by Suradha Iyer
The Indian media had a unique opportunity with the Priyanka-Nick stories last week and I break down what they did with it.
Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas (henceforth nicknamed Prick) got engaged last weekend. We all know, every media outlet in India covered it generously. I, for one, learnt what a roka ceremony is. However, this wasn’t from the Indian media, but from Vanity Fair and Buzzfeed News. This was probably because I follow their stories over the local ones—and last weekend reminded me again of why I make that particular choice.
With respect to the Prick story, I can highlight a few stark differences-
India loves its celebrities; even more so when they’re important exports
Priyanka is considerably important to Indians, given that she is representing an entire subcontinent in Hollywood. We want to know everything we can possibly hear about her in the news. There’s no respite from seeing what she posts and does and wears when it’s being published word for word in Page 3s across the board. While I understand this excitement, its manifestation baffles me. We love our film stars just like any other self-respecting, sustainable movie industry, and we can’t help but swoon over their lives vicariously through what they share on social media. It’s like your family getting that crazy itch to talk to almost anybody about that NRI/homegrown cousin who has gone to study abroad. It’s a manifestation of the Indian dream at play. We feel a weird entitlement to scrutinize their lives, from Aishwarya in Pink Panther 2, to Priyanka since the start of Quantico, to Deepika in XXX. I hope one day, we have enough representation abroad to not fawn over Indian exports to such an excruciating degree. Until then, could our Page 3s calm down a little with reposting Instagram captions? We already follow Priyanka and Deepika, so we can see firsthand what they’re doing in the Land O’ The Free.
India loves foreign celebrities EVEN MORE.
We’ve had this colonial hangover for far too long, India. We need to get over a foreigner stepping on Indian soil like he’s our sahib. Nick Jonas is admittedly important to India (at least to the Camp Rock/ Jonas LA fangirl generation), and his engagement to an Indian in India is newsworthy. It’s also very natural to want to ask him what India means to him. Let’s just tone down the excessive hype with news that is not even remotely original or actually concerning the couple? Stories like ‘What He Had To Say’, or even worse, What His Parents Had To Say About Priyanka or What Nick Wore In India or What Ring Did Nick buy Priyanka are all valid, clickbait-y fluff pieces with questions we are bursting to hear the answers of, but I think we might be overdoing it a little with photostories of Nick’s family with random Indians at a party, and pieces about how international media mocked the Indian ceremony, and Nick’s father’s Instagram post about this ostentatious coverage which ironically garnered even more of the same. We love our guests but we could tone down the adulation a little, given that the WHOLE WORLD IS READING US THIS TIME?
This story is actually interesting to audience outside of India too and we have a unique place in reporting this news sensibly. If only we could use it sensibly? The more juvenile and underwhelming the news, the more we undermine the opportunity to improve cultural understanding globally. The more we respect the audience for being invested in the story, but just enough to care and nothing stalker-like, the more I’d be willing to read our version of the story . And given the advantage Indians have in reporting the story and how many people are willing to read your material regardless, I think you can take a smarter angle. I’m not telling you that you need to change your format to a Q&A or an explainer on the cultural significance of a roka ceremony or Here’s what Indians think of foreigners in India kind of appeasement pieces. Just take a call between talking about the significance or the lack thereof of the age gap in the relationship and whether Nick can handle the spice in an Indian curry.
The world has things to say about the upcoming nuptials and personally it’s intriguing to me as well. I cannot have imagined two incredibly important icons coming together this serendipitously. To an audience that cares so much because of all the media attention this couple has individually received in the past, a more sensitive approach to the combined coverage is just respectful and fitting.
Suradha Iyer is a writing analyst at Qrius.
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