Monday, June 12, 2006

Karan Thapar: Quibbler

I saw his show last night (on CNN-IBN) where he interviewed PC Chidambaram.

He was outright obnoxious! He went on badgering PC Chidambaram for no reason. He had an agenda and he wanted to prove it in the interview. When he was going nowhere, he kept taunting and badgering the interviewee. He had his facts wrong about PC Chidambaram's college and he unnecessarily brought in irrelevant information into the discussion.

Shouldn't the interviewee be allowed to talk? Karan Thapar abruptly stops PC from talking and unnecessarily derives wrong conclusions from his talks. Karan was petulant and he was bickering throughout the interview holding onto his pet theory or a preconceived notion about 'reservations' and 'PC Chidamabaram' and went on badgering PC throughout the program to prove that he is right.

After, what seemed like a marathon of incessant harassment, there was no clear output from the interview other than whas PC had already reiterated in his previous interviews (on CNN-IBN) - that he supports reservations and that he does not think a review of the reservations is necessary because it is already proven in southern states that they are effective. In the end, the output of such an interview is absolute nothing. It did not prove anything new nor brought out any new information for the viewer. It only highlighted how Karan was good at English and can impose his mastery and sophistry on the interviewee to make it seemingly appear that he is right.

The whole charade was childish. He made PC quite exasperated with continuous interruptions and protests and even the viewer shared the same feeling. It was exhausting; so much so that PC had to say during the interview that if he had no new question to ask, the interview could be terminated. PC asked Karan to be 'patient' and let him answer. And PC rightly pointed out more than twice that Karan was quibbling.

PC Chidambaram on the other had was calm and composed and kept his cool throughout the program unlike the interviewer. Karan appeared more like a child who asks for a chocolate, doesn't get it, and keeps asking and badgering the father- 'Why not! Why not! I want it now, I will not keep quiet till I get what I want!'

(more later)


  1. I understand Karan Thapar's manners may not be exactly polite; however, going by the question (I read the interview on CNN-IBN Website), he raised some pertinent points back by facts and figures. PC's response was quite evasive. On one hand he says GOM's decision was backed by facts and figures, and on the other hand he refused to give those facts and figures despite being a member of the GOM. Reservation is here to stay, its not going away. Even SC will not do anything to correct the situation...


  2. Dear Munir:
    I saw the show and I read the snippets of the interview on CNN-IBN website. There is great deal of difference between the both. Practising sophistry is becoming another qualification of elitist media these days.

    First, the article on the website does not capture the annoyance and exasperation that Karan Thapar caused on the show. Second, Karan Thapar did indeed throw some numbers at PC (especially the NSSO ones) to which PC said there are other numbers and reports that need to be looked at in addition to these and asked Karan if he had read any of the reports already available. To which Karan completely evaded the question.

    While PC admitted that there is no official figure for OBC across the nation, he said that the four southern states have these numbers available.

    PC Chidambaran said that there are many reports including those from southern states (he mentioned two of them in the interview)available- And will be part of the affidavit submitted to Supreme Court.

    He said that he cannot go into details of each of them in an interview. They will be submitted in proper forum only after being approved by the Cabinet. He said he is part of the Cabinet and will review the affidavit and he said he does not know when it will be submitted to the Cabinet.

    To which Karan said- 'that means it will never be submitted'. PC said thats a wrong conclusion to draw from what he said.

  3. Sujai,

    You clearly seem to have made up your mind based on where you stand on the issue. So, there really is not much point in debating on who was badgering whom.

    But we can be objective about "facts." If Chidambaram is talking about studies, does anyone know what those studies are? Do you? OTOH, Karan is citing a published report and published numbers. For all I know, PC could be pulling numbers and studies out of his hat. I will beleive him when I see a published study. Until then, my claim is that there is little basis in "data" to justify the reservations. To prove otherwise, you need to show me the numbers. As they say in Missouri, SHow me. That is Karan asked. Whether he was petulant or boorish is besides the point and highly dependent on the viewers context. You find him boorish, others dont. I found KR Narayanan sullen and curmudgeonly. others find him the greatest Indian president. These things cannot be settled objectively. What can be settled objectively is that PC or for that matter anybody from the government has a comprehensive and coherent study to back up their decision.

    Also, in any democracy, it is incumbent on the government to make its debates public, and to make known to the public the bases of the decisions (including studies and findings of commissions). The only exception I can think of is defence and secret-service related activities.

  4. I have seen quite a few Karan Thapar's interviews.
    He constantly interrupts, makes biased statements and generally is an ass. As for reservation, he considers himself the spokesman of the upper castes. That he is a leading 'journalist' says a lot about the Indian media.

  5. Well... THis guy seems to be more interested in arguing in favour of reservations rather than an interview

    It is better if he makes that an debate

  6. Everybody knows what agenda Karan has. He is the spekesperson of the Indian upper caste. He is only a weak Ulhasnagar imitation of Tim Sebastian. I even liked Arjun Singh's attitude towards him.I don't agree with those who claim AS
    was a looser on that day. He showed what kind of a shrewd bureaucrat he was.

  7. Perhaps Karan Thapar wants to be Bill O'Reilly of India?

    Check out Bill's Official Home on the Web

  8. Karan Thapar has just 2 simple techniques.

    1) Let your imaginations fly wild in drawing up an interpretation, sprinkle with dramatic adjectives..

    2)if the persons even shows the slightest hint of giving a proper response, interrupt him with another question

    Grow up thapar.. and for change prove your mettle with industrialist, academcians etc..

    Good Job, PC

  9. Hi,

    I recently stumbled upon this blog and I like the topics you cover here. Do you mind if I add a link from my blog?


  10. Divya:
    Please feel free to provide a link to my blog.
    Thank you,

  11. Oh brilliant brilliant blog...why do I love your writing?
    Is it because it strikes at (the so called) equilibrium and leaves it unnerved? Or is it because of Dante's quote on your tab? Is it because of your XIth pro-reservation entry, when the rest of the world has gone back to quibbling about salaries and treating rich patients? Or is it because of your transformation from the right to the left?

    Here's to all the assholes in the world...THANKS FOR MAKING MY DAY!

    psst...I have taken the liberty to forward this link to a group of people who I believe will love this blog as much as I do...don't mind.

  12. hi there the same topic is being discussed here . would be great if you could drop in

  13. I thought karan thapar was just perfect. the upper castes especially the brahmins are blamed for not "educating" the lower castes. the brahmins were never part of the contemporary education system till can we say 1800? i am a brahmin. my grandfather was extremely poor. i see a number of brahmins still poor. but some people accuse them of ruining india for 2000 years. i think these are the christian converts who think the world started with 1 a. d. Do you know that the Dalit converts can never rise up in the church? For the ones who banish their faith for money, how will another faith benefit? One who discards his own mother, how will he respect another woman. This logic is plain garbage. Give more reservations, extort money from the good people, suppress the holy and the pious in their own land, show more skin in the tv and in cinema for it is the age of the hedons! The Hindus are protected by the Lord Himself so declare the scriptures. Let me tell you the truth. There are no upper castes, lower castes. There are only good and evil people in the world. And the doer of good never gets evil. The wicked manipulators (like Shakuni) will bite the dust. This is the truth

  14. Sujai,

    Its the only blog I have seen writing about Karan thapar.

    Your observations are true.

    People should understand Karan thapars devils adovcate is " Drama" rather than " information seeking" program.

    He is bad interviewr and a good entertainer. Kudos...for the work.

  15. I appreciate Mr. Thapar, by not going for his style. Atleast there is someone in this large country to question politicians. Everyone has there own style.

    It was always frustrating before, politicians were doing their "Manmani" and nobody was there to grill them in public. I beleive it has helped politicians to act responsibly. There is someone above them(public)who will demand explaination.

    It is human basic nature to criticise. When he is handling many shows it happens.

  16. well now there are cetain people here who will say that mr karan thapar is doing a good thing by bashing out our bureaucrats for not doing anything for india. I too also watch this episode and trust me,except for ram jethmalani's interview,all other seems to take out a personal vendetta on the indian bureaucrats.

    And coming on the scene of MR PC, you cannot say that he is a bad person at all. There are few good people in our indian politics like mr.mani shankar aiyyar,mr. arun shourie and mr.p chidambram. The problem might be that they might be surrounded by some people who are empowering their decisions on which the party runs so ultimately these people also turn to be bad even though it can be made that p chidambram is good for the county. Rest he alone cannot help.

  17. How many of us believe that Thapar will be half as good as what he is seen to be if he were to do LIVE Interviews where in he will lose the facilty to 'edit'?

  18. I sooooooooooooooooo agree. I havent seen this particular interview, but have seen other episodes of Devil's Advocate, and I think Karan Thapar SUCKS at his job! He is extremely exasperating with his tone and doesnt allow the interviewee to talk!

  19. I have been watching his shows,i feel his is doing a great job. Here some people think that he never allows people whom he is interviewing to talk, well i say most this kind happens when he interviewed persons doesn't answer his question precisely to the point which was poked by Mr. Thapar.

    If i was about to interview a Minister or a politician,especially Indian politicians,i won't step in to tat without proper ground work nd Mr Thapar is doing the same,he takes the numbers or the proofs which can be accessed by ppl or known to people(am not talking the sources regarding name of persons,ofcourse most of case he never mentions tat).

    Why do people think about Mr.Thapar's past,or stop comparing him with other similar kind show interviewers of any other country.

    Most of interviews i have seen in devils advocate,i believe its not some sort of drama played by Mr.Thapar,instead he tries to reveal true colours of Interviewee and his party or his organization.

    Out of this conservation,guys jus think do we really need reservations,are we not capable of ourselves to make our lives?? This reservation drama is played by politicians,to divide votes,they are following British Divide and rule policy.. Its we youth has to unite together and try to remove this caste system which divides us.

  20. I don't know Madhu Trehan. I know she writes for Outlook but check this out.

    By Madhu trehan

    March 01, 2009
    First Published: 00:22 IST(1/3/2009)
    Last Updated: 00:23 IST(1/3/2009)

    You write a book. You get some good reviews and some bad. It’s part of the game. Then comes Karan Thapar’s ‘column’ (I’m terribly sorry, Madhu, Sunday Sentiments, Feb 15). A piece that was personal, obviously motivated, filled with epithets. So Thapar says that you shouldn’t read my book. Fair enough. But Thapar says he hasn’t read my book.

    Could it then be that a friend of Thapar’s has read my book and told him that nobody should read it? It could be. What could it be that Thapar’s friend does not want anyone to read?
    How did the story about the sex workers find its way into the press? Who does it serve to bury the statement of the then advocate general of Maharashtra Goolam Vahanvati’s that he refused to appear for the SEBI because it was against his conscience? Who gave me the phone number of Beni Chatterji, the Mumbai lawyer who was arguing cases against First Global?
    Why should this person have it in the first place?
    Why should readers trust an unreviewed book review written by a clone of ‘BBC Hard Talk’ who seems to believe that being nasty gives him an USP? But where are his favourites ‘Pertie’ and ‘Mummy’ that he bangs on about? Time to bring them out of the closet.
    Here’s Pertie and KaTy playing ‘Prism Me a Lie: Tell Me a Truth.’ KaTy prisms Pertie a lie, Pertie bounces back with the truth.
    Pertie: Remember that last Diwali party you went to? Didn’t you tell me you asked Madhu Trehan to promise to come on your show after she talked about her book?
    KaTy: Yes and she looked pretty frightened.
    Pertie: But why is the book in your column? You called it a dud. Why not just ignore it if it is so bad?
    KaTy: [screaming] Because it’s been a No. 1 on the bestseller list for the last two weeks. Because Vir Sanghvi wrote, Madhu “…tried to use Tehelka to understand how the Indian media, and perhaps even Indian society, function”. Raja Menon in Outlook called it “blazingly honest and idealistic”. It must not be read, specially those chapters on you-know-who! So I honoured my commitment.
    Pertie: To whom? Wasn’t your comm…
    KaTy: Comb out? Yes, my comb out was done at the beauty salon yesterday.
    Pertie: You keep interr…
    KaTy: Internalise? Of course I have to internalise my motives.
    Pertie: You never let me fin…
    KaTy: Finagled? So what if I finagled Madhu?
    Pertie: But you told her to flag portions for you to read for the interview because you have no time to read.
    KaTy: How do you expect me to put a fix on what a dud the book is in an interview? It had to be done hit-and-run. No chance for her to respond.
    Pertie: What are you going to do when you meet her?
    KaTy: I will make a graceful exit like this…[KaTy exits with a swish and a grand jeté out of the room]
    Mummy: He has left without his baba suit. How will anyone take him seriously if he doesn’t wear his checked suit, yellow 
striped shirt and yellow polka dot tie?
    To be dragged into sleaze has to be a low point in my nearly 40-year journalistic career. Thapar cut large portions of a paragraph and chose only what suited his assignment. He gives himself the opportunity to announce the allegation, that I did “blur criticism and paper-over Tehelka’s faults”. I had also written (which Thapar cut out): “This was a serious breach of fair journalism. Tehelka said they wanted the public to know about the corrupt system. The public was equally entitled to learn that there are honest officers.”
    In Chapter 24 ‘Ethics and Journalism — Not So Fine a Balance’, I analyse in detail the state of journalism and, if anything, Tehelka and other journalists have reason to be upset with me. Those with an agenda find it easy to plant any kind of story. This cannot happen without the cooperation of taxi journalists who damage the credibility of the profession.
    I am privileged that I have been given a chance to respond to Thapar. I got an email from Thapar after the newspaper had gone to print, warning me as he ostensibly claimed, “in all fairness” what was to appear the next day. He also ostentatiously added, “Once again, my most sincere apologies.”
    If you demean the profession by misusing it to carry out someone else’s agenda, I guess he is right to be ashamed. Did Thapar have any idea that my publisher Pramod Kapoor, Kiran Bedi (who conducted a debate at my book launch) and I all received a ranting email, which is strikingly similar to his piece? Since I was out of the country and did not read Thapar’s ‘warning’ email, a friend sent me an sms that morning: “It is better to have a thousand enemies than have a friend like Karan Thapar.”
    Wonderful to be liberated from that burden.
    (Madhu Trehan is the author of Tehelka as Metaphor: Prism Me a Lie; Tell Me a Truth (Roli))

  21. Hi guys,
    I was reading your arguments, for and against Karan Thapar's style of interviews. I, myself, am a big fan of Karan; but your arguments made me stop and ponder over where is he going wrong.?
    then I watched interviews of Javed Akhtar, Arundhati Roy, Modi, PC, Kapil Dev..
    See.. Karan has his facts and data; he scrutinzes the several issues which are too be discussed with the interviewee.. There may be some good ones, and some problematic ones for the interviewee.
    I feel Karan's approach is just to drill down the problematic areas as much as possible, and the interviewee, if he is fairly convinced of himself and is not lying or obfuscating the facts, gets a fair chance to speak at his show. But, if he see there is this one thread missing, He completely drills down that issue giving an appearance as if the other person is not getting a fair chance. This is how, I guess our stress interviews are being conducted.. an MBA entrance interview. It is the conviction and honesty of the interviewee rather than his own aggression that is to be respected, because I find a real good medium to make junta aware of where we, our politicians and our whole society is going. The media is definitly not showing the right picture, but just interested in increasing sales and TRPs; so, its better that we straight listen it form the horse's mouth and draw up our own personalised conclusions.


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