Set the poll rolling
by Farzana Versey
The News International, May 8, 2009
The two Khans, Aamir and Sharukh, are the main players; we will skip the rest, especially publicity-seeking wannabes in white with draped dupattas and scarves in the colours of the national flag because their deception is honest.
Aamir Khan goes around with a dead-pan look taking on the mantle as brand ambassador for National Election Watch like a messiah. Everyday, he is on the TV screens in an ad flaunting children as his representatives, all with communally diverse names.
This is a most alienating election campaign because the voters can see that the star power mixed with evangelism is faked. The smart cookie crumbles.
All these guys who have become the face of the polls are really disappointed; they are drowning their despair in daiquiris.
Aamir does not like drowning, so he starts flying. “I was really hopeful that more youngsters would come out and vote. One did notice the youth becoming more ‘nationalistic’ after films like Rang De Basanti,’’ declared the saint. This is like saying children would become dyslexic after watching his Taare Zameen Par. He is insulting the young electorate by assuming them to be a bunch of impressionable fools. Nationalism isn’t formulated in multiplex cinema halls, and certainly not by watching a film that promoted gratuitous violence as an ideology.
Don’t bother to educate him. He knows it and is merely pitching his act by striking when the irony is still hot and malleable. Do you recall how he landed up with his Rang De team during the Narmada Bachao Andolan hunger strike? This was blatant use of a cause to promote the cause he is most passionate about – himself.
When the BJP government in Gujarat bans his films he becomes a martyr. Now, he is a good man with a short memory, so when his next film is out he organises a special screening for L.K. Advani. Anyone with some self-respect would not be a part of this tamasha. Contrary to the cultivated image, he likes tamashas. Why else would he have named his dog Sharukh?
Sharukh Khan is happy just to declare, “I am the greatest”. This is not the result of some prophecy but simply the joyful assertion of one for whom satisfying an audience means behaving like a stray pup that will be taken home to “extract every emotion” from them.
He employs the same strategy for the elections. He left his Indian Premier League team in South Africa and rushed to Mumbai to vote. He was shocked. “So much of campaigning happened and I actually believed that more people would vote, at least in Mumbai,’’ he wailed into the Pathan scarf he wraps around his neck these days.
That evening, he was dancing at a prominent wedding; his going rate was a couple of crores. But Sharukh’s patriotic performance was noticed. Unlike Aamir who appears like he is creating characters in the laboratory, he hams it. This is probably one of those rare instances when a person is called an actor because of his “nervous energy”. He uses it even in his political attitude.
Both of them will not join active politics because they are already playing politics. Aamir does not attend award functions. However, when the same media house that hands out those dildos declares him the most powerful personality in Bollywood he poses for them not in movie star mode but as the “voice of the nation”. Sharukh projects self-deprecation as aura and indifference as enigma. In a fickle world where icons die every Friday, he has maintained a studied casualness that has been coined ‘chutzpah’, which ensures him lasting clout. The spontaneity, though, seems too well-timed.
One acts out his activism; the other stars in a Karan Johar film to sing the Indian national anthem – in Manhattan.
Did anyone say ‘We are the world’?