Friday, January 20, 2012

From movie star circle jerks to statues that need to be covered

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Celebrities: They’re famous! They’re brave! They collect admirers like normal people collect calories!

Star World’s Luv 2 Hate U is a new show in which your favourite celebrities confront the biggest threat to their existence: someone on the internet. Welcome to another link in the daisy chain of movie industry circle jerking, in which yet another actor gets together with his friends and enemies and all of them reflect in their nauseatingly fake mutual admiration and conjoined awesomeness. Hosted by the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz (or as you humans call him, Arjun Rampal), the show is like a famous person’s wet dream come true. They get to meet someone, who, they perceive, hates them irrationally. If only they could just talk to their haters! Then they could show the hater the error of their ways and both the former hater and the celebrity can ride off into the sunset, basking in their new found love & respect for each other. A few weeks ago this show featured India’s most popular bad sentence writer, Chetan Bhagat. A man who is proud of the fact that he has never met a compound conjunction that he has liked. The show enabled him to showcase his two favourite versions of himself: a victim of the critics and the choice of the new generation, both of which are a by-product of his delusions of grandeur. Some people say that Bhagat has made non-readers interested in reading. That’s like saying the ISI has been encouraging local tourists to visit India.

Chetan Bhagat and the Mercedes Benz brand go together like SIlvio Berlusconi and a vow of fidelity.

Bhagat is the closest thing the Indian twittersphere has to an arch-nemesis. You can be sure of three things in life: death, corruption and the fact that Chetan Bhagat will tweet something dumb every few weeks and cause an avalanche of bad jokes. A Chetan Bhagat joke is like the teacher who asks for a “red pen of any colour”. Everyone claims to have one of their own. This week, however, he was more of a willing participant in someone else’s bad decision. Inexplicably, luxury car maker and the preferred brand of 80s era movie villains, Mercedes Benz, chose Bhagat as a brand ambassador. Mercedes spent all that money hiring a marketing team and this is the best idea they had? What’s next, hiring the penguin from the batman comics to be the mascot of a “save the penguins” campaign?

Hide your inaccurate television psephologists, it’s election season in India! The election commission, in all it’s wisdom, decided that UP’s various Mayawati statues have to be covered with tents so that they do not influence the voter in the upcoming assembly elections. Twitter was abuzz with various conspiracy theories, but it seems like this is just another government department treating the Indian voter as an impressionable little child. Everyone must be mollycoddled, because they can’t be trusted to make their own decisions! Just like imparting sex education to teenagers will make them want to spend more sexytime with each other, instead of helping them become well-rounded adults. This country is being governed by a generation which most probably still refers to bodily functions in numerical form. Such cognitive dissonance leads to absurd situations like when an English movie channel broadcasted a film about gay rights while censoring the words “gay” and “homosexual.”

Speaking of living in the distant past, this month the Madhya Pradesh government’s new draconian bill banning cow slaughter is scheduled to be notified. You got to hand it to the BJP government in power in that state. It takes real cojones to look at the problems this country is facing and think ‘there’s nothing that a cow-slaughter ban won’t fix.’ The BJP is a party of difference in that no matter what the problem is, it makes no difference to it’s policies. If the people who claim to revere cows really cared about them, then these holy bovine creatures wouldn’t have been roaming our streets like an orphan from a Dickens novel.

Of course, banning something in India means that it will not happen. That is why every 15th August I read a chapter from the Satanic Verses to paintings of naked goddesses whilst drinking whiskey and resting my feet on the bust of a revered ancient king.

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