From body shaming to vulgar curiosity: The problem with John Brittas' JB Junction

The journalist-anchor's style of interviewing his celebrity guests, especially women, tends to be voyeuristic.
From body shaming to vulgar curiosity: The problem with John Brittas' JB Junction
From body shaming to vulgar curiosity: The problem with John Brittas' JB Junction
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While interviewing model-turned actor Parvathy Omanakuttan on his show JB Junction, journalist John Brittas lolls back on the sofa, a pen tethered between his teeth and hands, sizes her up and asks—“Have you lost weight since the last time I met you in Mumbai?”

Omanakuttan, who has her Miss India grooming up her sleeve, where they are trained to tackle any kind of dubious queries with practiced ease, doesn’t let this offhand probe daunt her. She handles it with grace and a slow smile. But it’s enough to leave the audience squirming in their seats.

Welcome to JB Junction, a weekend show where veteran journalist and MD of Kairali TV John Brittas brings over a host of celebrities from various walks of life and holds conversations about everything under the sun. He also gets the guest’s family or friends to ask questions through previously-recorded video clips.

Since the show began in 2014, he has brought in an eclectic bunch of talents from cinema, art, politics, business, hospitality, and social work on his show. Brittas also regularly invites known/unknown news makers on his couch.

The Brittas style

If one goes by the rulebook, Brittas is a seasoned interviewer—1) He meticulously researches his subjects; 2) It’s clear that he never makes chaotic last minute changes and updates; 3) And very often he asks the right questions.

If you have witnessed those interview sessions, they help you get a candid picture about the celebrity, probably a lot of their little known facets. One of the most notable aspects of his interview is that he gives the impression of being genuinely interested in your life, no matter how popular or not you are.

So what made actor Meera Vasudevan cry foul on her Facebook post, following her appearance on his show? She was asked about the now-forgotten nude scene with Mohanlal in the Malayalam film, Thanmatra. The actor spoke about the behind-the-scenes memories of that particular scene, which we assume was something that was previously agreed upon by the anchor and the invitee.

But what was not apparently in contract was how it was finally played out in the promos. She wrote on Facebook—“A lot of my actual words have been misrepresented and clippings that I have not seen, like the intimate clip from my movie Thanmatra was added separately to make it look sensational.” That aside, the interview was a detailed probe into the actor’s personal and professional life, where he painstakingly dug up every delicately intimate fact of her hitherto unknown life.

That’s quintessentially John Brittas. Or what he is known for.

During an interview with actress Jalaja, when her sister came on the video clip to ask her a question, Brittas remarked that the latter “seemed to be on the heavier side unlike Jalaja.” Such instances of body shaming are a constant feature in all his interviews. Particularly if the guest is a woman.

Actor Shwetha Menon, for instance, was subtly censured for the various choices she made in life. From being called an irresponsible daughter to a ship without an anchor, Brittas persisted with her marital life, her role play, her pregnancy controversy, and eventually reduced her to tears. Shwetha Menon has posted on her Facebook that she had no problems with how she was interviewed. However, the show is not between the actor and Brittas alone - it is meant for public viewing and normalises such comments. 

Actor Ananya’s husband was taunted for his weight, with the anchor even casting aspersions about how the match happened in the first place.

His interview with danseuse Methil Devika was probably the most deplorable of the lot. Not only did he begin and end the show with her marriage to actor Mukesh and the kind of equation they shared, her credentials as a dancer were hardly given any mileage on the show. “Would you have called me if not for Mukesh?” she asked him pointedly, clearly annoyed at this shift in power play.

“He knows what sells and he sells it. I have always felt that he isn't being compassionate when he is listening to the sob stories and personal tragedies and probably is just laughing inside because his programme is getting more masala,” observes Aswathy Gopalakrishnan, film critic.

That all his interviews run on this format is evident. Some of the names who sat on his show also seem debatable, considering they have been out of the marquee for a long time.

Recently, actor Charmilee’s interview looked like a slyly engineered TRP strategy, where she was asked mostly about her past and present relationships. He made sure she washed a lot of dirty linen in public, with hardly any mention about her films.

“He reminds me of a peeping Tom in these interviews,” says Mukesh Kumar, a popular film reviewer on Facebook. Brittas also indulges in an unhealthy dose of name dropping. From Mohanlal to the newest actor on the block, he maintains they are people he is very close to and he uses the leeway to cunningly mock or judge them.

Recently, it was uncomfortable to watch him address actor Aparna Balamurali as “Edi” “Nee” (Malayalam expressions to address a person close to you and unless it’s used with permission it’s considered disrespectful).

“I have always found it problematic that the undue focus of the show is on a celebrity’s personal life. The anchor mostly asks prying questions which are aimed to elicit juicy responses which will in turn up the TRPs. The show and its anchor lack any kind of depth,” maintains Praveen S.R.P., journalist with The Hindu.

Brittas had no qualms in slyly persisting with a query an elderly woman actor put forward to actor Jewel Mary about starting a family. Broken affairs, broken marriages, second marriages, reviving old and new love affairs, recalling intimate celluloid scenes are some of the issues topmost on his agenda. And mostly, it’s the female actors who are at the receiving end of this prodding.

Everything is accompanied by a sneer, a sort of insolence in his bearing.

The flipside is the question as to why these celebs appear on his show, knowing its nature.

“It’s probably because he has the reputation of being a successful senior journalist. And he gives a trustworthy vibe, which is of course not what it appears to be and they discover it only much later,” says Aswathy.

When interviewing Sam Mathew, who rose to infamy after he wrote a poem about a girl developing affection for her rapist, Brittas shocked the wits out of viewers when he playfully told Sam- “Oh, please don’t take this as an encouragement to rape women.”

This often vulgarly inquisitive style has not always worked in his favour. Mohanlal refused to rise to his bait despite Brittas trying every trick in his book. Director Siddique and actor-director Lal were called separately and tersely asked about their ancient rift. But the duo smartly dodged the trap. Also, when it comes to men, the questions, though exhaustive and searching, somehow don’t give the impression of being voyeuristic. Understandably, the channel he heads has come under the weather previously for its insensitive stand towards women in various issues.

Such instances invariably point fingers at the man on top—John Brittas and his brand of news making. In the race to garner TRP ratings, Brittas and co seems to have forgotten a golden new age adage--“Ratings don’t last, Good journalism does. “And add humanity to it.

This article was first published on The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.

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