Friday, July 25, 2008

Shame and Sherawat

Musings on Mallika and the Moral Police

May 14, 2008

by Murali Gopy

When I was a kid, I loved power cuts. That was the time of the night when I had the liberty to make faces at my dad. I exercised, with great verve, my super-constitutional right to step on the chair cushions (forbidden), juggle the remote control and the pen torch (life sentence), moonwalk to the prayer room in my slippers (deportation) and hide the candles thereof(punishable by death). When the lights came back, my dad would find me reclining on the easy chair with the chemistry text book spread across my chest and a pen idling in my hands; he never mistook it for the catnap of a nerd. He bought an emergency light without fanfare, hid it, and switched it on while I was on my Act. My embarrassment was my punishment.
I have a reason to recall this. Some fans of “Indian culture” remind me of the arboreal ME of yore. They buy the tickets, squeeze into the hall, and wait for the lights to go off. Then, they devour the sleaze that is thrown at them in the name of entertainment. They whistle at the belly button close-up, clap at the double innuendo, cheer the rapist on rampage and hoot wildly at the hero who comes in time to save the prospective rape victim.
THE END, LIGHTS, and they are back to the streets lecturing on moral science, burning effigies of cultural defaulters and issuing life threats on women who have a great wardrobe to choose from.
Mallika Sherawat does not have a master’s degree in dress sense, but that should not prevent her from sharing the dais with Kamal Haasan, Jackie Chan, Amitabh Bachchan and the most venerable M Karunanidhi. But she was told otherwise. She was actually given a sermon by an enraged political outfit of Tamil Nadu on Indian culture. And ordered to apologize unconditionally “or else face the consequence”.
This is not jotted down in favour of Mallika Sherawat’s couture acumen. In fact, I find it tough to describe her choice of attire. It was the sartorial equivalent of “Don’t look at what I am wearing; think of what I am not”. She walked up as easily and confidently as she had done her pole dance in the movie, ‘Dasavatharam’, the audio launch of which was being staged on the dais.
She forgot something: The lights were on!
The watchmen of Indian culture are terribly peeved at Mallika Sherawat “for making Tamilians cringe and hang their heads in shame, for causing mental agony and hurt to the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu by wearing a revealing mini skirt, for exposing her back and sitting cross-legged in front of the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi”. Mallika did what celebrities of her hue do when faced with similar obstacles. She fled the scene.
Fleeing has been a standard practice with all post-modern artistes who have dedicated themselves to amoral dictums. Richard Gere had had his share of India’s fabled “athithi devo bhava” when he came down for an AIDS awareness campaign, last year. He had, obviously, selected the Fool’s month for the sojourn. After shaking hands with Shilpa Shetty, Gere changed gears to hug her, bend her to an uncomfortable right angle before planting a few smooches. The next thing he remembered is the chat he had with the airhostess on the “next morning flight”.
Shreya Saran, who sang and danced hand-in-hand with Rajnikanth in ‘Sivaji’, ran into trouble for going on stage, skimpily dressed, and addressing the most venerable M Karunanidhi (again) in “unacceptable attire”. The moral police (again) had asked for an unconditional apology and Shreya had promptly bent her knees and pleaded for dear life. Khushboo, with the 25 pending court cases against her for “degrading Tamil womanhood”, reminds me of that famous Sandhya character from ‘Do Aankhen Baarah Haath’—the village lass with the noisy drum trailing her like a blunderbuss saheli.
Where exactly are we standing now?
The average Indian blockbuster has been, for a long time now, a garish mix of bolly-mujrahs and melodrama, with a liberal serving of the crimson liquid. We have no complaints, since the lights are off every time we bump into one. Peeping Toms that we are, we love to watch without being watched. Once the emergency lamp is trained on our Darknesses, we stand to lose face.
For the volatile fan of Hindu culture, who is ready to empty his barrel on the Shreyas. Mallikas, Shilpas and Khushboos of the world, I must quote Octovio Paz: “The Hindu genius is abstract and realistic, sexual and intellectual, pedantic and sublime. It lives between extremes, it embraces the extremes, rooted in the earth and drawn to an invisible beyond.”
All lights off!
About the author: Murali Gopy is Entertainment Editor for MSN India.
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Blogger wallflowerlady said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Merry said...

In the beginning of the article, we got a few moments peek into the mischievous child life of a reclusive artist and his father's parenting - another artist of the highest order. But the biggest surprise came when he linked his mundane childhood experience with the morality sense or pseudo-morality of the contemporary society. That was a really original thought that made the impact of your opinion, so smooth and effective. Keep writing more - MG!

3:39 AM  

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