Keeping up our promise of watching the news so you don’t have to, Newslaundry presents a brand new series: . In this series, we will look at ‘expert’ voices that are routinely brought onto primetime debates to expound on everything under the sun – from the economy to the pandemic to foreign affairs to Shah Rukh Khan’s silence on world affairs. Poor SRK, being handsome is a full-time job.
What makes these men and women fixtures on the news? What’s their claim to fame? What’s their expertise, even? We’ll tell you.
PS: If you have a suggestion on who we should cover, drop a line in the comments section or tag us on social media.
Majid Hyderi is a classic example of intelligence and articulation gone rogue in the vicious TV debate discourse.
Hyderi, or Jimmy, as his , is a seemingly busy man with various vocations at his disposal. An “A” level engineering degree, a postgraduate degree in mass communication, a foray into digital strategy and content creation – he’s done it all.
Despite being so busy, Hyderi can be seen, more often than not, sitting in small TV debate windows, giving his two or 20 bits on almost anything and everything under the sun.
A journalist from Kashmir with more than 10 years of experience at the Srinagar-based daily Greater Kashmir, Hyderi’s whole and sole justification to be on television is that he puts forward the “Kashmiri point of view”.
He for India Today’s opinion website DailyO. He also to Newslaundry after the of Babar Qadri, another TV panelist from Kashmir, whose views cost him his life at the hands of unknown assailants. While speaking to Newslaundry, Hyderi actually did a decent job of explaining the local dynamics and the police’s complacency in assuring Qadri’s safety.
But maybe that’s just us: bringing out the best in the worst of TV news panelists. Because the Hyderi you see on television is a different beast altogether.
As is the norm and requirement of the medium, Hyderi can often be seen serving a mix of foolish and downright pathetic statements on subjects of immense importance and sensitivity.
For instance, he recently caught more attention than usual when he batted for “aadarniya Taliban” (respected Taliban). But unlike other lowest common denominators on TV debates, Hyderi brings a rush of creativity to his work like nobody else, finding new ways to say the same thing with increasingly bizarre analogies.
Let us take the example of his views on the Taliban.
On Times Now, he told Navika Kumar that he sees “divinity” in what is happening in Afghanistan today. That’s not all, he also said, “I see Mangal Pandey in Taliban. What should I do, Times Now?” Can’t really blame Navika for her reaction here.
Next, here’s Hyderi telling Amish Devgan that India should think about helping the Taliban because it has been attacked by terrorists.
Here’s his hypothesis on August 19: that Afghan women refugees will not get citizenship in India because the government put Rhea Chakrobarty (primetime accused in the #SSRMuderMystery, remember? ) in jail for months. We’re as confused as you.
And here’s his hypothesis on the same subject a couple of days ago: Aadarniya Taliban and its “alleged” exploitation of women cannot be compared to the atrocities committed on women in India. BJP went after Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Karni Sena went after Deepika, and BJP went after Rhea Chakraborty. None of this would have happened in Afghanistan under the Taliban, according to Hyderi.
In this debate that discussed yet another Pakistan-based terror plot, Hyderi provided a counterpoint. Why, he asked, is the ABVP, a designated terror outfit in the US, not banned in India? We’re not sure where he got his information from and the other panelists seemed equally surprised.
He also went to seeking to stop the screening of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Shikara on the Kashmiri Pandit exodus in the 1990s. He claimed the film shows Kashmiri Muslims in poor light.
Rubika Liyaqat’s expression said it all when Hyderi told her, “Kashmir mein aatank nahi hai.” There is no terrorism in Kashmir.
The drama, the shouting, the mindless utterances that come from Hyderi’s mouth: all this plays one, and only one, role. To legitimise the other extreme. When a Hyderi eulogises the Taliban, a GD Bakshi or an MS Bitta’s rants get legitimised. Win win for the channel, because eyeballs. Win win for panelists on either side, because momentary relevance attained.
If Bollywood is a cow that TV channels milk regularly for TRPs, then Ashoke Pandit is their favorite milker. He gets right in there and down there, squeezing every sensational bit of ratings potential out of the teats of TV news channels.
He has also been a keen observer of Bollywood for the past 30 years and sees the ghosts of “terrorism” lurking amongst a particular “jamaat”.
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Pandit has probably switched on notifications on Twitter for outspoken women in the film industry – like Swara Bhaskar, and Sonam K Ahuja – so that he can jump in and call them terrorists immediately, regardless of what they’re talking about.
For instance, here is Sonam asking why people are bursting crackers during Diwali. In comes Pandit, helpfully telling her that they’re “at least not spreading d virus like #TablighiJamaat”.
Sonam ji crackers are burst during celebrations & not only in Diwali?People are trying to be happy in these difficult times.— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) April 5, 2020
They are at least not spreading d virus like #TabligiJamaat. I wish you would hve condemned this act of terrorism than blaming crackers. https://t.co/P788T49Oir
This is where Pandit shines. And this is the skill that TV news-walas need. Connect everything and anything to a communal issue, then say it in ways that rile people up.
Pandit had humble beginnings. He was a lighting technician for the film Maachis in 1996 and has a theatre background. He was also an associate director on old shows like Nukkad, Circus and Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. Then he went on to become an independent producer and hit a goldmine with the classic show Filmi Chakkar starring Satish Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah. Boy, would we kill to attend a reunion party with these guys together.
In his , Pandit says his “every show proved to be full on entertainers with a deep social message”. He has a particular interest in portraying the stories of Kashmiri Pandits. The first full-fledged movie he produced was Sheen (2004) where he introduced, well, Sheen, an actress who describes the Kashmiri Pandit exodus from her POV. We found of this movie which ends like this: “Sheen is worth watching once, but the ending is incomplete, so even if you avoid the film, it’s understandable. Not recommended for children at all.”
The last line is what should apply to Pandit’s appearance on TV news channels as well.
Pandit was also co-producer for , a movie based on Sanjay Baru’s book, which talks about Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the prime minister of India. The movie got kaafi bad reviews, so Sir Ashoke got mad and we were subjected to this fascinating exchange on Twitter. FYI, Pramit is a film critic.
Ashoke Pandit is, in every sense, the creation of this beast called Twitter. The micro-blogging website has birthed many panelists we see on TV today. Ashoke is adept at getting under your skin with his extreme nonsensical opinions, and then regurgitating the popular ones on news “debates” during primetime.
I mean, just look at this glorious example. Even when Ashoke wants to tell the world that India has successfully administered one crore vaccines in a single day, he has to start by invoking “Tali-liberals, Urban Naxals, Lutyens Media, Khanams and Bhaskars”.
Sad news for #Taliliberals #UrbanNaxals #Lutyensmedia #Khanams & #Bhaskars & their entire cabal .— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) August 27, 2021
â More than 1 crore vaccination on one day in India today .â
à¤¤à¤¾à¤°à¥à¤«à¤¼ à¤¤à¥ à¤¦à¥à¤° à¤à¥à¤¹à¤°à¥ à¤ªà¤° à¥§à¥¨ à¤¬à¤ à¤à¤ à¤¹à¥à¤à¤à¥ ! #VaccinationDrive#ModiHaiTohMumkinHai
In case you didn’t know, the first three are made-up terms and the latter two are references to names that Pandit is obsessed with. So much so that he wants to turn them into hashtags. He even threw in a “Pannus” that one time.
This expose is a sad news for social media influencers in Bollywood & #UrbanNaxals .— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) May 13, 2021
Letâs see if the #Bhaskars & #Pannus will condemn this
Maharashtra to pay Rs 6 crore to handle Ajit Pawarâs social media accounts https://t.co/xgTQMScPTl via @timesofindia
Due to the prowess he displayed on Twitter, the day was not far when our TV news friends picked up Ashoke Pandit and gave him a window on our screens. He’s now the go-to panelist for extreme right-wing views on Bollywood and some good old whataboutery.
Here he is about something called #SarojBacksCastingCouch. In this, he invoked the name of “pseudo-liberal” Swara Bhaskar and even Arnab pointed out, “I’m not talking about Swara Bhaskar.”
Pandit played a crucial role in fanning after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. Here he is asking for justice as Times Now demands #TimeNowForCBIForSSR.
By the way, Ashoke and Arnab have a very special relationship. So much so that when Ashoke wished Arnab a happy birthday, Arnab literally responded from the news channel’s handle. .
Ashok’s formula in life is simple: all he needs to do is ask “Y NO REACTION TO THEES BY LIBTARDS PSEUDOS NAXALS AND BHASKARS?!” Doesn’t matter what the issue is, but he wants an answer from all these celebrities on Twitter on all matters of national importance. Otherwise they’re all useless.
Suffice it to say, Pandit is a useful rabble rouser with a throaty voice who can scream endlessly. Both on TV and on Twitter.
Update: This piece erroneously said that Maachis released in 1984 instead of 1996. This has been corrected.
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