It is quite amusing to see how geo- political differences can influence the coverage of events that have cultural acceptability across borders. KUNAL MAJUMDER scans Dawn and The News of Pakistan, and The Daily Star and The New Age of Bangladesh in search of two words ‘AR Rahman’ and ‘Oscars’.

While the Indian media went overboard with the coverage of Oscars, the Pakistani media tried its best to ignore the Indian connection. The leading newspaper Dawn has no mention of AR Rahman’s win. In its lead article – ‘Slumdog scoops eight of its ten nominations’ (23 Feb, 2009); it does mention that the movie is based in Mumbai and gives brief outline of the story. Beyond that, it simply ignores the Indians who won the Oscars. A feeling that Dawn intentionally wanted to stress on the poverty angle of the story comes with the accompanying articles and photographs of slum kids.

The News, of the Jang Group, was no different. The article -- ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ wins Oscar gold at 81’st Academy Awards (February 24, 2009) tells the readers that Slumdog is small-budget British movie on “A ragtag group of Indian orphans”. The writer mentions how the cast and the crew of the movie was present to accept the best film award, which included “several school children who were plucked from Mumbai’s shantytowns to appear in the movie”. AR Rahman again ignored!

The Daily Times also ignores the Indian winners. However, it has a more sympathetic approach. It quotes Danny Boyle offering gratitude to Mumbaikars and saying they even, “dwarf even this guy (Oscar statue)”. The newspaper is the only one to carry a photograph of the cast and crew of the film, where you can see Anil Kapoor, AR Rahman and Rasul Pookuthy.
One wonders how many Pakistanis actually know about Penelope Cruz and Hugh Jackman, compared to AR Rahman!

Bangladeshi awareness
Bangladeshi newspapers seem to be much more aware about the Indians in the movie. In an article – Oscar Glory for ‘Slumdog’(February 24, 2009), The Daily Star mentions AR Rahman’s win quite prominently. The newspaper calls Slumdog Millionaire a “feel-good film about a Mumbai tea boy who rises from poverty and enters a television quiz show to win millions and find the love of his life”. Quite a contrast to Pakistani media’s definition. It goes on to mention that in spite of being directed and produced by Englishmen, many Indians claim it to be their own. The article also mentions about Resul Pookutty and the best documentary – Smile Pinki. Photographs alongside have AR Rahman with his two Oscar statues.

‘AR Rahman wins Golden Globe’ was the front-page story on The New Age (February 24, 2009). The newspaper used Reuter’s input and made Rahman’s win the peg of the story. The writer spoke about the versatility of Rahman’s music and his other achievements. While other western actors and films did get a mention, but it didn’t dominate the story unlike the Pakistani coverage.

It is quite amusing to find how geo- political differences can influence the coverage of events that have cultural acceptability across borders.