I wake up to this Gillette ad, which has kicked up a much bigger storm than the Kardashian Pepsi commercial did more than a year ago. I guess that ad was the start of brands taking on the role of SJWs – Social Justice Warriors. SJW is by definition a derogatory term which means a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views. In a normal world there would be a few thumbs ups for this person but in reality, which is neither normal nor reasonable, the reasons for this are the fact that we have to hold SJWs responsible for having boundary issues. I digressed there. But that is the point. SJWs will stop at nothing. Such as pedophilia being termed as a condition rather than a pathetic scourge of the mankind. They want pedos to be included in the ‘queer’ category to be represented on the gay pride flag. Because, there is such a thing as a non-practising pedophile. So anyway, this is a small example of why SJWs don’t get a lot of respect. What happened then with the Gillette ad was a classic design problem I learnt about during a brief ‘knowledge-share’ session at my workplace – That when instructions are printed in a font that’s harder to read, the reader/user confuses that difficulty with the difficulty level of the task itself. Apparently, Ikea knows this. So thank you Ikea. My male friend had no problem assembling that beige double bed. Moving on to males. They’re exploding the dislike button on Gillette’s YouTube link. Here it is again in case you’d like to have a go at it too. They’re doing so just for suggesting that they are better than the toxic messages they receive from the likes of: Harvey Weinstein Donald Trump Charlie Harper Woody Allen Ramsay Bolton Karl Marx Don Draper Hitler Frank Underwood O J Simpson Aurangzeb John Eric Armstrong (Know more here ) Jack The Ripper List of all the men outed under the Metoo movement. Does not include the stalwarts back in India. Top names though: Alok Nath. Rajkumar Hirani. Vinod Dua. M J Akbar. All renowned ones. Saddam Hussein Jordan Belfort Vladimir Lenin Pol Pot Genghis Khan Geobbels Che Guevara Robert Mugabe (Let me throw in THIS link detailing the respective rules of these powerful men from Africa) Know that some of these characters are fictional but most are not. I trust you to know which is which. But I can tell you this: we haven’t even got started. The men who’ve gotten all riled up with this one ad that is the only sliver of good parenting they have / ever will receive, are the ones for whom this ad was made in the first place. It talks about not waking up to a world where bullying is justified with ‘boys will be boys’. And God knows it’s the males who are the worst sufferers of it. Instead of saying “yeah, we do have a problem; glad someone is speaking out”, they’re swearing off of all P&G products. Good going. Yes, a brand’s job is to sell. And trust me, sell they will. Gillette has moved on. It’s talking to my 25-year-old brother who knows that if his dad shouted at him, that’d be wrong. My 50-plus ‘Millennial at heart’ friend who hates boys night out where they crack sexist jokes all night long. My friend & ex-colleague whose husband is a hands-on dad who cooks like it’s his duty as much as hers. Did you know that brands were acting as SJWs when they asked you to wash your hands 4 times a day, for 30 seconds each time? That you needed to wear a deo. That you need to floss your teeth. Brush it twice a day. They you need to get your vitamins. That you need to safeguard your heart health with MUFA-PUFA loaded oils. That you need life insurance for your families. Well, dear men, you need to give up bullying for a healthy society.
So, since I have glossophilia, this news is something I always look forward to: OED i.e. the Oxford English Dictionary has come out with its list of new words added this year. And every year round, a couple of Indian expressions find their rightful place and it helps us continue to look on to the Englishman with regard. This time, Aiyoh has made it to the hallowed rolls. With another discovery looming. Backstory: I’m a Gujju who finds it utterly normal to utter Aiyoh when expressing shock, awe, or surprise. And that’s not normal at all. So when my fave Aiyoh made it to OED, imagine my sense of vindication (Aiyoh in OED) ! Then imagine my sense of disappointment upon finding out that all this time I had been speaking Chinese. Kudos to my multilingual self but still! Turns out, Aiyoh is of Mandarin origin and Aiyah, Cantonese. So, quite literally the most used word in the South, almost like a punctuation mark, isn’t Indian at all. BTW – glossophile is one who loves languages. Which brings me to another observation: Almost all of our languages have some entirely versatile words that can mean an entire range of emotions, and interpretation of which depends on who employs it, how, and when. Like Achcha in Hindi. Achcha literally means ‘good’. As in, How are things? – Achcha hai! As in… Achaha, so you think you’re so smart! I’ll show you! | Achcha? Is that what happened? | Achcha, I thought so. | Achcha, okay, I’ll do it. So, basically, it’s a reflection of a very pluralistic culture here. These are the Indian words that made it: Langra (the Mango variety), Tithi (dates in the lunar calendar) Very much like the head wobble we Indians do, which also could mean anything from okay to good, to yes, to I don’t know, my bad… and whatever else you want. Are there any such words in your language that mean a whole spectrum of things?
So ‘The Print’ has found its cause celebre – free speech. And has mounted this initiative in collaboration with the legend… wait for it… dary ‘Facebook’, which itself is mired in controversy over #Fakenews, along with BITS Hyderabad. I am sure The Print and FB have India’s best interests at heart. There can be no doubt. The fiery Richa Chadha, whose fame came riding on the back of some very interesting roles in Gangs of Wasseypur, a grimy epic saga of mindless violence and toxic masculinity, Fukrey, a crazy comedy, and Masaan, a tragic love story of blackmail and emotional survival, is known for her feminist stance. And may her tribe increase. So, when she appears at #DemocracyWall, it is newsworthy, at least for The Print anyway. https://twitter.com/ThePrintIndia/status/987637568136073217 And this is what she said at the event, among other things. Richa is right that movies are blamed for rising crime. And she’s quick to dismiss the role that films might play in impacting the psyche of its audience. She calls it simplistic to draw that connection. This is where I have a problem. I hope Richa has conducted a study to prove that audiences are not impacted by the content they consume. She will be surprised, to say the least. Whatever Richa might say, there is ample evidence otherwise: If the movies had no impact on the audiences, why would the government mandate the insertion of anti-smoking advisory? Going by Richa’s logic, the advisory can be removed because the public is discerning enough to know that showing SRK smoking and looking cool doesn’t mean they can start radiating SRK vibes just by smoking. You see, the movies are just mirroring the society. Okay, let’s take another matter: family values. You know the Sooraj Barjatya kind of movies? That’s mirror too. In our Sanskari society therefore, there should be no rapes. Bah, you’ll say. Finally, advertisements. If movies or advertisements did not have any impact in creating a desire or aspiration, where is the point in those millions of product placements and those glamorous ads that market everything from a sports car to a ceramic tile with the image of a scantily clad woman? Is this also a case of mirroring? So my ultimate question is, Richa, where do you get off? Where does Bollywood get off? Why do you think Pink, English Vinglish, Drishyam… and movies of this kind, even your own Masaan, make such an impact on the audience? And was it because you were just holding a mirror to us? Who draws the line between “hey, this is to cause an impact”, “this scene to mirror the society”, and “this is just for a lark!”? Who? You? You, who thinks Bollywood is the one that spoke up against #KathuaRapeCase, finally pressuring the PM to make a statement? When do you speak up against the rampant sexual abuse of women and men in the industry you so coldly defend? When you say movies get blamed, aren’t you just defending your cronies who insert titillating scenes of violence and abuse just to provoke people? What do you think Gangs of Wasseypur was all about? I admire you for what you have said (Link here ) on Section 375 and your comments on rape culture are truly commendable. But, that does not take away from the fact that movie makers have a responsibility to the society. It doesn’t serve any purpose to hide behind this mask of “Oh, I’m only showing what’s happening, not contributing to it”. Just like you and your industry shows that great deal of restraint in criticising certain religions, and it really really shows restraint in doing so to ensure the safety of its members, that same degree of concern for responsible filmmaking is absolutely essential. Just watch any of Kanti Shah’s films and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here’s a link to the report of a student that committed suicide after watching 3 idiots, and a cluster of suicides were reported as a result. Here’s a link to the report of another such incident. Now, let me give you a short list of what your movies do not mirror: Ramanujan, the Indian mathematical genius. Shakuntala Devi, the human computer. Abbakka Chowta, the first Tulvuva Queen of Ullal who fought the Portuguese in the latter half of the 16th Century Jhansi Ki Rani, Indian women scientists who took India to space and many, many more such stories. If you really think movies mirror our society, I hope you guys get waaaayyyyyy better at your jobs because this argument will not fly until we hear the likes of you coming out against the abuse going on within the industry… we know it’s there, under the carpet.
I have to thank the current watchman of the Censor Board of Film Certification in India Pahlaj Nihalani for pointing me to the film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ (Lipstick henceforth) because otherwise, I might have avoided it. Just like me, I am sure a lot many women (and men) were egged on to watch this movie after the fact that Mr. Nihalani had previously refused to certify it because he found it ‘lady-oriented’ and that it had dared to portray women’s ‘fantasy above life’. When this controversy erupted, many memes emerged on social media, challenging Mr. Nihalani for using ‘lady-oriented’ as an explanation. After watching Lipstick last week, I want to ask him what led him to think it REALLY was ‘lady-oriented’? Was it Plabita Borthakur playing Rihanna Abidi, a typical college-going girl-next-door desperately struggling to fit in with the well-heeled ‘hep’ crowd? If so, I can’t even start counting the number of movies that have such characters. Or maybe it was Aahana Kumra playing Leela, and her muddled love life – engaged to be married to one and in love (and to Mr. Nihalani’s chagrin, a sexual relationship) with another. Sure, we have truly come a long way in our portrayal of sex scenes, gone are the days when you saw flower bulbs slowly siding up to occupy the frame. Or, if it was a low-budget movie, then the camera panned up to reveal a ceiling fan. Nowadays, sex is portrayed somewhat like it really is, busy, noisy, shabby, and often not pretty. Was that the issue here? I think not. For then, so many recent movies, just to name a few, Delhi Belly, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Ram Leela, etc. wouldn’t have had it easy. But they did. So it has to be something else. Could it be that Leela actually desired another man, and had no qualms about it? But then, I have to ask, what separates this Leela of Lipstick and that Leela of Ram Leela? So no, it probably wasn’t that either. In any case, how is this lady-oriented? Both the Leelas were all about the men they loved. Extremely comfortable about stepping outside of their comfort zones and vocal about what they wanted. Now that could be a problem but the Sanskari Bollywood has moved on. Why not CBFC? Could it have been Konkona Sen Sharma’s Shireen Aslam – who has a secret life? Don’t get carried away. She is *just* a door-to-door saleswoman selling household novelties, nothing more nefarious than that. But, she must hide this from her Saudi-return husband who freely indulges his sexual peccadilloes – nice and plying with his girlfriend when outside and forcing himself upon his wife when at home. I wonder which part of Shireen’s story is ‘lady-oriented’ – A careerwoman in hiding? A woman trapped in a bad marriage? A victim of marital rape? Grimly enough, both have their precedents in Bollywood. Shireen’s lady-oriented life is all about fending off attacks from her husband – emotional, psychological, and sexual. Isn’t this the opposite of lady-oriented? Finally, could it be Ratna Pathak Shah’s Usha Parmar, a much older woman, a widow, known in the community simply as buaji? Buaji likes to be in charge of her business. She is a matriarch, and she has furtive desires. She usually explores these through her secret stash of books – a Hindi cousin of Mills & Boon, until she accidentally stumbles upon an object, a much younger man. She takes to projecting her desires on him. Know what? Maybe that’s the real problem. In our industry, only men are allowed to go after younger women. Like in Buddha hoga tera baap, shaukeen, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Cheeni Kum, right back to Baton Baton Mein, even Pati, Patni, aur Woh, we can talk about love but only when men need it from younger women. All the old women should just giddy up for a session of bhajan-kirtan. Except when they are in the Barjatya genre of family films – Maine Pyar Kiya, DDLJ… have had such aunty characters shredded to comic relief, ridiculously tip-toeing after old men who are themselves sidekicks to the hero’s sidekicks. Usha Parmar isn’t that aunty. She’s different. She’s above Shireen, Leela, and Rihanna, who ultimately toe the line even with their minor acts of subversion thrown in the face of authority. It was only Usha who had picked up the books with her ‘Lipstick wale sapne‘, and later on the phone, got her hair dyed, slipped into a sleeveless blouse. She was the only woman in a group of four who had her ‘Lipstickwale Sapne‘. Maybe that’s why her fall was also the greatest. So, how is this film lady-oriented, really? All four women end up stepping out of bounds of tradition and societal restriction, all four women get punished for their transgressions. Heck, this film is so lady-oriented, not one single frame could pass the Bechdel Test. It is all about the men, actually. And mostly, the kind you don’t want to see. It’s not lady-oriented, silly.