Media and Twittereti are upset. The reason—The New York Times while covering the Tanmay Bhat fiasco called Lata Mangeshkar a 'so-called playback singer for Bollywood films'. The NYT also went on to explain what a playback singer does: "Playback singers record vocals for song-and-dance numbers, to which actors and actresses lip sync.”
The NYT also referred Sachin Tendulkar as a 'hugely popular cricketer who retired in 2013'. Hours after the news item, which appeared on the Asia-Pacific section of the online news portal, an upset Indian media ran news items, slamming the audacity of NYT. The media found it offensive that NYT called her a 'a so-called playback singer'.
Not to be left behind, the Twittereti joined in, berating NYT and even demanding an apology.
@ShatadruSeal @nytimes how dare you call @mangeshkarlata a so called playback singer??? I feel pity for your knowledge! Apologies required! Get updated!
Some even found the NYT bit 'stupid', 'ignorant' and a 'shame to journalism'.
@Vardhan_Dongre Yet another example of stupidity by the so -called media house @nytimes calling an Indian legend a so called singer.Shame on such journalism.
@sunandavashisht A so called newspaper calls Lata Mangeshkar a 'so called singer' and reveals its ignorance.. Seriously ignorant.
The song and dance routine is in deed a staple part of Indian films and hence the popularity enjoyed by the playback singers is only justified. However, in Hollywood, musical films (a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative) are a rarity. It should come as no surprise then that NYT chose to explain to its readers what a playback singer is.
How many of us Indians have followed Garth Brooks, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton or Merle Haggard? How many of us have seen any of the performance by Alan Cumming, Norbert Leo Butz, Christine Ebersole or Donna Murphy? The first few are hugely popular Country musicians while the second set is the names of some of the finest Broadway performers. Well, we are not at fault for not knowing these names because these are niche art forms.
The argument here is not that Bollywood, which churns out a huge number of films every year, is a small industry. However, expecting the audience in the West to be familiar with the popular faces and names in the industry is a tough bargain.
While we do have the right to be upset that our heroes are not revered in the country, expecting those in other countries to shower them with same adulation only reveals our ignorance.