In his latest column in the Hindustan Times.
I know the word 'style' in this post's title is awfully misplaced. I remember watching a few episodes of Devil's Advocate, his interview program, last year during the fracas over OBC reservation. I'm all for a lusty debate on TV, but Thapar's interviews pollute our airwaves (or, rust our TV cables) far more than throw light on issues of public importance. His program is either a harangue / monologue or an irritating series of frequent interruptions, even when the interviewee isn't being ponderous or evasive. Though he acts as if his mission statement is "we make pit bulls appear pacifist," he is not above going easy on those on 'his side'. In other words, he is self-servingly selective in employing his 'interviewing style'.
One interview that I recall vividly is that of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, whose towering stature was clear all through the interview. Whenever Thapar tried his silly interruptions, Chidambaram put him down very effectively. [This is also an interview in which Thapar comes across as just plain ignorant. There was a section in which he chose a silly line of questions regarding Chidambaram's own education, where he gets his college wrong!]. Let me just highlight a bunch of PC's replies:
Mr Dipankar Gupta can have an opinion. You can have an opinion. But you must listen to the other opinion. So just be patient. [...]
You got your facts wrong. I went to Presidency College, which has reservation. [...]
Your facts are wrong. [...]
You ask for empirical evidence and you don’t have the patience to wait for the answer. [...]
Listen to me. That will come in the Supreme Court in a form of an affidavit. [...]
Wrong again. It will be put together in the form of an affidavit and will be given to the SC.
Listen you are quibbling on words. Let me explain my position. [...]
I am sorry the government does not have to answer you in an interview.[...]
I have told you about the material. Shall I say it in Tamil for a change? [...]
If it is a fact then why are you asking me the question. [...]
Sorry that’s your conclusion. Let me conclude the way I summarised it. My conclusion is there is ample material, you are simply refusing to see the material [...]
You must give up this habit if quibbling Karan. [When Thapar responded with "I am not quibbling!", PC retorted, "You are."]
Karan Thapar's program may give his viewers some vicarious pleasure because he appears to talk down to powerful people; this, however, is illusory. Much of the harangue and talking down happens because of the disparity in communicative skills. The interview with PC is a good example of how ineffective his interviewing 'style' really is: at the end of it, Chidambaram still managed to evade a lot of things, while Thapar's ignorance was on display on the history of reservation in the South.