Friday, February 11, 2011

Rudeness? Rudeness my arse!

First things first. Last year, by sheer chance I came across a new magazine in India, called Open, and was quite impressed by it. The issue that I had at hand was a well-written issue, very modern and up-to-date in its outlook, covering a wide variety of notable items, and in clear, conversational English - a pleasure to read. Folks in India may wish to look it up.

In Open, in an article dated February 5 and entitled "The Fall From Grace", one Anupama Chopra, billed as a consulting editor for film at NDTV 24/7, bemoaned that 'rudeness' has overcome Bollywood, offering as examples some statements from a few film celebrity interviewees at Karan Johar’s TV show, Koffee with Karan. [A disclaimer necessary here: although I used to watch KwK and quite liked it, I don't watch it any more, and haven't witnessed the episodes mentioned in Anupama's article.]

She offers the following lamentation:

Tehzeeb, meaning culture and a certain decorum, is hard to find in Bollywood songs these days. Or for that matter in Bollywood. The conversation, in public at least, is overrun by risqué statements, shrill insults and a mystifying lack of class. There aren’t any boundaries anymore. For evidence, look at the current season of Koffee with Karan on TV.

As golden 'examples' of her premise, she also offered the following 'highlights' (with my commentary, of course!):

  • Deepika Padukone’s statement that ex-boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor should endorse a brand of condoms (If he is so good, why is he 'ex' then?);
  • Sonam Kapoor declaring that everyone in Bollywood has an atrocious sense of style—or as she so eloquently put it, “They all suck”; (Finally, someone speaks the truth.)
  • Saif Ali Khan saying that if he were a product, his tagline would be “reliable, strong and very long”; (Methinks he is over-estimating his prowess)
  • Anil Kapoor revealing that Shilpa Shetty had some noticeable lip work done during the making of their 2002 film Badhaai Ho Badhaai; (Good for her; it's her decision)
  • Suzanne Roshan assuring viewers that husband Hrithik looks hotter in fact without any clothes on; (Well, I am glad for her)
  • When Karan asked Hrithik if he would pose naked in Playgirl for a billion dollars, Hrithik replied that he would do it for free, adding, “If you have the best car in the world and someone wants to pay you a billion bucks to take a picture of it…”(Of course!)

The sheer inanity of Anupama's whine and the vacuity of her arguments raised my hackles, I shall admit freely. "Mummy, mummy, he said a bad word" Bawl! Sniff, sniff! - was clearly not quite the adult reaction I was expecting from a media personality. Where is the rudeness? Where is the slight that Anupama perceived and expressed so eloquently? There are so many problems around in India, as in the world: hunger, poverty, lack of education, fallout of natural calamities, animal cruelty, religious fundamentalism, rampant misogyny and abuse of human rights, and Anupama chooses to be bothered by, and write an article about... 'tone' of a conversation? Seriously?

Trying to garner support for her ridiculous stance, Anupama drags in Javed Akhtar out of context into her banal harangue; Javed Sahab was talking about, justly, the lack of tehzeeb in modern Indian film songs (Hindi or otherwise). Let alone tehzeeb, there is a plethora of songs whose lyrics make absolutely no sense at all, and are, often, insults to intellignce.

But all that is NOT the point of Anupama's diatribe, is it? She is oh-so-concerned about risqué statements on KwK, which - to her - spells a lack of class. What 'class'? Just because these people - Deepika, Saif, Suzanne and Hrithik - expressed their candid, if with a hint of naughty, opinion in response to playful questions by Karan, do they deserve to be castigated as having no class? For shame, Anupama! Grow the fuck up! This is the 21st century - let India mature physically as well as emotionally! Don't hold it back with your needless Victorian prudery!

Let me try to put it in a larger context, and focus on the main issue here. The mentality that Anupama espouses in her write-up - the mentality that dictates that one's expression of oneself can't be free, and must perforce conform to a strict set of rules - is the same mentality from which stems misogyny and bigotry; 'culture', 'tradition', 'heritage' - such buzzwords have long been effectively used to curb and silence self-expression of women, and stunt creative processes from anyone who didn't conform to the majority viewpoint. This is the mentality - akin to an intellectual purdah system - that has created ludicrous taboos in our country, that hinder free, frank and fair exchange of ideas. Consider that context, and it becomes clear how Rishi Kapoor's lament about 'our days' - mentioned in Anupama's article - would simply mark him as an anachronism, out of touch with the times.

Being 'modern' doesn't mean that one has to leave behind everything that is old; however, it does mean that one needs to rationally judge what values of yore stand the test of time and should be continued, and what notions are outdated and need to be discarded.

Times change, people change with it, and values need to adapt to the times on the strength of rationality. For example, irritated as I am with Anupama's facile castigation of perceived rudenss, I shall not condone Punit Malhotra's statement against Shobha De. It was in very poor taste; it reeks of whiny, impotent frustration and the desire to strike out at the object of ire; and Malhotra's hint at De's personal life is obnoxious, because it lacks reason and context; Malhotra is being rude just for the sake of being rude and boorish. C'est stupid.

I did send in a comment to the magazine through their comment submission site, but it is held in moderation. Strange for a magazine named 'Open', no? Did I ever mention I HATE comment moderation, because it totally smacks of censorship? So there; I'm not holding my breath.

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