Femme fatale and the media

S Madhusudhana Rao

What is trending in the media now is the murder of Sheena Bora. Excuse me, who is that, you may ask. To explain who is/was she, I need to write thousands of words which I consider is a waste of time. Even if I present an abridged version of Sheena Bora’s story, culled from various sources, readers will lose track of it after knowing the multiple relationships of Sheena’s mother Indrani Mukerjea and dramatis personae involved in the tangled web of love-family-murder mystery.

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S Madhusudhana Rao

However, what’s clear from the revelations tumbling out like skeletons in the cupboard by the hour is the Sheena Bora case mirrors the emergence of a new Indian nouveau riche, their ambitions, aspirations and opportunistic relationships.

This is a real time story of an ordinary girl, read Indrani, with high ambitions but arguably caught in the vicissitudes of life but makes it finally, again, seizing every opportunity and exploiting the situations that have cropped up as she snaked her way up.

Until a week ago, Indrani Mukerjea’s name – and face — was confined to only social circles of Mumbai and the media circuits. But now, she has taken the print and digital media by storm. Ever since the story broke out four days ago, Indrani episode has had the dubious distinction of being the lead in major English newspapers. India’s successful cryogenic rocket launch or Pakistan’s unabashed nuclear boast with a veiled threat could not make it to the top as titillating details of Indrani’s intriguing life had started emerging. Full-page coverage with every possible angle probed, familial links and bonds traced, motives attributed, secret desires psycho-analyzed and passions unraveled must have made investigators’ job easy. In fact, news teams have done half the police job in a bid to beat the competition in coverage. Is our media going overboard or is it sensationalizing a socialite’s high life with a secret past bloodied by the alleged murder of her own daughter?

It’s difficult to say at a time when the oversell of politics has reached a nauseating point. For many readers, the Indrani trail is a welcome departure from the run-off the mill news breaks. That means the universal truth that sex and scandal sell still holds good for the spicy news hungry.

When we look at the unfolding story and when it comes to a logical end, it could be an excellent material worthy of a Bollywood potboiler with all the ingredients such as suspense, love, glitzy life and murder in right proportions. But even before it hits the screen, we have a blow-by-blow account and details of Indrani’s case on social media. The kind of interest it has generated is unprecedented; it can be explained only in terms of churning the society has been undergoing in the country.

The casualty is privacy. Everyone who has come in contact with Indrani is being exposed or volunteering him/her self to link the dots in her relationships with sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and spouses and friends. When we look at the picture in totality, what matters is the complex human nature and to what extent it goes and depths it descends. While the law of the land takes its own course in dealing with the case, Indrani personifies the ‘other woman’ usually found in urban India. Liberal in views and ‘liberated,’ one can find many Indranis in westernized Indian society. But they are discreet in their actions and relationships. They are exposed only when their heinous crimes come to light.

This is in no way defending a woman with diabolic designs, but to bring into focus how we are getting into the fast lane of westernized life without realizing the inherent perils present. More dangerous is the hypocrisy. On one hand, we try to maintain traditions, follow culture and appear to be God-fearing; but on the other hand, we try to do exactly the opposite. In Indrani’s case, the motive behind Sheena Bora’s killing in 2012 is said to be her love affair with the son of Indrani’s ex-hubby. Was it considered as incest by Indrani? Nobody will know until she reveals the truth.

In recent times, among salacious crimes involving parents is Arushi Talwar murder. It too got wide publicity and media coverage. The collateral damage that such sensational attention-grabbing reporting causes is trial by media. How far it is justified is debatable.

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