Thursday, January 28, 2016

The porn star and the TV w…anchor

You know it’s been a difficult January when the epitome of Indian manliness, the Prime Minister, discovers that his much-vaunted 56-inch chest has shrunk to 50 inches. The reduced perimeter is probably easier for Ajit Doval to safeguard, but it’s also probably less impressive-looking from the Indo-Pak border.

Speaking of unimpressive Indian men, CNN-IBN interviewed actress Sunny Leone. Everyone has talked about it for three days already, but I won’t sleep easy until I’ve deposited my two bits.

The last time I noticed anchor Bhupendra Chaubey, he was knocking it out of the park during the Bihar elections while NDTV was circling the drain, so if anything I was predisposed to like him—or at worst, to be neutral. But Chaubey struck dissonant notes before he even got to the set, setting up Sunny Leone as “completely antithetical to what we perceive is the idea of an Indian woman”. That smug generalisation set the tone for the rest of this train wreck.

The interview itself was a one-note samba centring on his own inability to believe that a former porn star could possibly go about her life without being, at all times, hyperaware that she used to be a porn star, and cling-wrapped in shame about it. This is because he obviously cannot stop being hyperaware that she used to be a porn star.

Aided by twitching eyebrows and smirks, he tried his damndest to get her to admit that Sunny the porn star was a tragic mistake made by Karanjit the beautiful family girl, going astray; but Sunny didn’t think so. In reply to a question about her biggest regret, she said she couldn’t get home fast enough when her mother passed away. When she said “I’ve made mistakes”, he begged for specifics, and she said that Bollywood was like culture shock because it’s really chaotic.

In other words, she wasn’t playing shameball with him.

He loaded and reloaded the same question multiple times, in vain. He framed Sunny Leone as a scarlet woman who, though she is now in Bollywood, won’t get to work with big names like Aamir Khan, on account of her “past”, which “haunts” her and “holds [her] back”. He made a big point of the fact that people say nasty things about her.

Sunny uncooperatively pointed out that she didn’t feel in the least bit either haunted or held back, and that people are entitled to their opinions. Chaubey gave her 7,431 chances to take back that twaddle and admit, already, that it’s her own fault that now he can’t stop visualising her lady parts, which somehow makes her disreputable. (I’m paraphrasing to include his tone.) She said that if the clock were turned back, she would do it all again. Chaubey let her know that she has been accused of corrupting Indian morality; but Sunny cleaves to the free speech, live-and-let-live end of things, which can be summed up as “So?”

In the single question about her upcoming film, Chaubey asked if it was about love, or sex and lust. He sneeringly asked if she thought of herself as an actor, and whether it was her body—raking said body with his eyes—that would take her to whatever low, commercial places his tone implied her career may reach.

Really, you should watch it yourself. Never mind undeserved TRPs: it is an object lesson in how even the most progressive men can see an openly sexual woman as shameful—and think she should see herself that way too.

And it’s an object lesson in what a sorry figure such a man cuts.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

“Pathankot: A short tragic play”

(Published today in Business Standard)

Pak handler to Terrorist: Look boys, this airbase area is so thick with Indian Army and Air Force moustaches that you’ll have to cut your way through with barbers’ shears, and the Indians know you’re coming. But don’t worry—the lights don’t work, the fence is holier than our book, the guards are retired and unfit, they don’t have the budget to patrol at night, and we’re already using their infrastructure.

Police SP, offstage: They took my car and phone! I have escaped and reported this to my colleagues after a suspicious three-hour gap.

Terrorist on phone: Mummy, I’ve sneaked into India, either through a border tunnel or from J&K, to bang a bunch of virg—become a martyr.

Mummy: Okay, eat something before you croak. Hello? I think we have a cross-connection with the Punjab Police, the Indian Air Force, and Indian Intelligence.

Pathankot airbase: We have hours and hours to defend this base. Who needs thousands of army personnel nearby to help lock it down? Everyone hang at the main gate, that’s where they’ll come from.

Nobody: How do we know that?

[Hours and hours later: Loud bangs, dead people]

PM Modi: On June 21 more than a million people in 192 countries came together to celebrate the first International Day of Yoga.

Indian press: Here are some Pakistani panelists to explain the terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase, while we keep looking for some Indian panelists who can explain it.

[More loud bangs]

Some of the Army: Which genius brought in the National Security Guard when we’re right here?

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval: I like the NSG. Why is everyone looking at me?

Delhi Police: Delhi is on red alert for terrorists visiting from Pathankot.

Delhi: Hey, you in the hijacked car, with the grenades. Here are some flowers and an awareness-raising pamphlet about odd-even. Next time it’ll be Rs 2,000.

[VVIP phone rings]

Pakistan PM Nawaz Shareef to PM Modi: When we were holding hands, was it as good for you as it was for me? Cos I think about it all the time.

PM Modi: Across the world there are moving stories of transformed lives and rekindled hopes due to Yoga.

[48 hours later]

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance minister Arun Jaitly: It’s all over. We salute our martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice to annihilate the dastardly enemy.

Part of the Indian press: Doval, Doval, Doval!

Air Force officer: Hello, it’s totally not over.

The rest of the Indian press: Sources say nobody knows their elbow from their ass.

[Loud bangs]

BJP: Criticising the operations at Pathankot is anti-national.

India: Yawn.

PM Modi: Seriously, guys? Yoga is really very good for you.

Army General: All nonsense. Brilliant synergy between the army and the NSG, couldn’t have been better, got on like a house on fire.

Indian press: Er, that actually is a house on fire.

India: How come our super-duper airbase is so thick with Indian Army and Air Force moustaches that you have to cut your way through with barbers’ shears, and we knew they were coming, and six guys have still had the place upside down for longer than a French working week?

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar: A lot of this was bad luck.

[80 hours later]

BJP government: Please, can we never talk about this again?

World: ROTFL. Oops, live mike. We stand firmly by India in her fight against terrorism.

Terrorist on phone: Mummy, they’ve asked me to sneak into India and bang a bunch of virg—become a martyr. Yes, yes, I’ve eaten—a piece of cake.