idea of typing on my phone but I love the idea of tweeting, I do a lot of Facebook, I am perpetually WhatsApping. In this situation where we have been confronted by this slew of social media options that has entered our lives, I still feel traditional media has its place. Print media, magazines, newspapers, television even now still has some space. But even now we need to keep pace with the changing times and cater to a very different set of audiences.
·Do you think because of the onslaught of social media some authors who are adept at using social media are then getting over-sensationalized/over hyped while other valuable writers, who may not be so adept at using social media are getting left behind.
This is a question that has dogged us for a long time and will continue to dog us, social media or no social media. For instance the Bollywood films and there is you Satyajit Ray. It’s not like the audiences for the two different genres of films are completely different. There are some spaces where they met. I suspect the same is going to happen. It is true there is a danger, even Chetan Bhagat said that about marketing. He really underscored the importance of that. And that’s a fact, if you want to communicate, you write to communicate and you if fail to get it out there and somewhere along the way you have failed your readers and so it is upto the writers to make sure their word gets out. Whether it is their friends or social media or literary clubs or literary festival or book fairs. And so the onus is also on the writers and so you are right the media could also perhaps be a little more discerning and not just cater to populist taste but also something better with lasting value.
· What are your views about the influence of party politics on the writer’s thought process – do you think it is a threat to creative expression?
It’s not always been there this pressure on writers to conform. But it has been there in the past too. If you are talking about a contemporary situation where a writer may not feel comfortable or may suffer because he or she writes about say, beef or umpteen other issues sure that person may come under pressure but these kind of situations has been there through the ages. I was talking to some artists yesterday, there is a lovely exhibition going on which I am promoting, and there too they said that without patronage no art can survive. Without patronage even writing you will find difficult surviving. You need patronage and then you have to be ready for criticism and the brickbats, even the political brickbats.
· You are like a celebrity reporter at NDTV, how has your experience as a woman reporter been? There are lots of young women who want to be part of media what are the challenges in the field and what would you say to them?
I would like to say that forget about our jobs being in a celebrity situation, it is NOT, whether it is Barkha, Rajdeep or Arnab or anybody else. The kind of HARD WORK that goes into this doesn’t make me feel like a celebrity for one moment. Believe me. It’s a lot of hard work. I think men and women are now competing on having to work as hard as each other. And what’s more I see in the media more and more women coming into the field. And it’s a tough fight; it’s everybody trying to carve out a space. Now, I am not a celebrity but I am among the few lucky ones who are on television and yeah people recognize you down the street. But I would like to use this opportunity to thank dozens of people who are behind the cameras, the producers and others they are the ones who are also terrific people and there are opportunities there for people who are going to become television journalists or social media journalists not because they want their face out there but because they love communicating and getting the word across. There are a whole lot of people. Like for example for every one Barkha Dutt, there are 300 people who haven’t appeared on screen but they are amazing as well.
· How does a day in the life of Monideepa Banerjie feel like?
It’s very flattering every time anybody asks you for an autograph or you go to a dinner to a restaurant and somebody says Oh that is Monideepa and I will tell you the funniest one which my daughter will also vouch for. I got into a lift once with my daughter in a mall and a lady said “Dekh dekh she looks like Monideepa Banerjie!”(See, see she looks like Monideepa Banerjie) and the other lady said “No, no that’s not her!” It’s mostly fun but it’s a lot of work. Like at the end of a normal 10-hour day, I will go back home and I will switch on the news channels and my daughter will scream and ask me to switch them off and if I have to switch them on I go to twitter and check out what’s going on the news scene. So it is really an obsession. This job, I am completely obsessed!


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