Mallika Sherawat recently gave an interview at Cannes. It’s kind of news I guess because, after all, who interviews Mallika nowadays? Well in case you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do so [video], particularly if you need a good laugh. (And come on, who doesn’t?). Since it is very difficult to remember what she said, after the few minutes you spend laughing or cringing, let me summarize her main thesis—- “India is regressive, I am very progressive” with the subtext being that she is victimized because of her progressiveness. Why does she claim to be progressive? Because she was the first person to kiss and first person to wear a bikini.
As a pop-culture aficionado, I have always been intrigued by how popular media (movies, music, books) influences the way we think and act. Some of this influence is, of course, perfunctory like the “Friend” cap from “Maine Pyar Kiya” or the Amitabh-hair-cut or the Rajani goggles-move. But much of it is insidious and covert, affecting the way we reason about our world and our perceptions of that which is morally justifiable and that which is not.
Hence it is no surprise, that given the tragic incidents in New Delhi and the national conversation triggered over sexual violence in its wake, that Indian popular culture, frequently given the catch-all-label Bollywood, would be the second most popular target of blame (The first being of course the government, an even bigger catch-all-label than Bollywood).
1. Not every rape can shock-spark the starter-circuit of the national outrage factory. No sir it cannot. The act has to be egregious in its sexual violence (shock and awe compulsory hain boss), must have occurred in a “decent” area of a Tier 1 metro (smaller cities, villages and metro slums—you are out of luck, the outrage factory cannot empathize with you folks) and the lady in question must have been “innocent” (i.e. no prostitutes please, we are Indians). Remember, if the crime does not pass the sansani test or make you feel that the victim could have been you, or your maa-behen, it will not make it to Step 2.
The Olympics take place once every four years. India plays Sri Lanka every four days and yet I care more for that than for the Olympics.
The reason for the simple. Any cricket engagement allows me, an Indian, to be optimistic about our chances. In Olympics, leaving aside hopes of superb individual performances from a few talented athletes or a “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” walk d’grace from Madame Madhura, we know, even before we take the stage, that on the list of medal winners, we will be near the bottom.
This happened a long time ago. A student of Class XI, I was going to one of the innumerable tuitions that the pursuit of what a middle-class upbringing calls success forced me to attend. The crowded mini-bus had slowed down to a crawl. There was some commotion on the road.
It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on.
Looking at the BJP, one often gets the impression that they have been afflicted by the Subhash Ghai disease, an obsessive compulsive disorder wherein the sufferer tries to recycle in the 2010s what worked in the 90s. With disastrous results. For instance, who else believes in 2011 that calling a jeep a “Rath” will make those riding in it appear like mythic Hindu heroes?
Well I might have been wrong about the exact decade in which the BJP’s clock stopped working. It was not the 90s after all. Hearing Arun Jaitley speak of the perils of having our food supply in “foreign” hands, all I see is a desperate attempt to revive the pop-culture bogeyman of the license-raj 70s days, that phirang Bob-Christo archetype snarling in his accented Hindi about “dirty Indians” while the noble Manoj Kumar would be tied up in a galley, looking to the side surreptitiously at Hema Malini,a symbol of India (or more precisely its food security) caught in the vice-grip of foreign avarice, writhing sensuously on deck.
Like many of my fellow countrymen, I am drawn to Big Boss [my column in Sunday's DNA] in the same way that I find myself fascinated by the sight of maggots infesting an apple. For years, this attrition-based reality show has provided the nation with a cultured clash of ideas, public debate, civilized discourse, tension, solitude and most importantly, bouncing bosoms, wagging fingers and bad language.
NRIs are unpatriotic.
Having stayed outside the country for many years (twelve and counting), I have heard this and its variations many times. If you are an NRI, chances are you have too. In some form or the other.
Let’s look at the first sentence, shall we?
We know what an NRI is. Kind of.
But what is unpatriotic?
There is a popular video game called “Guitar Hero” in which the controller is like a guitar. As notes scroll by on-screen, players have to hit colored buttons on the controllers at the exact moment the note is highlighted on the screen. The more “notes” you hit, the more the virtual crowd goes into a frenzy and the more points you score.
Writing for the foreign media, whether it be articles or fiction, is often like playing “Guitar Hero”—you mash the right buttons at the right moment and out comes a publication, in the same way “music” comes out of Guitar Hero. An example of this kind of ” say-what-your-foreign-audience wants-to-hear” writing that hits the hot-points can be found here, in an article written in the New York Times by Manu Joseph, also referred to sometimes in Middle Earth as the Bane of Barkha.