Superstar Sridevi's sudden death in Dubai has shocked the film industry and fans back home. When it was first reported that the actor had suffered a cardiac arrest, leading to her death, social media was rife with theories about how Botox injections and cosmetic surgeries had led to her early demise.
However, when the Dubai police released the death certificate on Monday, it was revealed that the cause of death was 'accidental drowning'. It's still unclear how Sridevi drowned in a tub. For that, we will have to wait for the postmortem report - if it is shared with the public. That would be the decent thing to do.
But who has the patience to be decent? Certainly not large sections of the Indian media.
While Hindi channel ABP News announced that they would reveal 'Sridevi's last 15 mins in the bathroom' on prime-time news, Aaj Tak had the anchor stand next to the visual of a bathtub with Sridevi's portrait above it.
Telugu TV9 had a morphed visual of Sridevi lying dead in a bathtub, with Boney Kapoor looking on. The channel also ran a 'scene re-creation' with alcohol bottles placed above the bathtub, claiming that Boney Kapoor had not received a 'clean chit' as yet.
English channels were not to be left behind. CNN News 18, too, had Sridevi lying dead in a bathtub. Times Now had an "investigative" display with Sridevi standing next to a tub, all measurements marked out - her height and the tub's dimensions - as if they were trying out the Archimedes' Principle on prime-time news.
Guests on Republic TV went ahead and linked Sridevi's death to the late Sunanda Pushkar because...why not?
He then claims that the bathtub Sridevi was using must have been of '3 feet height and 2 feet length' (don't worry, we're as confused as you are) and that he's in a similar tub. To set any doubts we may have about the issue to rest, he climbs into the tub and demonstrates that there's no way anyone could have drowned in it, even if she'd been lying down. Sherlock also adds that Sridevi could have easily climbed out of the bathtub if she'd wanted to.
"So did anyone MAKE Sridevi drown in the bathtub?" he puts forth the explosive question he'd been itching to ask from the beginning.
After elaborating on the conspiracy theory some more, the journalist helpfully shows just how Sridevi's head could have been pushed underwater to render her breathless and kill her.
A moment of silence. Not for the death of a beloved star (she deserves more than that), but for the death of journalism.
Definitely, it is the job of the media to ask uncomfortable questions about the death of a woman who was very much in the public eye. However, what's happening right now isn't an inquiry interested in establishing any kind of truth; it is to grab the maximum number of eyeballs by propagating every WhatsApp forward as "evidence". The visuals and commentaries we're subjected to rob a woman of her dignity, even in death, and completely disrespect the sentiments of those who loved her and are still grieving her sudden death.
From sanctimoniously parading Sridevi's death as a "life lesson" for women to be comfortable in their skin and stay healthy minus Botox, to doing a 360 degree flip and asking how a healthy woman like her could have drowned without force, the Indian media circus has been mind-numbing to observe.
Dubai publication Khaleej Times has put out a 'nano edit' on the sorry state of the Indian media that should hopefully inject some shame into everyone's systems. Appealing to their Indian counterparts not to play the judge, the Khaleej Times asks "why jump to conclusions?" and advises the media to be patient and wait for the authorities to get to the bottom of the truth.
Whatever be the facts of the case as they emerge, one cannot help but agree with this tweet:
Sridevi may have died due to Accidental Drowning, but Indian Media should drown voluntarily. Chullu bhar paani mein.— Aaqib Raza Khan (@aaqibrk) February 26, 2018