Anuja Chauhan en Sat Jun 15 20:14:43 IST 2019 akbarnama-for-abdication-drama <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>David Ogilvy, arguably the “father of advertising”, used to send all new office heads a Matryoshka doll from Gorky on their first day on the job. If the new appointee had the curiosity to open the doll, and keep opening till he came to the inside of the smallest doll, he would find this message:“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is easier said than done, of course. Only people with genuine smarts, high self-esteem, an appetite for healthy competition and a hunger for achievement can follow this policy. The Mughal emperor Akbar did it. He was an unlettered, unschooled man, but he surrounded himself with brilliant men. His nine jewels included an economist, a general, an administrator, wits, poets and philosophers. They spoke truth to power without fear or intimidation, and the general public profited from their combined wisdom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But lazy, mediocre, entitled people are always too insecure to empower anybody who can become a “threat” to them. They tend to systematically weed out high-profile performers, and favour people with talents and passion inferior to their own. It is a policy that hollows out the organisation and inevitably ends with dumb, dumber and dumbest monkeys dangling at the bottom of the food chain, a phenomena economists describe rather piquantly as a bozo explosion, the kind that is currently plaguing the Congress party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does Rahul Gandhi have the appetite to be an Akbar or an Ogilvy? Will he be able to look past the bozos and genuinely empower a Sachin Pilot, a Jyotiraditya Scindia, or a Shashi Tharoor—a youngish, dynamic, well spoken, popular leader? Sometimes I think he actually will. And if he does, it will be an amazingly courageous, unselfish and patriotic act on his part, one that will pay rich dividends to the party, and in the long term, even to him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Or, will he do what everybody is pretty much expecting him to do, and place some nameless, faceless, no-threat cipher in the top job? It is ironic that while Ayodhya is a Camelot of the BJP, it is the Congress which has been playing out so many scenes from the Ramleela lately. We have got righteous Prince Rama swearing he will go into exile, we have got everybody moaning and breast-beating trying to get him to stop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just like loyal brother Bharat, we have got any number of loyal lieutenants vowing that they are unworthy to rule, and will do so only in big brother’s name, with his sandals on the singhasan, and devout obedience in their hearts. We have even got a swelling band of loyal Laxman/Sita types who have resigned in solidarity with big brother and are all set to ‘go into exile’ themselves! The whole thing stinks of sycophancy and it is pathetic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let us hope Rahul is zen enough to be the smallest Matryoshka doll—the one that goes on to father giants. He certainly seems to be talking the talk; it is time to see if he will walk the walk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And to the ‘faithful’ within the party, I would advice a little less Ramayana-style toadying, and a little more Mughal swag, please. An old-fashioned, bloody war of succession where little brothers take on big brothers for the throne is the need of the hour. The time for timidity, modesty and pehle aap is past. Please step up and stake your claim strongly. Because we, the people of India, are holding auditions for future leaders, too. And our eyes are on you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Jul 12 11:34:48 IST 2019 kabir-singh-is-toxic-masculinity-at-its-worst <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>So Arjun Reddy has been remade in Hindi, with minimal changes, as Kabir Singh, and is on its way to becoming a super-duper hit. There is a whole lot of people wah-wahing the “intense” love story, even as rational people and feminists everywhere trash it for romanticising both toxic masculinity and timid, doe-eyed female passiveness—the kind made famous in sicko international films and books like Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight and Beautiful Disaster.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These kind of stories usually follow the same doomed Beauty and the Beast tropes, you know the one that says that every f#$ked-up guy can be “fixed” by marriage to the right girl. There is a handsome, successful, hyper-sexualised alpha male, who becomes obsessed with a quiet, submissive girl who attracts his attention by (as Kabir puts it) simply breathing. He “falls in love” with her in a single sighting; conversation, interchange of thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams are not at all necessary. She then becomes the only beauty who can “calm” this crazy, raging beast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The “intensity” of their love is depicted through scenes in which he seeks her out to collapse in her lap (without asking her for permission) after devouring mountain lions (that is Twilight), pulverising opponents in a boxing ring (that is Beautiful Disaster) or working all night on his thesis (that is Kabir Singh.) He then wakes up the next day to obsess about her diet, her sleep, the drape of her chunni, the boys who may be looking at her and her menstrual cycle. This constant surveillance, again, is supposed to show his “intense” love for her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact that he literally calls dibs on her—by issuing a firman to the entire student body that nobody should talk to “the new girl in the white salwar kameez” or rag her or flirt with her because she is “Kabir Sir’s interest”? Not an issue. Madly arousing? Not an issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact that he kisses her on the cheek on the very day they meet, again without permission, and after exchanging only three cursory sentences with her, which definitely does not include the question ‘would you like to date me?’ Oh, and did I mention that a groaning alaap kicks in as his smacking lips make contact with her shrinking flesh? Yeah, it is that kind of movie.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is worse. He does not even let her choose her own friends, shooing away the girls she has chosen to sit with, and haughtily beckoning what he repeatedly calls a “fat chick” to sit next to her, instead. Be friends with her, he tells the impassive Preethi. Fat chicks and beautiful girls should hang out together. Those other chicks will not stay your friend, but the fat chick will. Trust me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Preethi clearly digs this kind of abusive behavior. Because, after a few interactions she is shown to start smiling secretively to herself every time Kabir shows up, and very very soon, she puts out her hand to interlace her fingers with his. And then, reeling with lust and gratitude at being the alpha’s chosen one, she sleeps with him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They still have not had a single conversation at this point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The defenders of Kabir Singh are saying, “Oh! It is just a movie, do not over-intellectualise it.” But the fact of the matter is that filmmaking is a very precise, expensive science, and all these depictions and dialogues have been carefully vetted and deliberately, cynically selected. Shahid Kapoor has seen the Telugu version, and then knowing full well what he is getting into, given it the thumbs up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Make no mistake, hooliganism, bouts of rage, drunkenness, drug abuse, lack of consent and violence-as-love are being both normalised and glamourised in a theatre near you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pass the popcorn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Jun 28 14:26:43 IST 2019 we-need-more-of-virat-kohli-sportsmanlike-logic-of-empathy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Nice of Virat Kohli to reprimand the boorish desis in the crowd for booing Steve Smith, who has started playing again after the one-year ban. They were chanting “cheater, cheater” at him so loudly that Virat could hear it; he came over to scowl and gesture at them to quit the booing and get clapping instead. The crowd piped down, Steve grinned gratefully at Virat, and the nation at large went gaga over this show of gentlemanliness by our skipper. “Aggressive player, benevolent man—so easy to love!” tweeted his wife, and a smitten nation agreed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the press conference that followed, Virat seemed rather startled at all the attention his gesture got, and stated that it was all quite simple, really. If he had done something wrong, taken his punishment, and come back to play after a ban, he would have felt really upset if the spectators had taunted him. That is why he had urged them to stop. A use of basic empathy and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ which we should see often in public (and private) life, but which is becoming increasingly scarce on the ground.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I found this gesture of Virat’s so much cleaner, and so much easier an example to hold up to small children, than all that brouhaha about M.S. Dhoni’s balidan badge. How to explain that to children now? Look, children, Dhoni is trying to show respect and gratitude to the Indian Army by wearing this badge, but the ICC will not let him, because their rules say that the logos on players uniforms must carry no political, religious or racial connotations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why does the ICC say this? The children may ask. Because politics, religion and race have no place on the sports field, where all players are equal, and the only ranking used to differentiate between them is their playing ability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Children might even innocently ask that if Dhoni cares for the Army so much, why can he not just donate his match fee to them, or get a balidan tattoo, or (best option of all) play brilliantly, win the match and dedicate the victory to our Army instead? And, then, what would we tell them?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The whole thing smells of a needlessly ‘created’ controversy, the type that excites Twitter and gives our vacuous news channels an excuse to bang on bombastically about freedom of speech, while under-reporting genuine freedom of speech issues like the absolutely random detention of journalist Prashant Kanojia which happened pretty much at the same time. In fact I could not help noticing that some of them are not even calling him a journalist, but a “man” who “claims” to be a “freelance journalist”, in a tone that is clearly sceptical. This, when Prashant is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, Delhi, with work experience in The Indian Express and The Wire Hindi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prashant’s tweet was actually mildly funny—it shared a video of a lady who was eager to marry Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, along with a message urging him to run away with her, adding that the nation would support him if he did so. Anybody less paranoid would have ignored it, but clearly the chief minister of UP is not that man. He has decided to use Prashant Kanojia to send out the chilling message that he is above the law, and not to be joked about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is really high time we all applied Virat’s simple, sportsmanlike logic of empathy and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ to our national situation. Come out in support of Prashant, because tomorrow, if (or rather when) we are not Hindu enough, not vegetarian enough, not respectful enough, not north Indian enough, not patriotic enough, we will need people to speak up for us, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jun 15 20:13:33 IST 2019 get-up-dust-your-knees-off-and-learn <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Ugh. The last time I was so pumped up, and proved so disastrously wrong, was back in 2007, when the Indian cricket team crawled back home from the West Indies after failing to make it to even the super-eights round of the ICC World Cup. It totally broke my heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There I was in my blue billion T-shirt, both cheeks painted bright blue, tirangas clutched in both my hands, a ticket to Jamaica all booked and confirmed, and there were my dreams, dashed to smithereens on the ground.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That team was led by a Rahul, too. It was the ‘strongest team in the world on paper,’ comprising the golden trinity of Rahul-Sachin-Sourav, not to mention young talents like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. They lost to Bangladesh, barely beat Bermuda, then collapsed utterly in a must-win match to Sri Lanka and had to bow ignominiously out of the tournament in the preliminary round itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Young fans looking forward to the 2019 World Cup may not recollect this story, but the cowering, chastened team was actually herded into a police van when they reached the airport under the cover of darkness, even as fans bayed for their blood outside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, that particular story has a fairytale ending. There was introspection, overhauling, and brutal, large scale culling. Heads rolled, new blood gushed in, a talented, earthy new captain was appointed and empowered, and four years later, India finally had its fairytale ending, when our team held the glittering ICC World Cup trophy in their sweaty, triumphant hands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, I am guilty of gross over-simplification, but what I am trying to say is there is a lot to be learned from failure if one is grounded enough, hungry enough, and courageous enough to get up, dust one’s knees off, and learn from it. (Ask Smriti Irani!)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is my fervent message to the Congress. For heaven’s sake, pull together and work bloody hard for a change. Introspect, overhaul, resign, recruit, reinvent, be brutally honest and dig deep to re-find the essence that makes you you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, if Rahul wants to quit, then take the man at his word and let him quit. Find out what you are, when there’s no Nehru-Gandhi around to front you. And when you find out, tell us—loudly and clearly and unequivocally, without any me-tooing, and panicking and hesitation. Learn a lesson from the BJP—they have made it categorically clear that their dream is a Hindu Rashtra, and everybody who does not like the idea of that can just shut the f@#k up, roll up their Janamaz rugs and go live in Pakistan. Sure, Modi and Shah have to throw a bone to the minorities and mouth platitudes now and then, but this never confuses their workers or their supporters. They all remain quite serene and understand ki yeh sab toh kehna padta hai (it’s all lip-service); the real agenda remains Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, where is your inversely corresponding, uncompromising vision for India? Where is your clearly stated stand that people who oppose the Constitution of the Republic of India can just board their Pushpak Vimaans and go live in freaking Mahishmati? Where is your spine, your unequivocal stand on non-appeasement, and your zero-tolerance to intolerance?</p> <p>Also, this time, do not take another three-and-a-half years to choose your next president. Pick one now. Or stick with the one you have got. Whatever. We do not really care. Just tell us what you stand for please (hopefully democracy, institutions, secularism, honesty) and you may yet become relevant once again. As a third Rahul once said, ‘Picture abhi baki hai’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri May 31 11:49:50 IST 2019 anuja-chauhans-prediction-a-new-PM-with-a-lagaan-type-crew-in-tow <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is prediction time. Everybody and their parrot, their god-man and their Nandi bull are prophesying who will score big on May 23. Will an ensemble cast film—a sort of Ocean’s Eleven or Lagaan—win the big day, or will the victor be a single hero movie —starring a white-bearded Munna Bhai and a bald, chubby Circuit?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The predictions vary wildly. Anywhere you turn, somebody or the other is animatedly making their own bhavishyavani based on a mixture of wild hunch, ear-to-the-ground info (chats with Uber drivers are very popular), pseudo-mathematical calculations about the way the numbers add up, travels into the heart of Uttar Pradesh (which generally means one conference in Noida) and plain, old-fashioned wishful thinking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a lot of ‘remember, you heard it here first’ going on on the TV channels. And at social gatherings, people are placing bets left, right and centre. I keep hearing that ‘the soul of the nation is at stake in this election’. But from what I am seeing all around me, there is a whole lot of single malt at stake, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naturally, I, too, have a prediction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As I hardly ever take Ubers, and never have conferences in Noida, mine is based purely on the body language of our key players in their public interviews and interactions. And my reading tells me that Narendra Modi has lost his mojo, while Rahul Gandhi has finally found his.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After years of public ridicule, and more ignominious flat-on-your-back landings than the first half of a Rambo movie, Rahul appears serenely confident. He has all his policy answers in place, his manifesto on his fingertips, he is disarmingly frank in his answers on the coalition question, and the binary he has been seeking to create, between hate, as characterised by Modi, and love, as characterised by himself, is finally sticking. He smiles, holds eye-contact, interrupts politely yet confidently, makes his point coherently, and uses the name of his interviewer with an insouciance that would warm the cockles of Dale Carnegie’s heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His long-suffering cheerleaders, thrilled and grateful that their chosen one is finally leading ably and coherently, are providing support fire with gusto. Of course, they should have gotten their act together six months ago, and they may have to pay a heavy price for that, but at least their act is finally together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi’s graph seems to be moving in the other direction. I first detected a certain wistfulness in his eyes at the end of the January 26 parade this year, when he walked down Rajpath after the president had left, waving to the crowds. It was the look Farooq Sheikh had in his eyes in the ‘dekh lo aaj humko ji bhar ke’ song from Bazaar, when he looks at Supriya Pathak in her wedding finery, knowing he may never see her again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it has been downhill all the way since then. We have seen maha-bluster and chest-thumping through Pulwama and Balakot, a gratuitous national broadcast to announce the successful ASAT testing by DRDO, the peculiar Main Bhi Chowkidar campaign, the desperately crowd-appeasing Akshay Kumar interaction, and most recently, the ‘cloudy’ interview, where our prime minister gave off the vibes of a child who has not done his homework trying to bluff his way through an interaction with the strict teacher ma’am. There are hesitations, lip-licks and more dropped eyelashes than in a hero-heroine interaction on a StarPlus daily.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, here is my prediction: A new prime minister (may he/she reign for five full years!) with a ragtag Lagaan-like crew in tow. Tumultuous times ahead, basically. Good thing I will have all that single malt to fortify me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri May 17 20:55:05 IST 2019 why-dont-women-host-bollywood-film-award-shows <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Can you guys keep track of the number of awards Bollywood hands out? There’s IIFA and Filmfare and Star Screen and Cine-something and almost a dozen others…. I happened to watch one (or some?) of them lately—I’m really not sure which, but it had Ayushmann Khurrana and Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao and Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan all ‘anchoring’ on stage. They made all these self-deprecating jokes and took potshots at each other and moaned about how new heroes are spawning like frogs in the Mumbai rain, while an adoring audience chuckled and applauded at what good sports they all were. (Of course one never knows if the adoring audience was actually there while the show unfolded; very often VIPs come, give reaction shots of themselves smiling and applauding and go home—and the channel then edits the footage to make it look like they were there all along.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In between the jolly, witty anchoring that was being done on stage by the leading men, the so-called ‘leading’ women appeared to do dance performances and be at the receiving end of various ‘jokes’ and wisecracks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the same, depressing format every single time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One that sends out the clear, unmistakable message that the heroes are the alphas of Bollywood—they stride the stage like colossuses, in command of the entire performance—while the women are just shiny decorative little item numbers, with no agency and no speaking time, shoved in hurriedly between the heroes’ self-centred monologues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why haven’t Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif hosted a Filmfare awards night yet? I’m sure they’d do a brilliant job of it! Why didn’t Sridevi and Madhuri ever do one? I can’t believe me missed on a performance like that! Why hasn’t Alia Bhatt hosted one yet? Or Taapsee Pannu? Or Parineeti Chopra? Is Alia in any way a less brilliant newcomer than, say, a Vicky Kaushal? Is Taapsee not as talented as Kartik Aaryan? How come nobody in marketing or event management or production has had the bright idea to entrust that all-empowering mic into a woman’s hands? How come none of our gutsy new girls are striding up and down those glittering stages, taking potshots at the industry and at the older guard and how the beauty pageants are spawning new girls every year ha-ha-ha and making some sharp mentions of me-too and the inequality of the pay-grade? And stepping aside now and then for Aaryan and Varun Dhawan to come put on an item number?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Oscars are hosted by both men and women. Whoopi Goldberg’s done it. Ellen De Generes’s done it. Liza Minnelli, Goldie Hawn. It’s a long list of witty, confident women, who cracked up the audience and sent out the strong, unequivocal message that anchoring such a big night can be a woman-sized job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have equally witty, confident women in Bollywood—how come nobody thought of giving the job to say, the cast of Veere-Di-Wedding last year? Kareena, Sonam, Swara and Shikha? How come nobody even though of giving them a section to host?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bollywood seems to believe that on awards night, the woman’s role is either to dance, or hand out an award, while wearing high heels and some dumb-ass, tent-sized gown. The only conversation she is allowed, is a little prepared speech on the red carpet about the designer she bought her gown from. She cannot wear something sensible (yet flattering) with flat shoes and neat hair, and talk about anything remotely intelligent. No matter how big a hit her movie has turned out to be, she cannot make politically incorrect jokes or take pot-shots at Shah Rukh or Salman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is like we are living in some macho, jungle raj. Where Sarabi and Nala can never hope to be Mufasa or Simba.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat May 04 12:20:24 IST 2019 my-struggles-with-religion <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Exciting times! I’m being trolled on Twitter for pointing out, on an NDTV debate, that #MainBhiChowkidaar is essentially a reaction to #ChowkidaarChorHai, and therefore a defensive position and an acknowledgement that the ‘chor’ barb hurt, and hurt hard. Now this is my personal opinion as an advertising professional. Anybody is free to agree or disagree with it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had hoped for intelligent debate on the issue, but all I got was a herd of pseudo-chowkidaars stampeding all over my Twitter feed, eagerly informing the world that I am Congress politician Margaret Alva’s daughter-in-law (so what?) and that I have absolutely no legit status as an advertising professional (not true, I have worked in the field for 17 years and my work in PepsiCo is very well known). They also accuse me of ‘hiding my real name’ (again, not true—my given name is Anuja Chauhan, and I am feminist enough to keep it that way.) They call me all kinds of exotic names like ‘rice-bag convert’ and ‘crypto-evangelist’ and ‘chudail’ and triumphantly dredge up an ancient tweet I had posted in the early, heady days of Twitter, about converting to Christianity ten years after my marriage, and stating that it is a free country and if anybody wants to change their religion, they should be allowed to do so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They keep trotting this tweet out periodically as proof that I am ‘hiding’ my identity. I fail to see how I am ‘hiding’ it, if it is out there on a public Twitter post for heaven’s sake, not to mention in the acknowledgements pages of every book I have written—and I have written five.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But I digress. I do not want to talk about trolls today, or about pseudo-chowkidaars, I want to talk about something much more important (to me anyway)—my struggles with religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have become, to mangle Pink Floyd, ‘Spiritually Numb’. Or post-religious, if there is such a term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I was a child, I had intense, unquestioning faith in ‘Bhagwaanji’, whatever that childish term meant. As I grew older, I got disenchanted with organised religion. Christianity appealed to me as a simple, clean faith; I was much struck by the idea of a man sacrificing himself to save the world, and also, I had a list of selfish boons I was hoping Jesus would grant. So I converted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A good many years later, I realised that Christianity was as good or as bad as any other organised religion—the same claiming of a higher moral ground, the same insistence that it was the only true way and that all other ways were false, the same harping on the fact that no miracles were happening for me because my faith was not strong enough. Very traumatised and heartbroken, I realised that I was back to square one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This time around, I did not bother to tweet my position to the world. I knew the world had enough drama going on already, thank you very much, and it did not really give two hoots about my private epiphany, which was this: I do not think anybody alive has the answer to the God question. We are all just stumbling around, making wild guesses, and extrapolating and hoping hard, really.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have not lost all hope in a Maker, but I know that nobody has a patent on him. And that he does not dwell in brick or mortar or in purported birthplaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The larger point I am trying to make, I guess, is that everybody’s religion is their own personal business and nobody else’s. And that more evil has been done in the name of religion than in the name of anything else in world history. At the moment, an entire election seems to be centering, willy-nilly, upon it, and upon its ghoulish twin sibling—muscular patriotism. Please let us not let it become the reason why we pick a particular party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Thu Apr 18 12:22:00 IST 2019 chowkidars-we-are-not-stupid <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>This has got to be the most dumbed-down election ever. The other day, Twitter was awash with major political leaders all thumping their chests and insisting they were chowkidars. Chowkidars themselves are puzzled by how their profession has become so high-class and sought-after suddenly. They have been gathering at the bottom of the buildings in my colony, leaning on their lathis, and discussing if there is a pay rise in there for them, somewhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But of course there is not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is like last fortnight everybody was walking around in camouflage fatigues (including Virat Kohli and his merry crew) insisting they were faujis, but the faujis got nothing out of it. Nor did the chai-wallahs, a little while ago, when our PM was thumping his chest and proudly saying ki haan, main chaiwalla hoon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anyway, I suspect #MainBhiChowkidar has been churned out in a hurry, in a blind panic actually, because the Congress’s chowkidar chor hai slogan has been gathering momentum. And also because the Modi hai toh mumkin hai (which is a shameless lift of the old Airtel Magic hai toh mumkin hai line, I wonder if they are considering suing) has created as much as a ripple as the new Pepsi commercial (none). The fast-talking marketing team has sold the panicked party some glib, twisted logic of ‘embracing a negative and turning it into a positive’ with the result that now Modi is now lumped with calling himself Chowkidar Narendra Modi, surely a sad comedown from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and horribly reminiscent of the Insaan suffix that follows the names of all members of the Dera Sacha Sauda cult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is actually pretty funny, but also rather scary—as it begs the question that if everybody is standing outside, holding a lathi, smoking a beedi and guarding the building, then who the hell is inside the building doing the vital work of governance? There is contempt for education, skills and white-collar workers in the line. There is watchdog-ism in the line. There is khap-ism in the line. You get the sense that the country has tuned into a Big Boss set, and there are surveillance cameras everywhere—watching you narrowly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And of course, there is the point that if indeed Modi is a chowkidar, then he is a pretty lousy one. Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi have all happily run out of the country on his watch, and he has done absolutely zip about getting them back. He has not been very good at guarding the institutions of democracy either—the Supreme Court, the CBI, the RBI, and the Constitution of India itself, have all been messed with and compromised in various ways on his watch. Crimes against women have been on a rampant rise as well—so no kudos for his chowkidari in that department either. The only thing he has been successful at, is a certain regressive, sternly paternalistic sort of moral policing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So the BJP’s usage of this particular line strays beyond irony into absolute dishonesty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Supporters of the BJP may say in his defence that at least he has a campaign in place. There is a film and a line and it is all rolling out on time. The Congress, on the other hand, still remains absolutely mum about their slogan, campaign and manifesto for elections 2019. Which, of course, is really quite unforgivable. They should have been out there, united, alliances in place, firing from all cylinders by now. I mean, do they want to win or not? Seriously, what gives?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But I would say the BJP is worse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because while the Congress’s lethargy and silence can (and should) be considered stupid, the BJP’s campaign reveals something much much worse. It reveals that the self-styled pseudo-chowkidars in the BJP think that we, the voters, are stupid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Thu Mar 21 11:01:29 IST 2019 lets-send-a-majboot-message <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Yeh hamara siddhant hai….</i></p> <p><i>Hum ghar mein ghus kar marangey!</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said our prime minister in a rally, to a thin crowd of lustily baying supporters. (It loosely translates to ‘These are our principles.... We will enter your home, and kill you.’)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, his fans—he still has many, though fewer than he used to—will rush to assure me that he was talking to Pakistanis/terrorists/enemies of Bharat Mata. It is their homes that he will enter, and because he is a man of principles, it is them that he will kill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trouble is, the definition of enemy of Bharat Mata is growing vaguer by the day. In our increasingly insular country, it is fast becoming the most inclusive club of all. Pretty much anybody can gain entry. Hindu, but don’t believe in idol worship? Congratulations, you are in! Hindu, but married a descendent of a ‘raped-by-the-armies-of-Muhammad Ghori’ Muslim or ‘converted-for-a-bag-of-rice’ Christian? In! Any sort of religious minority? In! Did not stand up for the national anthem because you are a decorated soldier who lost both legs in war? You are in, too! Dared to ask for proof of the death of 300+ Jaish terrorists in Balakot? In you go. Wondered why our intelligence agencies did not know that 350kg of RDX had entered Kashmir? In! Demanded why our fighter pilots—the cream of the cream of our armed forces—are defending our nation in rickety old MiG-21s, while the Tejas remains unready, HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) languishes, and our order of 126 Rafale jets gets whittled down to 36? In! In! In! Sniggered when the Vande Bharat Express broke down on its maiden run from Varanasi to Delhi? In! Reposted a Humans of Hindutva post saying that Hindu and Islamic fundamentalists both have loads in common? In! Asked why our prime minister was at his party’s rally, pushing his party’s agenda, and rabbiting on about his booths being sabse majboot (strongest), when the nation was at the brink of war? In! Raised an eyebrow when the PM publicly poked fun at the problems of dyslexic children and their anxious mothers? In! Drank a shot of Beefeater gin? Yup, you are in for sure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, when my prime minister says that he will ghuso (enter) the homes of the enemies of Bharat Mata and kill them, I feel he is basically saying that he will enter my home and kill me. That is the definite feeling I get. This man is out to get me—a moderate, law-abiding, tax-paying Indian citizen, with a fondness for meat, and for hearing meaty answers to pertinent, reasonable questions, and a complete contempt for the fawning, snarling lapdog that is the Indian media today. I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way. Crores of others do, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have stopped watching Indian news channels entirely, and I usually avoid Twitter because it is so damn toxic, but I did go there this week and was amused to see a lot of people proposing a very desirable switcheroo to Pakistan. “Take Arnab!” they suggested. “Take Arnab and give us back Abhinandan! Please!” To which clever, clever Imran Khan swiftly and politely responded—err, no thanks, here is Abhinandan back already, and you can keep Arnab, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A nation gets the media and the prime minister it deserves. Looking at the people we have got in the posts today, I have to say that we are a weak, vain, greedy and foolish nation and it is high time we mended our ways. Let us ghuso into those polling booths and vote in somebody genuinely majboot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Mar 08 12:09:19 IST 2019 our-time-will-come <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Overheard a child in an airport bus asking his mother if we were now at war with Pakistan. Before she could even reply, pat came his next question, “Will my exams be postponed?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the nervous giggle he gave as he asked this question, it was pretty evident that he wouldn’t mind that happening at all.</p> <p>Yes, the suspension of all routine activities during war can be called ‘exciting’—there is drama everywhere, every emotion is heightened, there are insane goose-bumpy highs and gut-wrenching lows. That is why there are so many books and movies about war—it makes for great, soul-stirring cinema.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What it doesn’t make for, however, is for great reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Real war is painful, cold, smelly, gruelling, messy, nerve-wracking, a drudgery. It is tragic, wasteful, sordid and grotesque. Limping back to normalcy afterwards can take decades. It is, above all, highly avoidable. As far as I know, the only people baying for the cheap thrills of war are those who have never been in one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A mature reaction from both the government and the populace is the need of the hour, and thankfully, that seems to be what is happening. People are offering up their homes and their good offices to Kashmiri students who are facing threats of violence from jingoistic groups. Political parties are stating that they will stand united through this hour of crisis, and already, two leading Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists have been killed in a controlled, carefully targeted encounter. Of course, obnoxious elements like the Bajrang Dal have been ordering Kashmiri students in Uttarakhand to ‘go home and not return till there is an Indian flag waving from every Kashmiri home’, and Amit Shah couldn’t resist a few cheap opportunistic cracks at the Congress. But overall, the trend seems to be more introspective and anti-war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>February-March is the season for board exams, and I can’t help thinking that this was probably the time when the young Adil Ahmad Dar decided to drop out of school. Becoming a glamorous fidayeen, claiming the moral high ground over all his tamely studious schoolmates, training with ‘macho’ weapons and plotting his revenge on the soldiers who allegedly made him rub his nose in the mud in a circle around their jeep must have seemed far more exciting than mundanely studying for his approaching class twelve board exams. But a better revenge would have been to stay in school, crib his books, clear his exams and somehow make a success of his life instead of dying in this ghastly fashion, thus becoming what the soldiers suspected him of being all along.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sure, given the ground realities, Adil’s classmates may complete their class twelve and their graduation and still have no jobs to show for it in a few years time. But hey, at least they will still be in the running. Suicide, even a ‘spectacular’ suicide like this one, is eventually an act of terrible cowardice. Far better is to sit the papers and try and make a good life for yourself, your homeland and your neighbours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two popular commercial movies have been rocking in our cinemas lately. One offers a wham-bam solution to the problems the world throws at us and offers us the high-energy slogan, “How’s the josh?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second, whose main character just happens to be a Muslim college boy who lives in grinding poverty in a squalid slum, recommends a more measured, constructive path. Its message is about hard work, hanging in there, eschewing cheap thrills, keeping your cool and eventually finding your place under the sun. That is the slogan we must adopt. Apna time ayega.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Feb 23 12:17:17 IST 2019 force-of-the-forties <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>So I am to be an empty nester. My youngest—now in class 12—starts his board exams next week. And, by August, the house will be empty, and my husband and I will be staring at each other’s faces with nothing to look forward to except menopause. But, I am no longer depressed about this stage of my life, or the dimming of my youth, or the three empty bedrooms on the first floor, because of Priyanka Gandhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dressed in broad bordered cotton saris and bright blouses, and wearing an even brighter smile, she is embarking on a brand new career in her late 40s. Her kids are all grown up, her style quotient all figured out, she has lost that diffident quality she had in her 20s and gained the calm self-assurance of a woman who has lived and learned a fair bit, and is going to be taking no crap from anybody. I am sure she is going to be a force to be reckoned with, politically speaking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My earlier such poster woman (not girl, please note!) used to be Shobha Kapoor, who lived out her 20s and 30s merely as Mrs Jeetendra, the wife of a megastar, with no major achievements of her own. And then in her 40s, she had this total reinvention, got together with her young daughter, started Balaji Telefilms Limited and gave the world Great Grand Masti, The Dirty Picture and Smriti Irani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Internationally, the list of such women is even longer and includes people like Toni Morrison, Julia Child, Vera Wang—all women who started working in their 40s and made a brilliant job of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Do women get more cooler as they age? I firmly believe they do. Compare the very beautiful, but very silent Young Indira Nehru, the goongi gudiya or silent doll as she was sneeringly dubbed, to the Iron Lady who dominated our politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Look at the younger, defensive, cheated-upon Hillary Clinton to the pant-suited power woman who almost became POTUS. Look at Nita Ambani, the young, pretty school teacher who today is a very powerful businesswoman in her own right. Internationally, look at the sweet, eager-to-please English rose that was Diana Spencer, and then look at how she ‘womanned’ up into a self-confident dynamo of a woman, a power centre in her own right, a queen of hearts who still commands a powerful pull on the imagination of her people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was on this panel discussion about women’s empowerment recently, the type that happen on the fringes of ‘more important’ panel discussions about corruption, politics and money at every think-fest or lit-fest. We were talking about why the women’s reservation bill never gets passed and somebody said, “Please understand. The patriarchy loves the girl child. And they love young girls and young ladies. They are sweet, decorative, deferential and devoted. The only problem is that those sweet young girls grow into snarky old women like all of us on this panel. With opinions of our own, dried up wombs, no-nonsense bifocals instead of rose-tinted glasses, and no respect for anything except ability. That’s what the patriarchy can not abide.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, do men ‘man’ up, as well as women ‘woman’ up, as they age? I may be a bit biased here, but somehow, I do not think so. I think age weakens men, unlike women, who seem to grow stronger and more queenly with it—more Victorian, more Elizabethian, more Angela Merkel-ian.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, here’s to Priyanka’s late entry into politics. May she guffaw as loudly as Renuka Chowdhury, lay down the law as flatly as Mamata Banerjee, and show as much steel as her grandmother did. All us middle-aged auntiejis are rooting for her from our empty nests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chauhan is an author and advertiser.</b></p> Fri Feb 08 11:28:17 IST 2019 the-right-sexpert-is-here <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>We all have read those furtive, slightly frantic letters that come out in the ask-the-sexpert section of the afternoon newspapers. You know what I mean, right?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Dear doc, my penis is crooked. Will girls laugh at it?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Dear doc, I kissed a boy’s scrotum. When will the baby be born?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Dear doctor, I masturbated. Afterwards I notice that my member seemed a centimetre smaller. My mother told me that a man’s member becomes smaller and smaller every time he commits the sin of masturbation. I live in fear of my member vanishing altogether, but I cannot stop masturbating.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have often wondered if the questions they ask are all made up—a way to get around the censors by pretending to be ‘medical’ while actually titillating readers. But they are all real, apparently. And, now, a frankly filthy, graphically gross, and touchingly vulnerable Netflix show called Sex Education—with the empowering slug line ‘experience is overrated’ and starring a sixteen-year-old male virgin who ends up playing sex therapist to his highly hormonal and ill-informed high school peers—is giving these distressed people all the information, reassurance and empathy they need.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The show is set in a small town in Britain, but is hugely informative for anybody, really—age and nationality no bar. It has been a huge hit around the world and what I personally found so heartening about it is that, by giving sex exactly the correct amount of importance (neither too much or too little) and by addressing every single awkward, icky, gross and weird problem non-judgmentally and head-on, it is helping youngsters around the world leave behind shame and secrecy, and rewrite the codes governing sexuality and how the genders interact with each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I binge-watched the entire series last night, exhausted and dispirited after sitting on (yet another) lit-fest panel discussion on #MeToo, where we all debated the same, tired issues—why these women did not speak up before, are men going to stop hiring women because women could slap #MeToo charges against them, what about Hardik Pandya, do proven predators need to be shamed or maimed, how can the legal system be given more teeth, blah blah blah. But, when I finished watching all eight episodes, I felt marvelously rebooted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sex Education makes consent sexy. It makes pleasuring your partner aspirational. It takes pressure off the boys to always be stoic alpha studs who can never lose or shed a tear. It gives girls agency, does not objectify them or pit them against each other. It reassures kids that being a virgin does not equal being a freak. It dispels the myth that everybody but you is constantly having huge amounts of amazingly gratifying sex and that you are ‘a sad loser who will die alone, swallowed by your pet python’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even better, it does it in a way that is extremely entertaining, and while being all about sex, is strangely not about sex at all. But rather about self-acceptance, genuine communication, trust, courage, notions of success and fears of failure, family ties and friendships. The stuff of life, really.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The series is only one season old, but it has set off a tremendous ripple. In this jaded world, torn apart by a 100 billion dollar pornography industry, with men and women being pitched against each other in attitudes of mistrust and mutual exploitation, where every interaction has become a minefield, the constitution governing sexual/gender interaction desperately needed to be rewritten. And, I think the writers-directors who have created this series may have unwittingly become some of the key founding fathers to have done that job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chauhan is an author and advertiser.</b></p> Fri Jan 25 18:55:03 IST 2019 not-an-accidental-flick <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The poster of The Accidental Prime Minister makes me think of fancy dress competitions in junior school. You know, when your mum would put talcum power in your hair and fold her sari into two, tie it around your stomach and send you off to school as Indira Gandhi. If you were a boy, you would be stripped down to a little dhoti, have a flesh-coloured stocking stuck on your head, be given a pair of glasses and a long stick, and be instructed to murmur “Hey Ram” and keel over when the judges came over to talk to you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seriously, everybody on The Accidental Prime Minister poster looks like they are in fancy dress. Playing parliament-parliament. It is really weird. The inverted commas are just too much for me to handle. Like look, look, here comes ‘Priyanka’, complete with short, dark hair and a broadly bordered sari. She is talking to ‘Rahul’, who has dimples and a sneer. Here is ‘Soniaji’ with a ponytail, glasses and an Italian accent. And here is ‘Manmohan Singh’ walking around stiffly and speaking in a soft, hoarse voice and looking like a fatter-faced creepy sort of succubus of the real thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are even worse than the inverted commas in Sanju, which really blew my mind. A perfectly nice-looking young man, who can act really well, pretending to be this much less-attractive older man, who cannot act for toffee. And oopar se, that whole overdose of “good-hearted rogue-ishness” and “poor-little-rich-boyishness”, and many protestations about how they were not making a hagiography (they totally were).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, I have enjoyed some biopics. Like Dangal was nice (even though you knew the climax did not really happen that way) and Manto, and a while ago, Paan Singh Tomar. The songs from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were lovely, and so was Farhan Akhtar’s body, even though the film managed to conveniently blame Pakistan for Milkha not getting an Olympics medal. I get that it is nice to be educated about the struggles and triumphs of underdog achievers from all kinds of fields. And, I totally understand that for actors looking for different (yet safe) roles, playing somebody famous and still-living could be seen as a challenge. So, I guess what I am objecting to is manipulative films, made with a mission to either whitewash or defame.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anupam Kher was on TV recently, talking about The Accidental Prime Minister, and belligerently defending the timing of it, saying that “well, we release cricket-themed films around the World Cup and patriotic-themed films around Republic Day, so why cannot we release political-themed films around the elections?” And, of course, the interviewer was either too intimidated or too kiss-uppy to point out that “er, sir, that is because, unlike during the World Cup and Republic day, people vote during elections. So your film could directly influence the way in which way they vote, and surely that is irresponsible!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, he is not alone, is he? There is also Thackeray timed to release about now, and yesterday there was an absolutely ghastly image of Vivek Oberoi all dressed up as Narendra Modi. His look was so off that if there had been no words below the image—saying PM Narendra Modi—I would have thought it is a film about Shirdi-waale Sai Baba. Or Willie Nelson. Or Santa Claus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, what am I getting so worked up about? It is the era of fake news; lavish biopics starring big actors are the latest way to rewrite history and control the narrative, and the people who can afford to fund them are funding them. It is not very different from paying Beyonce to dance at your son’s wedding, really.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Jan 11 11:43:48 IST 2019 hammer-out-a-fresh-script-modiji <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>What a ghastly year it is been for the superstar trinity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Salman Khan mincingly did his usual all-strut, no-sense routine and ended up at the losing end of the Race. Aamir rode a donkey, wore blue-eyeliner, aped a Hollywood star and fed drugged ladoos to Englishmen who spoke to each other in Urdu, even when they were alone. Most recently, Shah Rukh Khan shrunk himself down to four feet six inches, and played a cocky thirty-eight-year-old dwarf and romanced two of the nation’s beautiful women before departing on a space mission to Mars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The audience was not impressed either by Salman’s lazy/safe more-of-the-same offering or the gimmicky outlandish fare the other two put out and showed its annoyance at having its Diwali and Christmas ruined by ungratefully not showing up at the theatres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The empty seats clearly stated that the audience is done with superficial, one-tone drivel that presumes to take it for granted. Do not think that you can just do gora-bashing and I’ll love you, it is telling Aamir. Do not assume that if you sport stubble, boots, dark glasses and do a new dance step I’ll love you, they are telling Salman. Dimples can only do so much, it’s quite frankly telling Shah Rukh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have been there, cheered for that, tired of it, and now I’m craving substance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(This the point when everybody turns around and blames the writers. But please understand that writers are the most bullied people in the movie business, and the primary reason they churn out drivel is not because they are only capable of writing drivel, but because the stars are making them write drivel and they are too much in awe of the stars to say no.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the reason why any number of movies featuring non-stars like Rajkummar Rao, Vicky Kaushal and Ayushmann Khurrana have done so well this year. These are all small, rooted, solid, sincerely made films, without goodies or baddies, made by people with mutual respect for each other, and no superstar bloating the budget.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The parallel with politics easily writes itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana resoundingly rejected the stale, formulaic, good guys vs bad guys rhetoric of the fifty-six inch chested, tried and tested superstar Narendra Modi and left his hit-making production studio, the BJP, totally red-faced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As usual the star is being praised for trying to rise valiantly above a sloppy script, and the writers are being blamed for all that sloppiness. Nobody is mentioning the fact that the writers wrote originally about development. And then had to sit by sadly as their plot was arrogantly hijacked by quickie-fix tracks featuring evil, cow-killing Muslims, mandirs, gigantic statues, and luridly coloured currency…</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So please huddle with your core team of writers again, Modiji. Listen to them and hammer out a fresh, sound script with a grand theme, a neatly defined first, second and third act, plus a killer climax. Spread out to last over a period of five years. Then stick to that script. Do not get derailed because your ratings slip on a certain Friday. Stay steady. If you have committed yourself to development—then work hard and sincerely towards giving the audience development instead of trying to sex things up by randomly turning on beef-eaters or menstruating ladies. Remember, focus, dedication and no dicking with the script will win the day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(Also, writers, please have the gumption to stand your ground.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You do not want that Ayushmann Khurrana of politics, that unlikely, puppy-faced Rahul Gandhi and his ensemble cast to run away with the Filmfare Trophy, do you?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Dec 29 11:18:11 IST 2018 reaching-for-our-reserves <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>So, Urijit Patel has left the (nation) building. Initially, we all naturally assumed that he threw a hissy fit because he felt that the new turquoise blue 50 rupee note was not in quite the same swaggy league of awesomeness as the chocolate brown tenner, the bhagwa-orange two hundred, and the cool, indigo blue hunner. And that as colour and size of currency is the most important fiscal issue our nation faces, and as the bright green option Urijit was reported to prefer was just too Islamic in tone for a Hindu Rashtra, GOI was not willing to accommodate his quibbles….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But now it is being whispered that he probably quit because GOI was gunning for the RBI’s contingency reserves, and planning to use them to hand out populist sops and basically present a better picture of how our economy is doing ahead of the national elections. But as without its reserves, the Reserve Bank of India would cease to be the Reserve Bank of India, Urijit said ‘uh huh, no can do.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, just like it happened with his very able predecessor, Urijit ka pack-up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(Btw, a film based on the surgical strikes being carried out by GOI against India’s contingency reserves has already been shot and readied for release by Bollywood. The trailer has just released. It is called Uri.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fasten your seat belts for the free roller-coaster ride people, the good days are finally here. In fact they have been goodish for a while. 2018 began with four Supreme Court justices calling a press conference to draw attention to the government’s interference with the way cases were being allocated, and it is ending with this latest resignation by the head of the RBI. Along the way there were issues with high-ranking officers from the CBI and the Election Commission. These are all highly qualified professionals, men and women of intelligence and experience. When none of them can work with a government, it suggests that said government is exhibiting both high-handedness and low IQ, and repeatedly picking the expedient/populist short-term option over long-term nation-building. And that it is zooming into one key institution of Indian democracy after another, and—like an idiot child with an all access pass—banging them against the wall, and knocking the stuffing out of them, and generally phailaoing the raita, simply because it can.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, we thought the movie based on the Modi sarkar’s five years in power would be titled Glory Days, but it is turning out to be Dunston Checks In.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course it is not all just ignorance and arrogance. There is prejudice and hatred in the mix too, lots of low cunning, and an agenda of divisiveness and hate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But we are used to hate in India. Every single party has in one way or the other used caste, religion and ethnicity to split us into voting silos, and yet, we have managed to survive it because at the end of the day, we are all still suckers for the unity-in-diversity narrative. Fond as we are of Ram Lalla, we are also pretty taken up with another devastatingly cute toddler, a product of two generations of ‘love jihad’, Taimur Ali Khan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anyway, I think that in seeking to access our figurative ‘crowd jewels’, GOI might have really gone too far. In Hindi movie parlance, this is truly izzat pe haath daalna. We will tolerate many things, we will eat chicken instead of mutton and we sing along to rejigged, syrupy renditions of our national anthem (another classic case of fixing what ain’t broke) and we will nod along while you lynch a few minority citizens, rename cities, and build vulgar statues that nobody asked for, but at the end of the day, chindi hain hum. Reach for our emergency reserves and we may finally snarl ‘enough’ and toss you over.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Dec 14 17:15:32 IST 2018 slogging-hard-for-slogans <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Having spent more than 20 years selling colas, chips and chocolate, I have a healthy respect for catchy slogans. I still remember the frisson I felt the first time I heard ‘Bolo mere lips, I love Uncle Chipps.’ My shallow, copy-trainee brain instinctively knew it was in the presence of deathless, immortal prose. That feeling of lip-smacking yumminess, of spice and salt and crunch and saliva all blending into one, and of course, the reassuring neatness of the rhyming—all conspired to create the perfect slogan. I decided on the spot that this would be the yardstick I would measure all my advertising writing against.</p> <p>Good slogans always give you frisson. That is French for shiver—but it is more than just shiver. It means a sort of quivering skin-orgasm, complete with hair standing up at the back of your neck and pupil dilation. ‘Jana gana mana’ gives us all frisson, I am sure. So does ‘Jai Ho’ at the end of Slumdog Millionaire.</p> <p>Good slogans should also always be a little tongue-in-cheek, or they run the risk of taking themselves too seriously. And finally (and most critically if we are talking about political slogans, which we are), good slogans should also invoke some larger insight, channel the zeitgeist, reverberate with what is in the hearts and heads of people.</p> <p>There are several contenders for the top slot when it comes to the best political slogan of India. The simple, spartan ‘Jai jawan jai kisan’, (Glory to the soldier, glory to the farmer) coined by Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1965, which enthused soldiers to defend India and urged farmers to do their best to increase the production of food grains to reduce dependence on import, deserves special mention.</p> <p>For sheer epic-ness and Rajinikanth-esque swag you simply can’t beat ‘Ek sherni sau langoor, Chikmagalur, Chikmagalur!’ (one tigress, a hundred monkeys, that’s the scenario in the by-election in Chikmagalur). In one simple sentence it reduced Indira Gandhi’s opposition to a bunch of cartoons and confirmed that no matter how deep patriarchy runs in India’s veins, reverence for the mother goddess runs even deeper.</p> <p>There have been some cutsie slogans (rhymes about aaloo and Lalu come to mind), some that channelled caste angst (tilak, tarazoo aur talwar, inko maaro joote chaar ie, beat the bearers of swords, scales and tilaks with shoes), there have been deeply disturbing images of naked mothers in Imphal crying ‘Indian Army Rape us’, there has been talk of chests that are 56 inches wide and all kinds of tired two-liners about haath-and-saath, baar-and-sarkaar, but for sheer nation-shaking, mould-breaking subversiveness nothing quite packs the poisonous punch of L.K. Advani’s ‘Mandir Wahin Banaaengay’. (we will build the temple there only, ‘there’ being the site of the Babri mosque.)</p> <p>Aaah, what a slogan that was. Along with Salman Khan and Boomer bubble gum, it ruled the nineties. It gave me frisson even though I hadn’t been inside a temple more than four times in my entire, fauji-brat life. Featuring ecstatic, muscular bhakts egging us on to break down a mosque all in the name of a sweet-faced, blue-skinned cherubic baby-God, it shook the country like nothing before or since.</p> <p>And now, as always happens when the new slogans fail us, the BJP seems to be returning to its hit golden oldie. But this is 2019, not 1990, and I am not sure a remixed version of an old hit, even one featuring a rap solo by Mohan Bhagwat, can do the job. Meanwhile the Congress, after several false starts and a lot of talk of ‘Love’, seems to have finally stumbled on to a potentially winning slogan—‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ (The security guard is a thief.) If used consistently, in context, sans hiccups or random winks, it may just be ironical and damning enough to do the job.&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 14 11:09:08 IST 2019 where-suraiyya-slays <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In this column, I have held forth a lot on item numbers, mostly fuming against the crassness and the objectification contained in their lyrics and choreography. Lines like “I am a tandoori chicken, wash me down with alcohol...” from Fevicol Se, “Juicy lips, oh your juicy lips...” from Hoth Rasiley, and “I am buttery Chameli, I have secretly downed a peg of whiskey and come here...” [Chikni Chameli] have given me particular pain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I mean, why is the woman describing herself as a fast food accompaniment to alcohol, to be chewed, digested and excreted the next day? Why did somebody whom the press insists on describing as a ‘Bollywood A-lister’ agree to dance to it? Why the need to wax eloquent on the juiciness of lips, while making suggestive gestures? Why the fetishising of a woman who drinks in secret? And why can she not just have her wretched peg of whiskey out in the open like a normal person?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It seems to me that item songs usually follow one of two formats: 1) the item girl throws herself at a man and he rejects her, and she pouts and slithers around him and tries to woo him while he remains impervious to her charms (Kajra Re); 2) the item girl gives the snooty, full-on high maintenance ones, while a group of men salivate around her, indulging in patently fake desperately smitten behaviour. These item songs usually end with the item girl doing something utterly predictable like going off tamely with the main man, whoever he is, or scurrying for cover with her musicians because a big fight scene is beginning, or being kidnapped, or dying cheaply while trying to save the hero/slay the villain in some sort of climactic crossfire.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And that is why I am utterly charmed by the freshness of Suraiyya from Thugs of Hindostan. She lives alone in a plush haveli/kotha, calls all the shots in this establishment (no bossy madam or greasy pimp-uncle in sight) and has absolutely no soft corner for our hero. When a band of harried freedom fighters comes to her haveli looking for a safe hiding place, she agrees to let them stay, declaring, “I do not believe in slavery. Nobody should be a slave, either of their loved ones, or of the British.” That had me on my feet and whistling faster than any shot of any Bollywood hero taking his shirt off and flashing a poorly defined, starved-looking six-pack. I mean, Wah! Wah! Good on you, Suraiyya Jaan! In the eighteenth century, you had already imbibed the insights Indian advertising and Mother’s Horlicks are discovering only today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, she is just a bit player in this strange, solemn movie. But she definitely has the best bits! The lyrics of her item song feel strong and have agency. (Good on you, Amitabh Bhattacharya.) She gets to sing some pretty sassy lines to her ‘smitten’ paramour: “I have met you, I have fed you, I have sung for you, now what else can I possibly do? Should I have your child, and pack it up, and hand it to you?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I must confess that I thought she was going to die—and that the gaily sung line, “Suraiyya jaan degi kya... (Should Suraiyya give her life for you...)” was some sort of bitter-sweet foreshadowing of that tragic moment. But I am happy to report that I was fully wrong.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the end of the song, instead of conspiring to conceal the identity of her suitor (Aamir Khan in a blond wig, in a whites-only club, which has issued shoot-at-sight orders against all Indian trespassers) she whips off his wig, revealing his true identity to the audience packed with goras and plunging him into dire peril, with a sweet pout and a shrug, and absolutely no remorse whatsoever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was truly a subversive moment in the item girl’s narrative. We should celebrate it as such.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><a href=""></a></b></p> Sat Nov 17 16:06:19 IST 2018 hindus-are-losing-patience <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Uff, got so supremely riled seeing this Giriraj Singh person, union minister for medium, small and micro-enterprises, pull a lugubrious face after the whole wretched Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid shit-fest got stirred up yet again because of the Supreme Court’s adjournment of the hearing to January, and voice his entirely fake ‘concern’ that “Hindus are losing their patience. I fear for what will happen if Hindus lose their patience….”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Firstly, what the hell are you doing pulling a long face and ‘fearing’ the consequences? Surely, as a member of the elected government, it is your job to ensure there ARE no consequences? What is with the standing by and the hand-wringing?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, please do not even pretend that all you want is for Ram Lalla to be happily re-ensconced in his rightful birthplace. You do not. Because, if he is indeed so re-ensconced, you will basically lose your shit-stirring stick. Or at least a few inches of it. And then people may actually turn to you and ask why, now that Ram Lalla’s status has been correctly updated, honey is not pouring down from the sky and the rupee is not yet equal to the dollar? And you will have to explain, waving your suddenly shortened stick, that this is because evil Muslim squatters still have control over Hindu temples in Kashi and Mathura. And all that work to do all over again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thirdly, your ‘concern’ is nothing less than an open threat. You are telling all the minorities in this country—‘urban Naxals’ like myself included—that we should all shut up and allow ourselves lesser and lesser space in public discourse, even as women are kept out of Sabarimala, minorities are lynched for eating beef, and laws are openly flouted, or some sinisterly awful thing will happen to us. You do not specify what. It is so much more effective to hint at the horrors to come and just leave things vague. As the makers of scary movies from It to Stree well know, the moment the monster is fully revealed, it stops being bone-chillingly frightening and starts to seem silly, pathetic even, and like it should really get a life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coming to Shashi Tharoor’s recent remarks, which is what got your khakis into such a twist in the first place, I have to admit that I have never actually seen a scorpion sitting on a shivling. (What a gloriously evocative image, btw!) But I have seen a colony of black ants trooping along one. The temple pujari noticed them, uttered a small, untroubled tsk-tsk-tsk sound, filled a plastic mug to the brim with Gangajal and poured it all in one sharp motion over the shivling, cleansing it instantly. So simple, na?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So please use your medium, small or micro-sized intelligence to understand that it is you and your ilk whom sensible Hindus are losing patience with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are starting to lose patience because you are trying to bang the same old drum hoping to get us to sing the same, sad tune. We are starting to lose patience with the fact that no matter how much you claim to hate all things western, you are most faithful imbibers of all things vilayati (foreign), including the sickening, cynical policy of divide and rule.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are losing patience with Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan not making India any cleaner, and Beti Bachao... not saving the lives of any daughters and sisters. We are losing patience with a government that was voted in on a progress platform and has not delivered the jobs, trade and development-for-all that it promised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, you are indeed very right to fear the consequences of what will happen if we do.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Nov 10 19:09:45 IST 2018 siding-with-ye-olde-patriarchy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Wow, nice one GOI. Just when we were all wondering where you stood on the vital issue of women being molested and harassed in the workplace, you made your stand abundantly clear. By not saying a word in support of the accusations being hurled at your junior minister for external affairs by an avalanche of respected women journalists, and by standing behind him staunchly, you have sent out an unequivocal message that as far as it comes to #MeToo, you stand with the molesters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And thus, it has been proved that in Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao India, behind every woman who would be successful, stands a man who would molest her if he can get away with it, and behind him stands a government who is chill with this. Good to know.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why is the BJP doing this? Surely it could have thrown this man—not an insider, not somebody with deep roots within the party and inconveniently named after a Mughal emperor to boot—to the wolves? Why did it instead decide to not make him into a scapegoat, to not expeditiously shed him like a lizard sheds its tail and to not win easy brownie points from women and the liberal media?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I cannot pretend to know what goes inside the torturous minds of the men who run the BJP. (And rest assured, they are all men, nary an empowered nari amongst them—not Sushma Swaraj, supposedly MJ Akbar’s direct boss, not Nirmala Sitharaman, not Smriti Irani, not Maneka Gandhi—some of whom have made statements saying we must believe the women coming out with names with #MeToo.) But I can hazard a guess.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My guess is that the BJP’s finger is unerringly, as always, on the most populist of pulses. It is siding with the rump. And the rump is comprised of ye olde patriarchy; of old aunties who are querulously asking, “But why have these women stayed silent for 30 years? Why come out now? What is their motive?”; of ‘let’s-be-rational’ men, concerned about the fact that “a man’s entire career and good name could be destroyed by a single woman’s carelessly uttered accusation, one backed with no proof whatsoever”. (Duh, what do you think has been happening to women for millennia? How many of us have had our reputations destroyed by one man’s casual, selfish action? What do you think happened to Queen Sita, cast out of her kingdom in disgrace just because she was careless enough to get kidnapped by a predator?)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, make no mistake about it, the BJP has chosen, deliberately and consciously, to side with the silent majority. With the moral police. With the no-going-out-after-eight-pm status quo. With the ‘sleeveless kurta equals slut’ brigade. With the must-have-slept-with-somebody-to-get-to-the-top chorus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, 97 lawyers from top legal firm Karanjawal and Co will take on one slender woman journalist with nothing to gain and everything to lose. And, in an exact mirroring of the oh-oh-poor-Hindu-majority-being-held-hostage-by-the-evil-Muslim and-Christian-minority narrative, they will set out to glibly persuade us that it is they who are the David and she who is the Goliath.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In that sense, Mr Bathrobe—as he has scathingly been nicknamed by his latest accuser—is correct. #MeToo, can, if correctly massaged, manipulated and stoked, go from being a minor, elitist storm-in-a-C-cup to being a full-blown election issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, by standing silently and stolidly with Mr Bathrobe and others of his ilk, and thus reassuring the patriarchy that all will be well under its reign, the BJP is deliberately ensuring that it does.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Mon Oct 22 10:10:46 IST 2018 metoo-conditions-apply <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Thank God for Tanushree Dutta. Just when the pressure on us as a society, and Bollywood as an industry, to take a stand on the #MeToo movement was getting un-ignorable, she came along with her middlingly gross (but not troublingly gruesome) allegations against a has-been like Nana Patekar, whom there is not much risk in alienating, and everybody could finally be with it, and flaunt some cool #MeToo swank on their social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are outraged by what has happened to Tanushree Dutta, the bold(er) amongst the Bollywood brigade is now tweeting indignantly. How dare Nana not understand that na means na? We will not stand for it! #MeToo! #MeToo!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Good for them, of course, and kudos to Tanushree who really seems to have had a harrowing time, and deserves all the support she can get.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, I cannot help wondering that if Tanushree’s harasser had been some big-time movie-mogul-type moneybag—a Harvey Weinstein equivalent say, or a reigning superstar with his fingers in a dozen films, or a member of what they always call the “first families of Bollywood”—instead of a soft target like the over-the-hill outsider Patekar, all her “supporters” would have kept mum? Like they have done so many many times in the past? When powerful men have abused women, verbally, physically, emotionally, and gotten away with it? Or, even been admired for it, with their fan clubs bad-mouthing the women concerned and cheering their hero’s every move? (This is not an article for a filmy magazine, so, I will spare you the spicy stories. Besides, I am pretty sure you know them. We all do—we do not even have to read them, they just seep into our subconscious mind from the air itself, like tuberculosis.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Or, maybe, I am being too harsh on the bold(er) brigade. I mean, when compared with old-school-industry wallah like Amitabh Bachchan, they even seem decidedly courageous. It was just so distasteful to see the “Big B” being asked what he made of the issue, and when he replied with a counter question (“Am I Tanushree Dutta? Am I Nana Patekar? No, right? So, why are you asking me this question?”), the gathered crowd responded with loud cheers and delighted applause. I could not understand what they were applauding exactly. The actor’s dialogue delivery (impeccable as always)? Or, his dismissive ‘I don’t want to get involved’ stance (craven, as always)? Everybody just... laughed along. Nobody pressed the question, nobody said, but sir, you have made films like Pink, you have mouthed dialogues like “No means No”, surely you must have a take on this issue? The mic was meekly passed along to Aamir Khan who said he was not equipped to comment as he did not know the details of the case, but that he would say that such incidents are “very sad”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When compared with this level of abdication, the bold(er) brigade does seem to be sticking something out—if not its neck, then at least a French-manicured fingernail or a lock of hair extensions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For now, it seems, we will have to be content with that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, if we want to see the sort of battle that is raging in the US, with women everywhere rallying together to speak their truth to power, constantly, unapologetically reminding the patriarchy that they vote, and wrestling hard to wield some agency back into their lives, then we will have to dig deeper and grow braver.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Otherwise, on #MeToo, we just come across sounding just tokenistic, wannabe and me-too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Oct 05 18:57:44 IST 2018 serena-williams-and-the-lure-of-the-victim-card <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Serena Williams-Carlos Ramos-Naomi Osaka triangle has played out on our screens and papers for over a week now, and it has been pretty polarising. Some feel she was the victim of genuine sexism and racism, and some feel she just lost her cool and then tried to obfuscate the issue by playing the ‘black’ and ‘woman’ cards, while the much younger Osaka displayed both grit and grace to score a well-deserved win.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I must confess I am with the second lot on this one. I found it hard to believe that a person who was paid $600 (Carlos) for the match could bully a person who was playing for a minimum of $1,850,000 (the runner’s-up winnings). It was gutsy of him to stand his ground so doggedly, especially as she swore she would see to it that he would never umpire another one of her matches. Most Indian petty officials would have crumbled into a obsequious heap at the threat. Correction, most would not have called her out in the first place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2012, when Shah Rukh Khan got into a scuffle with a security guard at the Wankhede stadium, the star claimed that the security was “manhandling little girls, not even 13, under the pretext of performing security duties” and that “some people get cheap thrills by acting obnoxious with celebrities”. While this could definitely be true, perhaps the guy was just doing his duty (as celebrated in about half-a-dozen Tata chai ads, but hardly ever in real life), and the celebrity could have been the one at fault.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Entitlement is definitely not cool. And to be fair, most stars do try to stay as grounded as possible. (It must be tough though, with fans gushing at you constantly, assuring you that it is your brilliance and light alone that illuminates the planet.) Maybe that is why, when they are caught being entitled, they are themselves appalled and try to wriggle out of the situation by making it about larger, loftier issues. This sucks, because it is actively harmful to the cause you are trying to ‘stand up for’—sexism and racism, in the first case, and manhandling little girls, not even 13, in the second.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Obfuscation and the magician’s trick of forcing a ‘card’ upon us, has gotten really popular recently. The film Sanju took it to an all-new level, presenting to us a lofty tale of a bumbling, more-sinned-against-than-sinning, large-hearted celebrity who was used by the ‘evil media’ to ‘sell newspapers’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mani Shankar Aiyar did the BJP a huge service by placing the poor-me-son-of-a-chaiwalla card in Narendra Modi’s hands in 2014 when he made his infamous “Modi can never be PM, but is welcome to sell chai at the Congress Summit” jab. The BJP played it for all it was worth, capturing the national imagination, even though Modiji had left his chaiwalla days behind decades ago, and had been in the extremely privileged position of chief minister for a good 15 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even Rahul Gandhi, in a daring new move, seems, tentatively, to be playing the ‘Pappu’ card. Witness his recent, impassioned “Aap mujhe kuch bhi bulao; Pappu bhi bulao. Mein aapko tabh bhi pyaar karoonga” [You can call me anything; call me Pappu, even. I will still show you love]. Am sure this pitch will find resonance in the hearts of under-performing millennials everywhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wow, so much card playing. And, it isn’t even Diwali season yet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Sep 21 17:18:52 IST 2018 predators-in-sacred-spaces <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The irony is scalding, shaming and total. Ariana Grande, a successful, empowered young woman of today, a globally known youth icon, no less, was blatantly groped while a million cameras rolled, in the presence of an ex-president of the United States and countless other powerful folk, by the officiating bishop at the funeral service of Aretha Franklin, an even more successful female icon whose most famous single is about a woman asking a man to show her (just a little bit) of respect.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While he was doing the groping, Bishop Charles Ellis III—former presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World—also took it upon himself to tell Ariana that he had never heard of her, and that when he saw her name on the programme, he though she was ‘a new item on the Taco Bell menu’. Ha ha ha. Having thus advertised both his bumptious ignorance, and his casual, deeply ingrained racism, he then went on to patronisingly declare that he was impressed by her singing and that she was ‘an icon in her own right’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Uh, Charles, she has four Grammy nominations, global fame, and a net worth of $45 million. She does not need you to vouch for her. Also, till you shot into the limelight for groping somebody young enough to be your granddaughter, certainly none of us in this corner of the world had heard of you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just as you would have expected, about half the people who were watching were deeply offended and took to Twitter to voice their disgust—at the fact that Grande’s dress was too short for church.</p> <p>Yes, that was their main peeve, apparently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thankfully, the other, saner half demanded an apology from the bishop (which has just, reluctantly, been issued) and linked the incident to the #ChurchToo movement, which has followed close on the heels of the #MeToo movement, where more and more ex-seminarians, ex-altar boys, ex-priests and serving priests have come forward to speak of abuse at the hands of their seniors, the most high-profile case being the one involving Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of the Catholic Church’s Washington archdiocese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian-American feminist/journalist, has started a #MosqueMeToo movement too, where thousands of women have come forward to report abuse during their Haj travel to Saudi Arabia. They talked about being groped even as they circle the Kaaba seven times in Mecca, by male fellow-pilgrims, security officers and ‘holy’ men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, so many believers have similar stories about predators in sacred spaces. Jovial, smiling, ‘holy’ men with roving hands. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Asaram Bapu. Bishops, maulanas, granthis and sadhus. The list is endless and cuts across all faiths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why do these molestations happen? Not because somebody’s dress was ‘too short for church’ for sure. They happen because believers willingly ceded power to these middlemen. They accepted that somehow, this ‘holy’ class was greater—higher—closer to God than the rest of humanity. Practically Gods themselves, and so beyond human accountability—and that the rules that apply to everybody else do not apply to them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the mistake. The same rules need to apply to everybody. If you would not leave your child alone with a stranger, please do not leave him alone with a priest. You are not being disrespectful if you do this, you are just being sensible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Frankly, the sooner believers realise that they do not need a middleman to communicate with their Maker, that spiritual breakthroughs do not happen through rituals and incense and group frenzies, that there are no shortcuts nor power-brokers on the road to salvation, the safer our young ones will be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Tue Sep 11 18:19:47 IST 2018 its-not-the-women-silly <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>So, apparently, the floods in Kerala are a heavenly intervention, brought down upon an ungodly people for committing the transgression of allowing women-who-menstruate into the Sabarimala temple. That makes complete sense, actually. Because paradise was lost because silly woman #1 Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge and gave it to her husband, too; that poor sucker who clearly had no will of his own. And, the entire Ramayan happened because silly woman #2 Kekayee allowed her ears to be poisoned by evil woman #1 Manthara, thus paving the way for evil woman #2 Surpnakha to hit on the righteous Lakshman, which led to silly woman #3 Sita sticking her foot out of the Lakshman rekha and getting herself kidnapped. The Mahabharat happened because Duryodhan mistook a pond for a polished marble floor and fell into it and silly/evil woman #1 Draupadi laughed at him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, the universe is full of woe because silly/evil woman #2 Pandora opened the box that released all the evils of humanity into the world. The Trojan war happened because evil woman #3 Eris, the goddess of chaos, chucked an apple titled ‘To the Fairest’ to silly women #4 #5 and #6—Hera, Athena and Aphrodite—and they fought like wildcats over it. And, India lost the World Cup semi-final in 2015 simply because silly/evil Anushka Sharma showed up in the stands and distracted honest, hard-working Virat, causing him to take his eye off the ball. Also, when affairs happen, it is always the single other woman who is dubbed a ‘home-breaker’, but her married lover is never dubbed a ‘home-betrayer’. And when a woman gives birth to a girl child again and again even after repeated attempts and abortions, it is always her fault even though it is the male chromosome that decides the sex of the foetus. And when a man beats his wife, it is always because she wasn’t quick enough to serve him his food, or she answered back too saucily or because she looked at another man with lust. And, women get raped again and again in our cities and villages because they insist on wandering about, laughing, eating chow mein and are never quick enough to address all potential rapists as bhaiya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Basically, woman are either evil or silly (or both), and everything bad that happens in the world is their fault.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, may be, if women-who-menstruate say a sincere enough sorry and vow not to tempt Lord Ayyappa in his bachelor digs forever, then the flood waters will recede and all the Army and the funding that’s being ‘poured’ into Kerala can be sent back to guard our borders and build immense steel statues of freedom fighters whose ideals we have forgotten, but whose names we continuously invoke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The other theory doing the rounds is that the flood hit Kerala because it is full of (evil) Christians and Muslims who (along with all these menstruating Hindu women who want to barge into Sabarimala) deserve to be drowned. This silly/evil theory is on par with the claim that the 2004 Tsunami hit Indonesia because it was “full of Muslims” and Thailand because it was “full of sin and paedophilia”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The truth is that Kerala is reeling under the flood for a series of complex reasons, some man-made, some natural. No ‘angry God’ caused the deluge, and the healing work that needs to be done cannot be conveniently outsourced to Him either. We humans will have to do our bit, working together with generosity, determination, genius and jugaad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Aug 24 15:28:42 IST 2018 no-room-for-factual-journalism <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Would you agree that it is kinda lame to google yourself? Like, all the time? Every single day? As in you get up every morning and google images, news, videos and web mentions of yourself? And if somebody has said anything negative about you, then you hound them and pressurise them till they retract?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you knew somebody who did that, you would think they were totally self-obsessed, or pretty sad, or paranoid-schizophrenic, or really need to get a life, right?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which is why I am so creeped out by the allegation that the Modi government has created a 200-member monitoring team within the ministry of information and broadcasting, which monitors what all the channels in India are saying about it. Based on its report, three officials of deputy secretary rank prepare a report which is sent to the I&amp;B minister, who activates the officials at the PMO, who then send their directives to the editors of the news channels about what they think of the channel’s reportage. If the editor does not take their ‘feedback’ on board, his proprietor is spoken to. And then, if the editor still proves recalcitrant, like in the case of former managing editor Milind Khandekar and Masterstroke anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai of ABP news, exits happen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All this came out because, about a month ago, the Narendra Modi government set up a NaMo App video conference in which the prime minister interacted with farmers across India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I remember tuning in expecting it to be like Krishi Darshan, but it turned out to be more Kardashian in flavour. Because, right through it, our PM was channeling his inner Bachchan. He talked to the farmers in exactly the same homey, jokey, paternalistic manner that Bachchan adopts while talking to contestants on Kaun Banega Crorepati.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the ‘chat’, one sweet lady named Chandramani Kaushik, from the impoverished district of Kanker, Chhattisgarh, claimed that her income had increased ‘from Rs 50 per kilo, to Rs 700’—thanks to switching from paddy farming to custard apple aka Sita-phal farming. Truly, Sita mata ki jai ho!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So cynical are the times we live in, that this innocent statement prompted the above-mentioned Bajpai and Khandekar to send out a journalist into the wilds of Kanker to find out if Chandramani’s claim was actually true.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why couldn’t they just do what all the other news channels do? Send out a phalanx of OB vans manned by cameramen and technicians to the homes of the powerful and the opinionated in the big cities, and get them to snipe at each other all evening on those noisy echo chambers they call ‘news panels’? Why send out actual journalists into the hinterland and dig up actual news? That too, not in English, the language spoken by a tiny minority in the urban bubbles, but in all-important, game-changing, shit-stirring Hindi?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Masterstroke journalist went into Kanker not once, but twice, and came back with video footage in which Chandramani and her fellow lady farmers admitted that uh, the Sita-phal earnings are perhaps a little er…premature, and that actually, they have not earned anything yet, in fact, they have had to fork out money from their own pockets to get the Sita-phal farming started.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, this wasn’t Masterstroke’s worst offence. It was getting its TRPs to rise. People started watching the show. And so, the ads magically dried up, satellite uplinks began malfunctioning, and finally, exit Bajpai and Khandekar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, ‘krishi ban gaya crorepati’ continues to play out on our screens, hosted by our homey, jokey, papa-PM. But, viewers are wisening up. Going forward, the 200-member team of dedicated ‘self-googlers’ may find more and more reports, that (like too much Sita-phal) will give them severe indigestion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Aug 10 16:53:49 IST 2018 love-is-the-new-sword <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Seems the Congress has got its big campaign idea for 2019 all figured out—abki baar, pyaar hi pyaar. Love seems to be the big idea they are zooming into, thus hoping to reposition the BJP and force a simple binary upon the public. The BJP is hate, and the Congress is love. Who are you gonna pick?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is an audacious idea, very timely, with roots deep in our religious texts, our freedom struggle and our blatantly melodramatic movies. And, with ‘true love’s first hug’ they have certainly gotten off to a flying start. The gesture was both an eyeball grabber and a ball grabber, it made headlines and went viral with a vengeance. In a country with 22 official languages and short attention spans, symbolism is a powerful, even vital weapon, and the Congress finally seems to have understood that. The BJP is frantically trying to play down #thehug, but the fact remains that this is the most dramatic and successfully theatrical the Congress has been since Sonia Gandhi ‘sacrificed the post of prime minister at the prompting of the inner voice of her conscience’. In the very short term, at least, it looks like #thehug has captured public imagination, and has dented Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impregnable, untouchable aura. I have not seen him look so rattled since Karan Thapar made him drink water by daring to treat him like an entirely ordinary mortal back in 2007.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, yes, we are all a bit weary of having the nichli jaat card and the tea-seller’s son card being pulled out at us on a regular basis, and we are maybe ready to stop with the attacks on minorities, women and the press, especially as these have not been balanced out with the progress we were promised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, so, maybe we are ready for love.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, this is not a Disney Princess movie, and so, ‘true love’ will not be enough. It runs the risk of being seen as soft, weak and metrosexual, and not muscular enough to do the heavy lifting required to lift India out of the morass we are currently in. The derisive retorts the BJP can trot out just write themselves (love will not create jobs, love will not defeat Pakistan etc.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What the country needs is ‘tough love’. Remember that Munnabhai’s jaadu ki jappis had so much impact simply because he was a bhai, and he and Circuit could back up those sweet, disarming jaapis with some pretty hard punches whenever they had to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress will have to somehow make us believe that it can deliver ‘tough love’—law enforcement, education, jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, firm governance, and smoothly functioning civic bodies, all served up with lots of inclusive, hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner love. That is the big idea that needs to be cracked and that is the only one that could successfully slay the saffron dragon. Let us just hope Rahul is the right prince for the job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While on the subject of love, I cannot avoid mentioning the big Romeo and Juliet-esque release of the week, Dhadak—which I have not seen yet—but, is based on the Marathi super hit Sairat, which I have. And, while I loved Sairat—so raw, and pure, and soaring and full of the frisson and headiness of first love—I did wonder what kind of message a film like Sairat (or for that matter Dhadak) leave young viewers with? Won’t the violent, hopeless endings of both films serve as a sort of Grimm, cautionary tale to young people? Ki girls and boys, look for love and marriage within your caste and class boundaries, or you could end up facing the same deathly fate that the couples in both films did.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chauhan is an author and advertising professional.</b></p> Thu Jul 26 18:40:02 IST 2018 the-tham-luang-script <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Just as the world was giving up on them, they were discovered, and soon our screens were flooded with images of the cave, the kids, and the international team of heroic divers involved in a desperate race against the rains, the treacherous terrain and depleting oxygen to rescue them. All twelve boys and their coach have been taken out, as I write this. We, of course, remained riveted to our TVs till they were all out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What a story. Part Dead Poets Society, part 127 hours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If it were to be made into a film, the script would practically write itself. It would begin with the coach giving up his life in the monastery, and deciding to return to the real world. Then it would cut to the day of the hike, establish the whole team, their strengths and weaknesses, their little rivalries, cliques and internal dynamics, and the descent into the cave. Then, the rain, the panic, the fear, the vigil, the coming together of the rag-tag group as one well-knit unit, and, finally, the rescue, spread over three nights. And a beautiful, life-affirming finale, too, with the entire Wild Boar squad in Russia, watching the world cup final along with their football idols, as the honoured guests of FIFA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, what if it got made here in Modiji’s India? Then it would be a very different film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, our new breed of film-makers, with their fancy degrees from the US and Europe, mean very well. They like making biopics and all. Besides, both ‘biopic’ and ‘cinematic retelling’ have a vaguely intellectual ring to them—they make both studios and audiences feel smarter. But, unfortunately, our film-makers also believe, very firmly, that the ‘masses’ like black and white characters, pretty girls, and a massively satisfying climax.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, they pick a bold subject and start off with the best of intentions and great costumes and prosthetics, and then slowly slowly, they lose their nerve and start to play around with the facts, cherry-picking and embellishing... (with one eye on what would please the current political dispensation) and that is how we end up with a campy ‘Aladdin’ who dances like a goblin and gnaws on hunks of raw meat, a ‘Rustom’ who did everything not for wife, but for country, and an innocent more-sinned-against-than-sinning ’Sanju’ who apparently never got married at all till he met his (third) wife at the age of 49.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let’s face it, if we made a biopic on the Wild Boars rescue, the kids would probably belong to an RSS shakha, the caves would have caved in not because of the monsoon but because of an Islamic terror bombing, the coach would have a buxom lass as his love interest and an item number would be show-horned in before the climax, featuring the villain capering around with said buxom lass. (Aaja gufaaon mein, aaja gunha kar le, anyone?)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fact is fiction basically. And, ‘history’ is history. Only histrionics rule.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jul 14 14:01:54 IST 2018 bhakt-backlash <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>We hear a lot about the BJP and RSS bhakts—how they are so faithful and so rabid. But, there is another army out there that has got them firmly beat. Unquestionably, Salman Khan has the most largest and the most rabidly loyal fan following in the country. Unlike say, the Indian cricket team fans, who turn mercilessly on their idols the moment they lose a match, the Bhai-bhakts are staunchly supportive of their God. They copy his hairstyles and his sunglass styles, they defend his various indefensible antics (both on-screen and off screen), they faithfully sing the praises of Bhai’s latest girlfriend, whoever she may be, their pecs, biceps and deltoids, wax and wane according to his.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which is why it was both so startling and so heartening to see a hashtag like #wedontwantDabangg3 trend over the last couple of days. Apparently, Race 3 (a family-feud franchise famous for Saif Ali Khan, Abbas-Mustan, and the hit song Allah Duhai hai) is such an execrable pastiche of action film tropes that even the most servile of Salman’s faithful fans have finally revolted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(They are worried that the just-announced Dabangg 3 is going to go the same way as Race 3, hence the trending hashtag.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The protest has been voiced in the least hurtful possible manner, of course—it blames the ghastly, glittering, diamond encrusted turd of a film on Bhai’s generous nature and large heart, which causes him to ‘give breaks’ to sycophantic directors, indulge in shameless nepotism featuring family members and current and ex-girlfriends—but they have done it, nevertheless. We love you, Bhai, these bhai-bhakts have sternly warned their over-fed hero, but, please stop making these mindless movies featuring a rapidly ageing beefcake, with scripts as flimsy as the button fastenings on Jacqueline Fernandez’s blouses, bloated budgets, cheesy dialogues, an untalented support cast, and gratuitous car explosions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, just work hard and produce cohesive, quality films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan, and the first Dabangg—with top-notch directors, themes and scripts—and you can be assured of our continued love.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Do not get arrogant, do not get lazy, do not get greedy, and do not forget what made us love you in the first place or we will pull out the red carpet from under your feet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Do not take us for granted, basically.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Advice that the deities venerated by various other bhakt armies would do well to heed. In these churning times, you cannot take devotion for granted. If Salman bhakts—the very epitome of fawning devotion—have grown questioning and restive, and are demanding unreasonable, previously-unthinkable things like script, logic and (gasp!) acting from their God, then the BJP-RSS bhakt brigade and the conglomerate of kiss-ups at the Congress party headquarters may follow this intoxicatingly heady example (fevers spread quickly on the internet) and turn on their Gods, too. The smell of mutiny is definitely everywhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With elections studding the entire coming year, this is a good time to listen to feedback, introspect, and remember what made you a beloved leader in the first place. What lies at the core of your appeal? What was your maine pyaar kiya moment, your dabanggi debut? What promises made people buy your tickets, vote for you, wear your colours and want to be a part of your dream? What is the real meat, and what is just gravy and garnish? Rehashed item numbers and slow-motion walkaways from exploding sports cars won’t hack it any longer. The paying public is demanding a quality performance and it is time to deliver or get knocked out of the race. Truly, Allah duhai hai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chauhan is an author and advertising professional.</b></p> Fri Jun 29 15:30:10 IST 2018 fists-of-fury <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Mohammed Haris Nalapad—a Youth Congress leader and son of a Congress MLA from Bengaluru’s posh Shanthinagar assembly segment—went out to dine with his friends at a high-end eatery in UB City. (For the uninitiated, UB city is Bangalore’s pride and joy. It has luxury stores below, luxury residences and offices on top, and in the middle, a strip of restaurants that are uber tony. We show it off to out-of-towners with the pathetically eager pride of tier-3 town yokels showing off their brand new McDonalds or Cafe Coffee Day.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The staff was a trifle tardy with his order. Meanwhile, at another table, a gent named Vidvat seemed to be getting better service. This Vidvat, also had the temerity to stick one foot out into the aisle, at an angle that was offensive to Mohammad Haris Nalapad. So, Haris told him to ‘sit properly.’ The other stated that he couldn’t—his foot was hurt, he was recovering from a fracture. This infuriated Haris so much that he and his friends attacked Vidvat with glass bottles, cracking them open on his head, face and shoulders, breaking his nose and rendering him unconscious.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To me, the incident seemed eerily reminiscent of the Jessica Lal shooting—which happened in a similarly tony setting of Delhi’s Qutub Colonnade in 1999—where a young female bartender refused to serve a drink to the son of a Congress minister as the bar was closed. He tried to bribe her, and then, he pulled out a gun. A woman standing behind him giggled to her friend that it was fake (Margaret Atwood’s words are relevant here: “Men fear that women will laugh at them, women fear that men will kill them”) and, so, he shot the bartender in the head.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It had the same combination of entitlement, hubris and toxic machismo; the same insecurity-fuelled fury at being ‘shown-up’ or insulted in a high-society setting. It was the behaviour of one who thinks he is above the law, and the fact that it happened in full view of CCTV cameras and, at a time when state elections are around the corner—when everybody should be on their best behaviour lest they hand the opposition party an election issue on a platter—it goes to show how totally drunk on power and entitlement this Mohammad Haris Nalapad was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nalapad has been suspended from his party for six years and has surrendered to the police. Hopefully, he will not wriggle out when the scandal dies down, but serve his time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, what of the larger picture? Because, unfortunately, this is a culture that has gone pan-Indian. There is an unspoken understanding amongst us that only people like Haris are suited to the hurly burly of politics. We, at some level, expect such thugs, we accept them, we even admire them. See how aggressive they are, we say, see how scared the police and the babus are of them. You don’t want to cross a guy like that, we say with pursed lips, that’s the sort of guy you want on your team, he will keep you safe!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have taught our children that if you get into a car accident, you must come out yelling and cursing and blaming the other person, otherwise you will be taken advantage of. We have internalised that a strong person is one who brutally crushes all opposition, all difference of thought, or opinion, who denies everything and admits nothing. Because, if we come across as weak or conciliatory, women will laugh at us, people will lose all respect for us and we will be eaten alive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, the country with Gandhi’s face on its increasingly luridly coloured currency has imbibed the lesson that only obnoxious, bossy, and violent people who aggressively thrust their boot into other people’s faces are ‘strong’ people. Everybody else is weak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chauhan is an author and advertising professional.</b></p> Sat Feb 24 17:07:09 IST 2018 sunny-bengaluru-days <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>So, Shri Narendra Modi came to Bengaluru. The roads were all decked up—there were plastic orange buntings swooping down from the lamp posts, winding through the pavement railings, then swooping up again to the lamp posts, making it look like the lamp posts had all linked their hands to form a personal security cordon for him. So sweet. There were huge circular cutouts of the revered leader’s face, with orange rays radiating outwards, so he looked like a hirsute, benign sun—there were hoardings of all his faithful underlings, about forty grinning faces per hoarding, neatly arranged liked chocolate cupcakes on a baking tray. It was all very affecting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was on the road, heading for the Bangalore Literature Festival at the Jayamahal Palace hotel, so I got to see the bundobust first hand. The roads were absolutely deserted when I went through, but people who arrived later told me that it got completely clogged later. In fact, there were traffic snarls and irate citizens everywhere—all signs that the rally was a resounding success. A bunch of cheeky, smiling youngsters, wearing college graduate degree robes, and selling pakoras (like Modi-ka Pakoda, ‘Shah’i Pakoda)—a dig at the prime minister’s ‘pakora-sellers are also employed’ statements—were shooed away from the venue by the cops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The speech—bookended with Kannada, but delivered in Hindi—with no translation on offer for the listening crowd of two lakh locals—was mostly a rant against the incumbent Congress government. ‘It’s a 10 per cent ki sarkaar,’ the prime minister charged, ‘no work gets done without 10 per cent commission!’ An excitingly worded sentence—‘scams aur mafia ka nanga naach’ or ‘naked dance of scams and mafia’—created a tepid, titillated stir. But, there was no mention of the Mahadayi waters issue, where Karnataka is locked in a tussle with Goa over share of water from the Mahadayi aka Mandovi river, so that water can be provided for the four drought-hit districts in north Karnataka. And, that is what the crowd was really keen to hear about. Basically, the WIFY quotient—an old advertising jargon which stands for ‘what’s in it for me?’—was substantially missing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On February 10, Rahul Gandhi is coming to town for his rally. I am hoping the orange buntings will still be up—the Congress Party workers could just add a few touches of green and white, and recycle them—and, so, save our drains from being choked with masses of plastic later. It is being reported that Rahul will continue his temple run on his tour of Karnataka, maybe even the Shree Subramanya Temple in Sullia, which demands all male members take off their shirts, vests and coats, and approach the deity bare-chested. Naturally, all of Dakshina Kannada is agog! (Could this be the nanga naach Modiji was talking about?) I saw in an interview somewhere that Rahul does a decent amount of gymming, so hopefully, that should make for a pleasant, vote-garnering sight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaah, what days for us, here in Karnataka! We have never felt so wooed. There is free food on offer for those who show up at the rallies and shout whenever they are told to. And, the bus ride, too, is fun! If your tummy or bladder starts to burst from all that feasting, you can always jump out of the bus and relieve yourself in the open—so what if you break Akshay Kumar’s Swachh Bharati heart? And, even if the promised food doesn’t show up, you can still take home the massive flex posters of the great leaders as your booty—they make for great water-proofing for cow sheds and huts. Amit Shah’s chubby, beaming face, soaking up the rain, keeping a cow and her calf from getting wet—so fitting, no?</p> Fri Feb 16 15:44:01 IST 2018 do-we-know <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Sat Jan 27 18:06:28 IST 2018 manual-scavenging-and-sewage-treatment-systems <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Sat Jan 13 18:18:18 IST 2018 grey-and-proud <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Sat Dec 30 11:33:15 IST 2017 kick-up-a-stink <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Sat Nov 18 11:19:14 IST 2017 list-of-fury <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Nov 03 11:42:54 IST 2017 lights-camera-politics <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Oct 20 11:19:11 IST 2017 pray-and-let-pray <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Oct 06 15:59:48 IST 2017 blame-games-iame <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Sep 22 17:02:31 IST 2017 truth-and-dare <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Thu Sep 07 16:00:57 IST 2017 the-arithmetic-of-unfairness <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Aug 25 14:20:33 IST 2017 a-folio-of-flops <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Aug 11 18:36:51 IST 2017 beyond-pull-and-pedigree <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Thu Jul 27 16:20:48 IST 2017 a-difficult-period <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Jul 14 16:49:28 IST 2017 a-tale-of-utmost-unhappiness <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Jun 30 13:36:43 IST 2017 bonding-in-italy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Jun 16 16:13:12 IST 2017 comfortably-numb-and-dumb <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Thu Jun 01 17:35:18 IST 2017 fed-on-air <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Thu May 18 19:09:58 IST 2017 wars-not-for-tit-illation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Thu May 04 18:54:19 IST 2017 the-spiegel-effect <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Apr 21 11:01:20 IST 2017 simply-fooling-around <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Fri Apr 07 09:08:15 IST 2017 indias-eldest-daughter-and-her-dulha <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Thu Mar 23 17:32:53 IST 2017