‘Page 3 is socially relevant’August 5th, 2008 - 10:25 am ICT by IANS
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) Some people describe it as their morning cuppa, while others trash it as rubbish. Page 3, the much maligned and more-often loved celebrity and events section of many leading Indian newspapers, is now the subject of a heated debate. The battle lines are drawn between cerebral readers - who want the pages to be more meaningful than just a jumble of photographs of local celebrities and social dos accompanied by sketchy texts - and the regular “9 to 5″ reader, who wants it to be the way it is.
Vineet Jain, managing director of the Times of India, who is often credited with pioneering the Page 3 culture, feels that people need it and read it.
“By reporting the lives of the rich and the famous - who work hard and party hard - Page 3 serves as an aspiration model for those who want to be like the Page 3 celebrities in life,” the media honcho told the IANS during a panel discussion, “Has Page 3 become an obsession”, in the capital.
It was organised by the Young FICCI Ladies Organisation. The discussion had a star-studded panel led by the Vineet Jain, politician-industrialist-and-polo player Naveen Jindal, style icon Feroze Gujral and adman Suhel Seth. Chief operating officer and managing director of NDTV Vikram Chandra anchored the session.
Industry critics often feel that India’s Page 3 culture reflects two levels of an aspirational society. One comprises individuals who consider it a serious reflection of lifestyle issues and the second who want to be seen and become famous by featuring on Page 3.
Although Page 3 in a way reflects the interdependence between the media and celebrities, it is also sometimes branded a dramatiser of an idol lifestyle.
However, the pages can be best described as GenNext media, which, according to many in the media and allied industry, is a representation of poised character and diligence. “We mostly deal with subjects that youngsters would like to read about in our city supplements, home to the celebrity pages,” Jain said.
Young MP Naveen Jindal, who becomes an occasional Page 3 celebrity himself, especially after his polo matches, feels that there is place for everything in society.
“Serious issues, fun and games. Page 3 is not just wishful thinking. If it’s there, it is because a large part of the society wants to read it,” Jindal told IANS.
According to the politician, for people like designers, artists, polo players and so many others, whose contribution to the society attracted attention, the page was important.
“And as a people’s representative, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. These pages are serving a purpose. They are dedicated to the high society who want to know all that is happening in their social circuits,” Jindal explained.
The MP said the national media as a whole was playing an important role in the development of the country. “So what’s wrong with Page 3? It fits into the way newspapers package their contents,” Jindal and wife Shallu chorused, arm-in-arm.
But is it possible to create new Page 3 celebrities from far-flung areas, achievers who have scaled new peaks and are awaiting recognition?
According to Jain, mainstream newspapers have a limited circulation. They do not reach villages and local newspapers do not have the Page 3 concept. “Would it serve any purpose,” the media honcho wanted to know.
Adman Suhel Seth feels that the popular perception that Page 3 showcases success and leaves readers feeling left out is wrong.
“It is socialist thinking. Page 3 touches the aspirational nerve of society,” he said.
Moreover, according to style icon Feroze Gujral, in a price-conscious India, readers look for “something more” in their morning papers. “It must have a little bit of spice that can spice up everyone’s life. After all newspapers are family products,” she elaborated.
Page 3, as several devoted readers argue, can be slightly rewired. “I definitely would not want a DJ speaking about bomb blasts. This is what Page 3 tends to do sometimes. We should talk to people relevant to it,” Deepshikha Khaitan, president of YFLO, told IANS.
According to Khaitan, an avid Page 3 reader herself, the chief attractions of Page 3 are events such as book launches and art shows. “But the information is sketchy at times. It can certainly be improved and imparted in depth. Page 3 should be meaningfully light.”
And it does not intrude into private lives like the foreign paparazzi, she said.
Another area where popular celebrity culture has demonstrated its benevolence is social causes. In an environment of cutthroat competition and pursuit of commercial interests, celebrity endorsements have played a vital role as a fresh tool of creative marketing, the panellists felt.