Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shorn, Yes. Folorn? Probably!

Late on Sunday night, India were well on their way on their way to pummelling England in the fourth match of the Hero Honda series. The stadium was in a frenzy, the players presumably psyched. But as Ishant Sharma came in to bowl his penultimate over, the only thought I had was - 'What happened to his hair?' [Close second - 'Why wasn't Sapna Bhavnani there to rescue him?']

Shorn of his tresses, Ishant is no longer our desi answer to the fire-breathing, arm-flapping , mullet-wielding Oz spearhead, Jason Gillespie. He might continue to excel, but minus the volume, post wicket celebrations will be low key. And he also loses the opportunity to earn compliments from military-dictator-heads-of-state.

Advice for budding fast bowlers: Keep the length. Without his mane, in the eyes of the viewing public, Ishant is strangely .........diminished.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shadow Lines

Something has been annoying me for a couple of days - not exactly privacy, not even confidentiality. More the sanctity of a personal conversation.

An American friend once told me that Indians are incredibly networked. Wherever we are in the world, we manage to bump into someone we know through someone else. And while that's a thought that's nice and warm and eggnoggy, it also means that news travels. Faster and further than you could imagine. And this becomes more and more apparent as the 'degrees of separation' diminish and friendships begin to intersect in different permutations and combinations.

Which brings me to my point - to what extent do conversations really occur between two people? How do you stop friend X, who you confide in, but who herself confides in friend Y (who you fell out with in 12th grade), who is dating friend Z (who's a buddy but not that close) from spilling the beans on your love-life/career/taste for bad music?

The other night, during a conversation with a friend, I was arrested by a vision of phantom eavesdroppers. And so I censored my sentences. All of which came to naught when I was markedly less discreet in another tete-a-tete which was duly disseminated to others.

How exactly do you begin to grapple with the competing needs to confess and conceal? How do you decide what to say to whom? How do you establish boundaries? And, all attempts having failed, how do you begin to co-exist with the unwanted but persistent shadow people who listen in?

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I just got home after watching Dostana with a friend. I've been interested in this movie for a while now, partly because it promised to plot itself on those faultlines where popular entertainment and topicality intersect. Partly because I like pretty clothes and bright colours.

As has been reiterated in every review-slash-conversation - the movie is not about two gay men, although the public and critics were initially led to believe otherwise (by some accounts, anyway). Two men pretend to be gay and fall in love with the same woman - they try to sabotage her romantic relationship, and eventually return to seek forgiveness and make amends. It's actually staple Bollywood fare, and homosexuality is just a plot device. The men could conceivably have been monks in training or Brahamacharis, although that's probably more of a 70's thing.

But the point is this - John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan are straight men confined within a closet of their own making. Which creates scope for confusion and some genuinely funny lines. Not to mention Kiron Kher's incredible turn as an OTT full-on Punjabi mom. The theater where I watched the movie was full of families, kids and grandparents in tow, all laughing at the right times and even hooting with approval.

Does the movie compel viewers to re-think stereotypes? No. In fact, it relies on the absurd hand gestures, effeminate voices and odd turns of phrase that have long caricaturized gay men. At one point, Bachchan advises Abraham to get in 'character,' asking him to - 'Think like a woman...talk about shoes!' This is misleading, and obfuscates the complexity of gender and personality.

But at least audiences are smiling instead of allowing their sensibilities to be offended. 'Gay' is now part of our public lexicon. Maybe, in India, we need to get in on the joke before we embrace what we can't quite bring ourselves to recognize.
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