Aiyyo, India Tussi Bharat Ratna Ho!

Of course, India is one country. Diverse, yes, but unified. You’ve got to be joking. Just one day’s news will tell you that not only do we have such strong borders within our country but we also react in a manner that would make an outsider seem less alien.

Let me start with the film of the moment ‘Ra.One’. I have not watched it yet. Now, besides all the criticism about flimsy storyline, SFX not up to nuff, nothing like Hollywood, listless performances, what I found a bit curious was one long article in the TOI about the portrayal of Shahrukh Khan’s non-superman character as a Shekhar Subramaniam. The writer of the piece, a Tamilian, “cringed” because,

“It was somehow difficult to imagine the man whose name has always been Khan or Malhotra pulling off this new surname or doing his signature wide-arm gesture in a veshti and baniyan or even preparing crisp paper dosas for that matter. No, I don’t hate SRK; he’s indisputably the master of spontaneous wit and Yashraj romances.”

Here is someone complaining about stereotypes and indulging in it. What is a Malhotra or a Khan? Why does she imagine all Tamilians wear veshti-baniyan all the time? As a Malhotra, has anyone seen him eat pakoras?

The criticism would have been fine if the nitpicking were not as puerile as this:

“The curly hair, usually a Malayalee trait, I can take. Even Subramaniam’s inability to make iidlis or his soft spot for Lord Balaji (whose largest fan base lies in Andhra Pradesh by the way) is excused. But, under no circumstances, and ‘you can take it in writing’ (now this is a line any Appa would be more prone to using), would a Tamil father quote V Shantaram. Thiruvalluvar, yes. Valampuri John even. But a veteran Maharashtrian film director?”

Do all Mallus have curly hair? Lord Balaji is pretty universal in those parts, and yes, I mean the whole South, which is not Madrasi. As for quoting V. Shantaram, aiyyo, Rajini saar is originally from Maharashtra and he rules the Tamil industry. In fact, what is the cribbing about caricature? Every Rajinikant character is a caricature, often of himself. Pointing out the subtle variations within the South is not educative but only emphasises the disparities and the archetypes. It is important if the issue being discussed were of import; here we are talking about the non-hero avatar of a superhero.

One scene has got quite a few people into a Maggi mass. The good Tamilian writer explains that an appa “is not someone with a natural taste for noodles and wouldn’t ever substitute rice in curd rice with noodles. Is that so hard to get?”

Yes. Because, some appas can be eccentric. Here we go on and on about fusion cuisine and someone does it in the privacy of his home and it becomes a matter of grave social concern. What if he had poured rasam over the noodles? Or, was there a problem because he eats with his hands (not just fingers)? Have you not been to any traditional home or even small restaurants? Balling the rice after adding the sambaar/rasam/curd is pretty common. There have been occasion when such images are poked fun at, but if you can take a joke then it should not be a problem. The Chinese and Japanese even in fancy restaurants have their soup straight from the bowl. Americans will stuff triple-decker burgers in their mouths, mayo, ketchup and all. North Indians will eat their gol-gappas with the jal jeera dribbling down their chins. Same goes for most chaat in other parts of the country.

As for the accents, Bollywood is not here to make realistic cinema. Watch the old films, see how comedian Mehmood portrayed the Tam-Brahm in ‘Padosan’, watch those lungi dances…and we have film stars from the South who spoke in Hindi as Malhotras but never did get rid of their accent. No one spoke about nuance and how they managed to stay at the top.

It is interesting that there is no word about Shahrukh’s character being lean. Why? Does the Tamilian appa not like himself to be a little robust round the tummy, by and large?

And here is this whirly-gig that “even the most accented Tamilian father does not have a problem pronouncing ‘keys’, no matter where he’s looking for them (in this case, a woman’s bosom)”. Well, maybe he had just travelled from Medrass and hopped across the Tamil border into Kerlah? If he can acquire curly hair, according to the writer, then he can indeed look for kiss in the oman’s boosum (keys in the woman’s bosom)?

The writer goes all moralistic about upbringing of Tamilians. Hello, how many of them have wives in several corners of the house? Ex-CM Karunanidhi might be able to help.

PS: I do not like SRK and my next recipe will most certainly include noodles with curd, since I have already been eating tomato bhaat (pronounced bath by Tamilians) with curd and papaddam.

- - -

From the South, we move north. Metallica decided at the last minute it would not perform at the Gurgaon venue – something to do with security. Dilliwallas were angry. Rightly so. But Dilliwallas are always angry, so angry that if they cannot break a signal, which is their birthright, then they just get on to the footpath. Of course, this was not a Delhi-only event, but there are some places that bring out the worst in you. And Delhi most certainly is.

It does have people from other parts of the country, but it is a strange mix of ‘ji huzoori’ and ‘civil disobedience’. Unlike Mumbai that does not make you into a uniform kind of Mumbaikar, Delhi does it unless you really strive to retain your individuality. The worst possible thing is that the Dilliwallas are probably not too happy that Noida pulled off the first Indian Formula One, pretty much without glitches. No one has as yet come out with CWG like scandals, and this in the land of Mayawati.

It is truly silly when people ask what will happen to that land now that the races are over. What happens to Jantar Mantar and Humayun’s tomb and Ferozeshah Kotla Maidan? The first two have symbolic-historical value, but after that picture of a stray dog at the spot before the races, perhaps it can be used to get our police sniffer dogs some exercise; it can be used as a jogging track; there can be music performances. Anything. Maybe even Team Anna can play a cricket match against the various factions that crop up within it every other day.

The cribbing continues, including how it is just a glamorous event. Sure, it is. But those with memories will remember that the respected news magazine, India Today, back in the old days had done a photo shoot of the makeover of athlete P.T.Usha. Think before you cast stones.

I have two cribs about the event, though.

  • Why did Sachin Tendulkar flag the winner Sebastian Vettel? One of the participating teams was Ferrari and we might recall that he sold his Ferrari, a gift.

  • I love Lady Gaga but an Indian band or a group of our best could have been chosen. After all, it was the Indian Grand Prix.

- - -

We move to Mumbai. Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray wants Amitabh Bachchan to get the Bharat Ratna.

"Amitabh Bachchan is the last 'Shahenshah' (emperor) of Bollywood. In many countries of the world, the people don't know who is the president or prime minister of the country, but they know Bachchan. He is a real jewel of India who has brought laurels to the country...Bachchan truly deserves the Bharat Ratna.”

We do not know if Balasaheb plans to take away titles and we cannot have another shahenshah years from today. Mr. Bachchan does deserve this honour. But, why this sudden interest? Because, recently a North Indian MP had asserted himself and there was a war of words. So, the SS decided they could use the man who represents the North best. Moreover, he is now the brand ambassador of our beloved Modi’s Gujarat.

Let me jog your memory, again. In 2008, Mrs. Bachchan, Jayaji, a fine politician from the Samajwadi Party, had said at a function when the ‘speak and eat in Marathi’ call was at its peak:

“Hum toh Hindi mein bolna pasand karenge. Hum toh UPwalle hain. Mumbaiwalle humein maaf karein.” (I would like to speak in Hindi since I am an UPite. Mumbaikars please forgive me.)

Smart woman that she was, she forgot that she is a Bengali married to a UPite; she was marketing UP then. At the time, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut had said,

“Why should anybody undermine the Marathi language in Maharashtra? Moreover, there is no need for her to promote Hindi in Mumbai. It would serve the purpose better if she campaigns for the language in southern states.”

So, Balasaheb is not only suffering from convenient amnesia, he is pushing the Bachchan agenda by bringing in the friction with the Congress as the reason that Mr.B has been denied the honour. Why has he kept silent for so long? Had he got it during his friendship period, then the accusations would be of favouritism.

Talking of Mr. Bachchan and his show 'Kaun Banega Crorepati', I think it is quite communal, in that it finds a Muslim and the queries are about naqab and some Urdu stuff; the Hindus get their queries from mythology, which is in surfeit, incidentally. Always has been.

- - -

It is, therefore, wonderful that the Mumbai High Court did not pussy-foot when it came to a mandal that claimed it was a temple and asked for it to be removed without touching the deity. Justice P.B.Majumdar stated:

“People are interested in building places of worship. But God is never interested in huge worship places. He is satisfied with a small place also. If you really have the love for God, pray to God. He can give you more.”

True. There should be a moratoriam across the country on new places of worship. We have more than enough of every religion and sect, not to speak of those in honour of film stars.

Mosques, temples and churches are anyway not about god, but about the devotees’ need to find god. A haystack should do. A pin here and there might confirm the best suspicions.


  1. FV,

    Stereotypes are enjoyable for the most part, but not when they are based on a lack of knowledge and/or prejudice. The V Shantaram reference was definitely a howler - of the unintentional kind of course. SRK and his - no doubt equally gifted - director were entirely unaware that V Shantaram was Marathi and not Tamil. In a different context, this itself would have made for a delectable joke. In Ra.One, it looks pathetic, given the monumental ignorance on display.

  2. Wait...Why is it ok for a judge to take on this religious tone? Should a judge be telling people what God is interested in, how to pray, or for what?

    Perhaps this is nit-picking. But he could have gotten his point across without using religious vocabulary.

  3. F&F:

    How many kids, the main target audience, would know about V. Shantaram? Not many young adults would be able to specifically place him. It is a howler like any other. I did mention in my post the fact that Rajinikant, the biggest superstar in the South, is Maharashtrian, in this context.

    How many allude to it in the mainstream Tamil films?

    Btw, I think Shantaram made some interesting films and I have seen quite a few. It did not matter where he was from.


    You are not nitpicking and it is a valid query. But it is difficult to pronounce verdicts on a religious issue without reference to the context. Eye-witnesses and those under trial even in civil and criminal disputes swear on a holy book.

    As regards whether a judge should tell people what god wants and where they should pray, it was a response to a specific case. We have charlatans doing it all the time, and they have a larger audience and devious agenda.


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