INDIA V/S PAKISTAN: WE NEVER GROW UP! BUT DO WE REALLY WANT TO….

Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like a prospect of an India versus Pakistan match. Such is the rivalry that months are spent in anticipation and when the day dawns the roads are deserted, guns fall silent on the Line of Control (LOC), Hafiz Saeed too stays home watching TV and for those few hours people forget that there’s a care in the world. Time stops still…its just  The Match”.

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 had pitched the arch rivals in one of its earliest fixtures and they were kick starting their campaign with this “juicy” match up, wherein India has had the better of Pakistan 5 out of 5 times, a streak running since 1992.The tickets were sold out months in advance.Such was the frenzy in our part of the world that when some aliens dropped by to investigate someone handed them a flag too.

For most, on both sides of the Radcliffe Line, the World Cup would begin and end with this match.

Going into the match the Indian team had had an indifferent build up where they had not won a single match in their long tour Down Under. The Australians had whipped them in the tests and the Amul topicals of the time say it all with only one of them talking of a genuine cricketing achievement and that was the twin centuries by Virat Kohli in the opening test.

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In the second test all that they could give Amul to write home about was the excessive chatter and sledging between the teams when India tried to do a Australia on Australia and it backfired with Mitchel Johnson blowing them off with both bat and ball.

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The third test was best remembered for MS Dhoni’s anticipated but surprisingly timed retirement from Test Match Cricket. Captain Cool had ensured a draw, batting last on the 5th day and then rode into the sunset.

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The fourth test ended in a draw with nothing invigorating enough.

In the tri series, even the One Day Cricket clowns, England, ripped apart the Indians. The batsmen were in woeful form, Rohit Sharma had last scored a fifty only on a Play Station, Shikhar Dhawan had no idea if he had a bat in his hand or not, Kohli lost his Test Match form as soon as Anushka Sharma joined in, Suresh Raina wasn’t sure what was the record of getting out on ducks so he kept doing that till someone told him, Dhoni was all at sea about his batting and Jadeja in any case masquerades as a batsman at the best of times. Barring Ajinkya Rahane no one inspired confidence. And as for the bowlers, well, their bowling cards had more centuries than the batsmen.

The World Cup team selection too had come in for flak and considered low on skill and experience.Stuart Binny and Ambati Rayudu were considered as bad a call as Kiran Bedi for Delhi CM.Yuvraj Singh not being selected was seen as hara kiri.

As for Pakistan, though it was short on match practice it had recently beaten Australia in a Test Series and its batsmen Younus Khan and Misbah ul Haq had found form in addition to Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Maqsood and Umar Akmal already in good nick. Shahid Afridi was behaving his usual idiotic self, claiming he would wrest back his record of the fastest One Day International century from AB de Villiers when he is yet to score one since ages, so all seemed to be going well. But their bowling had lost teeth. Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez ineligible because of a suspect action and Junaid Khan out injured with Hafiz joining in later.However they have traditionally been good with their bowling finds and still presented a decent attack.

India was listless in the warmups, whereas Pakistan was sharp and it seemed the latter would put one across this time. It was cricket’s equivalent of a Brazil v/s Argentina football match and a tremendous pressure game. It was billed as a match-up between the Indian batsmen and the Pakistani bowlers. the The victors would soar and the vanquished would sink without a trace in the tournament as it’s not easy to recover from such high stake losses, especially when the hopes of an entire nation are belied.

Star Sports came up with a courageous TV ad showing a teenaged Pakistani boy waiting to celebrate his team’s success but is shown putting away his box of crackers in all World Cups since 1992 and even in 2015, with a cheesy tag line ”mauqa, mauqa…kab aayega mauqa” (when wil the chance present itself).It was in the midst of such emotions that the match was about to begin. Narendra Modi chipped in with calling up the leaders of the SAARC nations participating in the tournament.

This Amul advertisement on the India versus Pakistan match captures the associated hype that goes along with the high stake clash. It depicts the occasion when “Big B” -Amitabh Bachchan commentated on the match,specially, on Star Sports in company of Shoaib Akhtar and Arun Lal.A caricature depicting Bachchan with the mike and is show in the company of the Amul Girl.

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The Tag Line…The Butter of All Matches ….is a take on the iconic status of the match and it is actually a spin off from the famous Saddam Hussein line “the mother of all battles” on the eve of the Gulf War in 1991

The Punch Line…Desh Ka Dish …is a take on the acceptability of the Amul brand all across the the Bharat Desh !

The team strategies had to be absolutely uncanny and out of the box since so much was at stake.

Dhoni -Captain Cool – His advise to the batsmen was simple and he of course having got away once was smug in the knowledge that if things went wrong he could always announce his retirement any time during the match. Rohit and Shikhar were to try and not get each other out and also score only one duck between them. For Virat, he was free to do anything (including abusing) as there was no point telling him anything. Suresh Raina was told it was IPL all over again and was to wear a CSK shirt under the Indian Blues. Ajinkya Rahane was asked to switch to CSK in case he wanted a permanent batting position. Jadeja was told that he was “sir” and how could he be coached. The bowlers were the least of the problem as Dhoni knew that nothing could be worse than what they already were. So there was hope.

For Pakistan, Afridi came up with a masterplan to stop Rohit from scoring a double hundred.He suggested Pakistan get all out at 190 !Misbah wasn’t available for the final team meeting as he was busy preparing his English lines for the post match ceremony. Waqar Yunus decided that the reasons for the defeat was the Indian conspiracy to get Ajmal and Hafiz reported for suspect action. It seemed plausible for sure. But.. wait a sec !The match hadn’t even started !!!

India won the toss and elected to bat.Rohit outlasted his talent by a couple of overs and was the first to go. Then Shikhar and Kohli scored a fifty and a century apiece to get the momentum going.Raina playing in the IPL is a different kettle of water and his breezy 74 proved just that (Yellow is the shade for him).The CSK brigade scored 22 between them and Ajinkjya managed a duck. To spice things up a bit, Sir Jadeja narrowly missed the record for being run out twice on the same ball. With the spirit of Ishant Sharma consuming the Pakistani bowlers, India seemed destined for a 300 plus score.In the end it scored 300 for 7.Not much but competitive.

Pakistan replied with 35 year old Yunus Khan coming in as opener. Slow on reflexes he soon departed and after a brief resurgence Pakistan soon suffered a batting collapse with Umar Akmal blaming the drone for his dismissal. Drone? Well, he was referring to the overhead camera actually ! Misbah’s plucky 70 odd weren’t enough and soon Pakistan slumped to a 76 run defeat.Sir Jadeja ofcourse trigerred the slump by actually catching the same ball twice.

It was 6-0 ! And “Mauqa, mauqa, mauqa…” rolled over to 2019.

The subsequent Amul advertisement depicts Shikhar,Kohli and Raina sitting on a table with the Tag Line ….India Jeet Te Raina (India Keep winning) and the Punch Line…Taste Ke Shikhar Par….alluding to the achievements of the opener and the middle order batsmen in the famous win. Surprisingly Kohli’s century has been passed over.

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India erupted in joy. The biggest hurdle was past and the World Cup could now begin in the right earnest. Young kids came out dancing in the streets.And once again there were no crackers in Pakistan. A local channel instead covered the Pakistani public breaking TV sets in sheer disgust.The social media went berserk too and handed a solid bollocking to the Pakistani netizens. Quips such as “Nawaz Sharif says –Yunus Khan out nahin Shaheed hue hain” were hilarious indeed. Another inferred that all the terrorists crossing the LOC were actually innocent Pakistanis wanting to be on the winning side at least once ! As a consolation someone stated that for all the drubbing, Pakistani men shall always be more handsome than the Indian men. I contest this and say we are equal if not better. Just compare the pics of Maulana Masood Azhar and Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Ek Insan – MSG actually scores over with his hairy arms !

In the end it all ended well for India. One did feel for Pakistan especially as I watched it with my Pakistani friends Tanveer, Sartaj, Shafiq and Ali sitting in far flung Abyei. We had all joined up together to watch the match knowing fully that there would only be one victor. It was a sweet victory for us Indians but sitting in the presence of friends it taught me humility too. We shook hands and left the room. Till the next time.

Thank God for small mercies. I have been on the winning side 6 times since 1992 and my son too is now. Though just an ad, but all I would say is…. thanks Kapil (1992), Jadeja (1996), Azhar (1999), Sachin (2003), Yuvraj (2011) and Kohli (2015) for ensuring that I wasn’t in the boots of the hapless young man waiting with his crackers for the last 23 years ! I have experienced child like joy while winning each time and just for the sheer pleasure of it…who wants to grow up anyway !

Tanveer has since confirmed that the crackers have been sold on OLX.

#WontGiveItBack !

POST SCRIPT

Expectedly the victory and the loss had different effects on the two teams.

While India thrashed South Africa by 130 runs (first time in the World Cup) on the back of a fantastic century by Shikhar Dhawan. Pakistan, though slumped to a 150 run defeat. And this time the blame wasn’t on the drone but on ex player and selector Moin Khan. No he wasn’t playing. He happened to visit a casino before the match against the Windies !

11 March 15:As of now India has topped Pool A and is heading into the quarters and the knockout stage with a clean slate.However it still has one more match to go against Zimbabwe.Topping the Pool has ensured that India plays Bangladesh in the Quarter Finals and does not have to travel to New Zealand,which is considered a positive development since the team is now used to the conditions in Australia and would like to exploit it as a “home advantage” of sorts.

This Amul advertisement on the Indian Team topping the Pool B standings is simply designed and shows the Amul Girl,all padded up and with a bat,pasting Amul butter on a points table showing “10” against India thus depicting the 5 wins out of 5 so far for the “men in blue”.

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The Tag Line ….On Top of Every Table… is as much a statement on the Indian Cricket team topping it’s Pool as it is on the standing of Amul butter as a brand name.

The Punch Line …Quarter It…. is  a play on the team making it to the knockout stage and also inviting the consumers to help themselves to generous “quarters” of Amul butter.

Pakistan on the other hand needs to put it past Ireland in its last match to make it to the knockout stage.Its surprise win against South Africa has helped in keeping it’s hopes alive.

19th March 15; Melbourne Cricket Ground

India versus Bangladesh Quarter Final (QF) at the ICC CWC 15 was being played under an electrifying atmosphere and much anticipation.The “Bengal Tigers” had upset England and earned the right to play in their first WC QF.and plus they had history on their side when they had knocked out India from the 2007 WC in the Caribbean.In addition, Robel Hussein and Mahamudillah had excelled with the bat and ball respectively and the “Tigers” were more tha fancying their chances against India.The pressure was on India as they were the stronger side against the “minnows” and above all were the defending World Champions.

India batted first and scored 302 for six, on the back of a magnificent first WC century from Rohit Sharma, and a breez and timely 65 from Suresh Raina.Virat Kohli failed with the bat in the much anticipated tie.

The Indian innings was graced with luck when on 90, Rohit Sharma was caught in the deep but was given a second life when the umpires ruled that the Rubel Hossain’s delivery was above waist-height and therefore a no-ball, although television replays suggested it was a marginal decision which could have gone either way.It was an extremely fortuitous reprieve as India would have been trouble as they were at 196-4 and looking to accelerate. Rohit went on t score 137 and India posed a daunting 302 -6 for the “Tigers” to chase, under lights at the imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Bangla Desh started well but lost their way after openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes fell on successive balls after racing to 31 in 6 overs.India fielded well to stifle the opposition and  the turning point was shikhar Dhawan’s jugglery to dismiss Mahmudullah for 21 , the twin centurion for the Bangladesh side.Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a diving catch to send back e Soumya Sarkar for 29 and this put to rest any designs of Bangla fight back or a much anticipated upset.

India thus bowled out Bangladesh and won the game by 109 runs.They had thus achieved the feat of bowling out all their opponents in all seven matches they had played at the World Cup., another ominous warning for their remaining challengers.

This Amul Topical/ ad on the India – Bangladesh  CWC 15 Quater Final , depicts Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s diving catch to remove Saumya Sircar with the Amul Girl dressed in the Indian cricket team colours and egging on with a replica of the World Cup trophy in her hand.

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The Tag Line …Bangla-dashed… is a play on the name of the opposition, Bangladesh, as also on the fact that their hopes of progressing to the semi finals were dashed with their loss to India.

The Punch Line ….Semi-nal butter… is a play on the “semi finals” that India had qualified for and translated literally- it was definitely a scenario full of possibilities just as Amul Butter too.

The heartbreak for the Bagladeshis soon found vent in the form of their disapproval of the umpire’s decision to rule out the Robel Hussein full toss to Rohit Sharma as a no-ball.ICC President, Mustafa Kamal, from Bangladesh, in his comments to the press alleged a conspiracy and said that the umpires , Aleem Dar of Pakistan and Ian Gould of England had come out with an agenda to favour India.His comments were highly controversial not only for the insinuations contained in them but also for the fact that he held a high office in the ICC and spoke in the most inappropriate manner and at a most unsuitable forum.

Entire Bangladesh was in mourning and echoed Kamal’s sentiment.So much so that the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia too came out in support of Kamal and the conspiracy theory and said thhat her team was “made to lose” the match and that they should not lose heart as without the help from the umpires , I ndia woul have never won the game !She also predicted a sonner than later World Cup triumph for the “Bengal Tigers”.

This Amul Topical/ ad on Khaleda Zia reacting to the umpire’s decision to rule Rohit Sharma “not out” shows a caricature depicting the Bangla PM berating the third umpire for the wrong call of the onfield umpires in calling a “no ball” to the marginal bumper by Hossein.In the back ground, Rohit Sharma and the controversial ball are also depicted.

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The Tag Line …Haseena Kab Maan Jayegi?… is a play on the name of the Bangla PM and a spin off on a popular Bolllywood movie and song by the tit;e “Haseena maan jayegi” and translates into a question as to when would Sheikh Haseena understand that it was a valid call that went against the bowler and in a way  is an attempt to placte her as well.

The Punch Line …Bangla mein khao… is a gentle reminder of the team India played in the QF as also a taditional endorsement of the Amul butter.

Bangladesh may have lost the match but they have shown that they have developed as a one day side and vannot be considered as push overs by any oppostion.Better days are sure to smile upon them.

20th March 15; Adelaide Oval

Pakistan meanwhile lost to Australia in a pulsating Quarter Final against Australia which will always be remembered forthe fiery spell by Wahab Riaz to the Australians in general and Michael Clarke and Shane Watson in particular.The spell went down as one of the best seam spells in years and was a reaction to the sledging that Riaz was subjected to by the Aussies, Watson and Michel Starc in particular

.Pakistan was unlucky to lose and India would now face the Aussies in the semi final match between the World Cup holders on one side and the co hosts on the other.

Riaz’s spell desrved a topical fr sure for being one of the highlight moments of CWC 15.

26th March 2015; Sydney Cricket Ground

India faced Austtralia in the Semi Finals in one of the biggest match ups in the CWC 15.The co hosts were the overwhelming favourites against the World Cup holders. India had not won a single game all summer against the Aussies including in the one day tri series.But here at the World Cup , India was a different team , totally unrecognisable from the Australian summer.Their bowling had clicked and the batsmen were firing too.And they were coming into the match after rolling up 7 teams,lock, stock and barrel.

Australia the hosts had lost to their trans tasman rivals and had a miraculous escape against Pakistan.Plus , the Wahab Riaz spel had exposed chinks in their armour and on top of that the Sydney ground was likely to favour the spinners.

So in all it seemes an even match up.

Dhoni lost the toss on a perfect batting wicket and Clarke chose to bat, obviously! Warner was out early but then Steve Smith, continued his fine run against India , and scored an aggressive century.In the company of Aaron Finch , who scored a patient 81, Smith put up 182 for the second wicket.This set up the Australians well and though India did pull back by claiming wickets towards the  death, the Aussies managed 328 with a 9 ball 27 from Mitchell Johnson and a quick fire 28 from Watson/Johnson, who had been having a quiet World Cup was fired by the sledging by the Indian players and ended up providing the impetus the Aussies needed to put up a good score.

Chasing 328 under lights and against a quality pace attack was never going to be easy for India.They started well, with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.But when the former fell to Josh Hazelwoodand Johnson snared Virat Kohli (who failed for the second time in a row in a crucial knock out game) and bowled Rohit Sharma in quick succession, it was all but over .Hereon the Indian innings lost steam and fight and dragged to finally end up 95 runs short of the Aussie score.Dhoni top scored with a fighting 80 plus.

Though India lost comprehensively yet they had won the hearts of their supporters for the manner in which they surged at the World Cup.Winning 7 straight games , they were the only unbeaten side other than the Kiwis till the last 4 stage.The “Men in Blue” gave a good accout of themselves and eventually lost to a far superior Australian outfit.

This Amul ad/ topical on the India- Australia semi final in the CWC 15 attempts to capture the sentiment that though disappointed at not retaining the World Cup, India played well .The topical shows a caricature depiting India Captain MS Dhoni in his number 7 jersey and dejectedly going back to the pavillion.Dhoni had waged a loe battle and the topical captures this well.The Amul Girl is shown carrying a stuffed Kangaroo to remind us all of the context and the opposition and is extending a hand of support to the India Captain in the backdrop of  the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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The Tag Line ….Jo beat gaya use bhool jao… is a play on the word “beat” as India were beaten by Australia in the Semi Finals of the CWC 15 and exhorted the Team and the Captain to forget and move on.

The Punch Line …Feeling Blue?Try Yellow…. is a catchy one which is a take on the feeling of being low and lonesome after a heart wrenching loss at a mega sporting event.It also turns the emotion into a an endorsement for the Amul butter by playing up the yellow colour of the product with the yellow colour of the Aussie jersey.

Virat Kohli’s disappointing performance in the knock out games in the World Cup came in for critical review as it seemed that young firebrand and the Indian Test Captain , for all his imperious talent had yet to learn how to handle the pressures and weight of expectations of being a frontline Indian cricket player, especially in big ticket games.He is being touted as the next Tendulkar, but he has a long long long way to go before he can emulate the maestro.Its not about the cricket scores alone, its also about the temperament and the ability to soak pressure, which Tendulkar did admirably for 25 years and stayed at the top of his game dishing out one memorable performance after another.

The adoring millions turned against Virat Kohli ,as they sought to vent their ire and lay the blame for the loss of their team at the World Cup.The presence of his girlfriend , Bollywood actor, Anushka Sharma, with him during the World Cup once again coincided with Virat’s poor form and led to blame being laid on her for his poor batting performance.Her presence was considered as the reason for Kohli losing his focus and concentration.Lots of netizens ripped into the duo and anequal number lent them support as well.Kohli and Sharma exited the airport, on arrival in India, holding hands and looing distraught and uncertain and clearly seeking solace and comfort in each other.

Also, Kohli’s misbehaviour with journalists and intemperate and immature on field spats an reactions point towards a larger malaise in the talented player.He needs to channelise his energies correctly or he may find that “jab tak balla chalta hai , tab tak thaath hain !”

This Amul ad/ topical on Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma captures the criticism that the duo faced for Kohli’s poor performances with the bat.It shows two caricatures, depicting Virat and Anushka sitting togethr and tending to each other, with the Amul Girl offering them the delicious Amul butter laced toasts.The topical captures the cricket player’s and the Bollywood actor’s romance especially in the backdrop of the negative publiciy that the duo received.

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The Tag Line …Sab ne bana di jodi…  is a play on the Anushka starrer Rabb ne bana di jodi and hints at the Virat and her being a couple.

The Punch Line …Have It NHow… is a play on the word “now” with the first two letters in the word “NHow” ,subtly reminding us of Anushka’s home production NH 10, in which she also stars in the lead role.

It is going to be a new tournament four years hence and there will be a new set of heroes, hits and misses.So watch this space, in time.

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AIB KNOCKOUT: IF I AGREE WITH YOU,WE WOULD BOTH BE WRONG !

The AIB Knockout Championship from the comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), sought to break new ground by introducing Comedy Roasts in India. Accused of obscenity, AIB and the format have faced calls for ban. The controversy pitches “Indian cultural values” and democratic tenets of free speech against each other. But is it simply about this or the issue straddles shades of grey too?

Comedy Roasts are shows where “peers trade insults albeit in a good natured way”. According to Wikipedia, the insults can be absolutely explicit hitting at personal habits and the public perception of the person at the receiving end, known as the “roastee”. The roastee’s friends too are subjected to a similar treatment. The host of the event is called the “roastmaster.” Anyone who is honored in such a way is said to have been “roasted.” The first roast is known to have been played out by the New York Friars Club in 1910, when it decided to counter “Toasts” (felicitations) of members. Later, Dean Martin and Comedy Central have made the format their own. The latter being a sought after privilege with Justin Beiber slated to be the roastee in 2015.

So “ROASTS” have taken 105 years to arrive in India (ask the Punjabis ), courtesy AIB which has been formed by four stand-up comedians — Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi, Gursimran Khamba and Ashish Shakya. The “roastees” were film stars Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh and the “roastmaster” was Karan Johar with a panel of 8 others deputed to take on the roastees including film critic Rajeev Masand and Roadies producer Raghu Ram. The event was exclusive at Rs 4000 per seat and had 4000 attendees. Later its video was uploaded on YouTube with a due disclaimer which had age restrictions stipulated along. The event collected Rs 40 lakhs towards charity and it got more than 8 million hits on YouTube and went viral on the social network.Since Indians are a little too tight on getting offended and everything from Alia Bhatt’s dumbness to Modi’s suits are sacred cows, this is a welcome change indeed. Then what was the furore about?

Nothing had prepared the larger audience for the sheer volume of abuses, cuss words and 4 letter hindi words for everything sexual in our lives, not even our raucous National Elections. AIB went through its routine firmly believing in the right to offend and its jokes on taboo topics such as rape, gang rape, gays, race, religion, and homophobia which formed the core content of the show led to complaints and criticism. Though Karan Johar was very much at home walking like a dog and rubbing bums yet a PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court by Sharmila Ghuge who was offended by it all and accused AIB of crossing the limits of morality and decency, of vulgarity,and obscenity and of affecting the minds of the youth. Brahaman Ekta Sewa Trust was the first to lodge a complaint. Btw just try deciphering what the Santha stands for ? The four words seem …seem like disjointed ideas ! Yet, the Santha had the right to be offended and it exercised it just like AIB exercised theirs.

AIB has since removed the video ,issued an apology in general and also to the Christian community but defended its right to offend, an FIR has been lodged on the orders of the Court against the organisers, participants and some in the audience such as Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha (what about the remaining 3998?).Procedural issues too are being looked into to identify lapses and as of now the script submitted has been found to be at a variance to the one spoken by the participants.

This Amul advertisement on the AIB Knockout controversy has three caricatures depicting Arjun Kapoor (standing) and Ranveer Singh and Karan Johar. The chairs and the dresses and the poses of the caricatures resemble the details on the actual show. The Amul girl is standing behind the chairs with an annoyed expression and indicates to the trio to seal their lips.

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The Tag Line…Yeh Roasti Hum Nahin Todenge…is a play on the hindi son “Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge” from Sholay which translates into a friendhip bod never to be broken.This is a reference to the bromance between Arjun and Ranveer and the word “roasti” is a reference to the comedy roast hosted by them..

The Punch Line….AIBAll India Butter…gives out the identity of the comedy collective which scripted the show and also endorses the Amul brand.

Free speech advocates maintained that there wasn’t anything objectionable and that AIB had the right to offend and the objections were to do more with the perception of what’s appropriate or not and as such who has the right to decide upon this in a democracy. They labelled all naysayers as “pseudo moralists” and puritans who were objecting to cuss words and abuses as if they had never used them before.

The naysayers were generally amongst the political class and this time they were muted after a serious backlash over “ghar wapsi” and the Kiss of Love campaign . However the Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena  (MNS) issued threats to the roastees of preventing their film from releasing if they did not apologise for their part in the event.  Actor Aamir Khan objected to the content and called it verbal violence only to be subjected to some himself and was lampooned for his hypocritical attitude over his defence of his expletive ridden production “Delhi Belly” and its lyrics such as Bhag Bhag Bose Dk, Bose Dk and Hole ***,Hole ***, Hole *** , famous college anthems in their own right.

Talking of hypocrites Deepika Padukone and all the “free speech” advocates too are the same as during the the cleavage row they fervently preached about female dignity, and promptly forgot it while guffawing raucously on the vulgar and hurtful jokes directed at women during the AIB show.

AIB apologized in the face of rising criticism and denied their supporters their very own Charlie Hebdo moment by not being the sacrificial lambs. They stated that it was all meant to make people laugh and not to hurt though they retained the right to offend and expected others to not get offended as it was all in good humour. The group also positioned itself as free speech crusaders and were standing up for thousands who felt gagged as creators or activists.

Touching indeed.But what exactly were they standing for?

As a concept the Roast was a hit and credit goes to all involved. It really broke through the glass ceiling and yes it takes guts to do this in a country where a man playing Lord Shiva indulging in a cigarette can offend people. Then to pull it of saying that the last good thing Ranveer was in was Deepika Padukone, in front of them and not on a WhatsApp or a FB joke train is definitely new ground in terms of comedy in India, where the ultimate benchmark is something as slapstick, sexist and laborious as Comedy Nights with Kapil!

But the good part ended there.

It’s true that abuses and cuss words are commonly used, but not in living rooms and nor at work or school by not even the “roastees”, or AIB collective or their 8 million (and counting) supporters even in jest. That’s because these are established indecent form of expression across cultures not because the levels of vulgarity and obscenity may vary for us all but because swearing and cursing are associated with perpetuating an insensitive and aggressive attitude towards the groups or habits the cuss words are directed at. And this is not my hypothesis but of reputed institutes all over the world. All abuses are mostly directed at women and no vacuous arguments in favour of free speech can justify their mainstreaming in any country or society. Many below 18 were exposed to the open use of expletives and this is objectionable, not because of culture vultures or “desi Voltaires”, but because of the propriety of the whole issue. Similarly advocating use of filthy 4 letter expletives for women or anyone else cannot ever be clubbed with a free speech debate.

AIB does not only have the right to offend but also bears a responsibility. The videos did not have the disclaimers till the Maharashtra Government objected. Age restrictions were in place but could their subsequent circulation on Facebook or WhatsApp be controlled? If not then AIB’s defence stands exposed that they put adequate safeguards in place. This certainly makes AIB responsible for the message it sends across to these young minds.To skirt this, is like seeking power to influence without accountability.When Yo Yo Honey Singh glorifies “sabki bajate raho”, “chaar botal vodka kaam mera roxz ka” and ladkiyon ka buffet” these do get picked up by starry eyed youngsters eager to establish themselves and the weak amongst them will adopt the very ways being glorified.The impact of introducing expletives in the average comedy act would also be on the same lines.

Right to offend cannot be wielded without understanding those likely to get offended. An intended message will always be lost if an equal opportunity offender demonstrates “cultural blindness” leading to the “heckler’s veto” will gaining ground. Just drawing from the gags on the show, for those who are surprised at people being offended let me clarify for you that contrary to the projection in the gags all blacks do not have Ebola, only blacks do not have Ebola, calling someone black is not a laughing matter, all priests are not gay, rape and gang rape are unimaginably painful experiences and for the families of those beheaded by the IS… its not a joke.

When AIB and the “everything free” brigade came out all guns blazing they finally stood for championing gross language ad obscene and explicit comedy.I am a supporter of free speech and expression for the right of an artist to create what he wants. But what was being created by AIB? They were just promoting a comedy form to make themselves popular (no social or larger responsibility here) and created an expletive ridden Bollywood focused cuss word infested show. Was the obscenity directed at driving home a lesson about the way Punjab or Haryana Police behave or was it just to cater to the larger audience aimed at achieving instant popularity?

Though I am okay with the audience and participants consenting to the obscenity but not all who watched it were comfortable. Yes, they would have switched off the video but then you cant say don’t be offended and then defend it for the sake of defending.Understanding has to be mutual.If it is not then both parties need to find common ground .Banning the show or insisting on producing more crass shows is an extremist position which is unsuitable for a considered discourse in a complex world. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre there was widespread support for free speech but then eventually issues of sensitivities and the debate on the larger situation of the muslims in France also gained steam. In the case of AIB too there’s a need to acknowledge the problem and neither the moral police nor the defenders of free speech should protest simply because that’s what they can do.This should instead open a debate on the acceptable norms of decency including movies and reality shows , regarding controlling the content being uploaded in YouTube in India and also regarding the hounding of comedians by the government by using legal provisions.

If it was an Aseem Trivedi like incident where a cartoonist is charged with sedition or if Mamata Didi is jailing professors over cartoons then I would say that’s about freedom of speech and expression. But here you cant defend AIB for its language content and insensitive gags. When jokes and satire are directed at groups which are at the receiving of society or not on the same page intellectually and socially as the humorist then the gags on them shall be lost in translation and the intended message is almost always lost. And in this case there wasn’t any message at all. If humour is not contextual then it’s just a hollow medium being exploited for promotional or professional purposes. And AIB did just that.

The “free brigade” and AIB in reality do not stand for free speech and expression rather for using expletives and obscenity in shows without wanting to accept the responsibility that goes along. AIB has a right to produce what it wants, and banning is not an option. But then AIB has to ensure appropriateness of the content as well for all the reasons discussed earlier. If AIB continues to defend for the sake of offending it will in the long run damage the cause of free speech and not benefit it.

 I too support freedom of speech and expression but for a cause and not for the sake of it and if I agree with AIB and its supporters then we are both wrong!

POST SCRIPT I

13th March 15; The controversy generated by the Censor Board banning 28 cuss words has got a new lease of life with Board Members Chandrashekhar Dwivedi and Ashoke Pandit registering their protest by way of correspondence and through the social media.They have attacked the Censor Board Chief Pahlaj Nihalani for following and autocratic and arbitrary style of functioning.They have spoken against the list of cuss words as they feel it will restrict artistic expression in films and have sought the formalisation of the same after due deliberations within the Board as well as the civil society.

Two prominent movies have been affected by the new directives.Anushka Sharma starrer and her home production “NH 10” was recently passed with an ‘adult’ certification and 9 cuts (30 were originally proposed).The release of the movie was delayed as earlier it failed to obtain requisite certification. Varun Dhawan’s ‘Badlapur’ was luckier and was passed intact but with three cuss words removed.The film industry is up in arms and termed the new guidelines as “suffocating” and fear that too many rules can be used to victimise producers and directors .

Nihalani has stressed that movies that have too much swearing ,bloodshed and objectification of women shall run the risk of not being granted a certificate for public viewing. He has come under attack for proximity to the BJP and for furthering the Party’s cultural agenda.

This Amul ad/ topical on the Censor Board shows a caricatures depicting Pahlaj Nihalani running with a net to nab errant movie makers and with a scissor to “chop off” the  objectionable dialogues and scenes.

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The Tag Line …Gaali Gaali Mein Shor Hai… is a play on a popular phrase in hindi and literally translates into- every cuss word (gaali) being objectionable.

The Punch Line …Swear By It… is a subtle play on the issue of the list of 28 swear words as also endorses the trusted quality of Amul Butter. 

One wonders if there was ever to be a biopic on Virat Kohli then with the present Censor Board directives it would most likely have to be a silent movie or one with a continuous beep tone !

POST SCRIPT II

Jerry Seinfield the celebrated American stand up comedian and creator of the most famous sitcom ever – Seinfield – was to perform live in Mumbai .His events were as part of a series of events being organised by the event management company Only Much Louder (OML),as part of the Stage42 festival.It aims at showcasing some of India’s and the world’s most celebrated artists and experiences in comedy, music, theatre and food. The events were to take place between February and March in 7 major cities in India.

Seinfield, the Emmy and Golden Globe winning comedian, was to perform on 14th – 15th March 2015 at the The Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium and the National Sports Club Of India (NSCI) in South Mumbai.This was to be his first ever performance in Asia.Lekin ho na saka….and he came face to face with Mumbai Police !The organisers were told to cancel the show as Mumbai Police did not grant the necessary clearances since they were’nt satisfied about the parking arrangements for the show (???) !

Ya, you heard it right ! Parking space !!!

Like all good things, the conspiracy theories too came free with the cancellation. After all whats life without a bit of spice? The grapevine went agog with the news that the event was cancelled because the venue, NSCI had been recently involved in two major controversies.Once when in a charity show hosted by BJP leader Shania NC the Police manhandled the club members wanting to make an entry.This had caused major embarassment for Maharashtra CM, Devendra Fadnavis.And the other was the hosting of the show “AIB Roast”.To add more spice, OML were the organisers for the “Roast” as well.Hence it was assumed that owing to these reasons Seinfield was “stood up” !

However, as OML was to announce the cancellation, in true filmy Police andaaz, the Khaaki topi waalas made a last minute entry and granted the necessary clearances, albeit barely 48 hours before the show was to take place.OML tried to salvage the shows but they got cancelled anyway as it was a classic case of “too little too late “!.

Facing brickbats for robbing the Mumbaikars of some serious “laughter” , Mumbai Police put the onus of cancellation on OML , that when the permissions were granted then why did they cancel the show? The official answer from OML was that Seinfield had already changed his travel plans once and changing now meant that he had lost a vital day and now with barely 48 hours to go for the show would be jet lagged enough to not park his a** let alone perform on stage  !!! So you see, it was actually a “parking” problem ! But there was this conspiracy theory too (not again) that the ticket sales had been too low due to their high tag (6k/12k) and thus the organisers were forced to take this step of cancelling the show.

This Amul ad/ topical on Jerry Seinfield shows a caricature, depicting the comedian, with a shocked and aghast look as he arrives with his baggage and mike to perform , only to be told that the show is cancelled! The Amul Girl is standing alongside the “no parking” board depicting the “official” reason for the cancellation.

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The Tag Line ……Stand -up fans stood up?… is a quirky statement as well as a question about the fact and reasons behind the cancellation of the show .

The Punch Line ...Sein of good taste.. is as much about the Amul butter , with a play on the word “sign”, as much as it is on the name of the protagonist of the topical, Jerry Seinfield .

So, it seems the AIB Roast continued to score unintended “hits” on its victim counter  !!!

My heart , though , goes out to the organisers OML when I imagine their plight as they had the onerous task of “belling the cat ” – to inform Seinfield that his show wasn’t going to happen because of , of all the reasons, lack of parking space !!!

Had someone told me that its cancelled because of the effect of sunlight on the menopause of the butterfly, i would have still beleived it. But  – parking space ??? Who would believe that ?

As for Seinfield, he surely got a “taste of India” !!!

POST SCRIPT III

25th March 15; The Supreme Court of India (SC) while considering a PIL on the provisions of the IT Act, struck down as unconstitutional the most controversial amongst them all, Section 66A. The Section provided for the arrest of a person, for up to 3 years, for posting allegedly objectionable content on the internet. The Sec had gained notoriety after its provisions were invoked seemingly arbitrarily and was perceived to be against the freedom of expression on the internet.

The PIL was filed by a young law student, Shreya Singhal , in 2012 ,when two young girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, of Palghar in Thane District were arrested for posting and liking a comment against the forced lockdown of Mumbai in the wake of the death of Bal Thackeray and the other liked it. The girls had done nothing to disturb public order and the comment and the “like: could never be in the realm of “objectionable” but for the availability of Sec 66A as a tool in the hands of the political outfit.

Numerous transgressions and misuse of the act forced the SC in 2013 to declare that arrests under the Section would be made only after obtaining permission from senior officials such as the IG or the DCP. However, these advisories ‘did not deter the likes of Azam Khan from getting a class XII student arrested under Sec 66A for posting “objectionable” material on Facebook.

Finally, the SC struck down Sec 66A, terming it “draconian” and “unconstitutional”.

The Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman said that Section 66A “arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right.” The Judges established the paramount nature of the liberty of thought and expression in the Indian Constitution and held that this involved three principles – discussion, advocacy and incitement. Further clarifying that mere discussion and advocacy of an idea did not constitute an act against public order and cannot invite penal action, howsoever unpopular the idea may be.

The Bench also ruled that the definition of offences under the provisions of Sec 66A was “open-ended and undefined” as well as “vague” and also said that “what may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another”. Further pointing out that a penal law is void on the grounds of vagueness if it failed to clearly define the criminal offence as that would then lead to “discriminatory enforcement of the law.”

The Government of India attempted to defend the provisions of Sec 66A by offering reassurances that it would ensure reasonable enforcement of the law. But the Judges rejected the contention saying that “If Section 66A is otherwise invalid, it cannot be saved” and that such reassurances would not be binding on successor governments. What is important here is that how the government of the day fights tooth and nail to curb the rights of the very people it is supposed to protect against any such infringement!!!!

This Amul ad / topical on Sec 66A shows the Amul Girl as an activist who is carrying a “Thumbs Up” sign with the insignias of Facebook and Twitter dangling along.It denotes the victory for the freedom of expression on the internet with our protagonist marching ahead with a clenched fist, symbolizing a sense of achievement.

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The Tag Line ….Free ‘dum’ of speech restored…. Is a play on the hindi word ‘dum’ which means power and while stating the obvious also says that in a democracy true power lies with the people and that is derived through the ability to express freely.

The Punch Line … com.’n get it… is an optic play with “com.” representing the internet and telling the reader about the domain in which the freedom of expression was in question. And it also invites the consumer to come and get more of the Amul butter.

The same Bench turned down a plea to strike down sections 69A and 79 of the IT Act which deal with the procedures for blocking websites and the exemption from liability of intermediaries.This shows that many questions remain unanswered about the regulating mechanism for the internet.Though freedom of speech is sacrosanct but there is no denying that the potential for using the internet against the national interests exists.

The alluding to what does or does not constitutes as “objectionable” will also have a bearing on the case against AIB. So should the internet conform to self-censorship or is there a need to regulate it and what about the famed “right to offend”? Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost….

And I am personally very relieved with Sec 66A not being in existence as otherwise by now I would have been behind bars for having referred to Azam Khan in my Post.After all he may have found it “objectionable” !

So,now you know just how thin the ice was while Sec 66A existed!!!!

 

FIGHTING TERROR IN THE TIME OF NAYSAYERS !

In the dying moments of 2014, there was a high octane drama unfolding off the Gujarat coastintercepts suggested that a suspicious fishing boat was heading from Pakistan towards India with not so noble intentions,relayed in real time to the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) it resulted in a high speed chase and eventually then a fiery end for the boat, its cargo and all aboard! Was terror plot averted? Or was it a maritime “encounter” with a “staged chase” at the centre of it all ?

Early on 31st December 2014 the National Technical Research Organiation (NTRO) intercepted Thurayya set conversations off the Gujarat coast, between a vessel and its Pakistani handlers who talked of unloading unspecified “valuable cargo” in the vicinity of Porbander. This possibly involved 2 other vessels, all from the Pakistani port of Keti Bander. The message was promptly relayed to the ICG and the Indian Navy (IN) and by evening two fly overs by a Dornier reconnaissance plane positively identified it to be a small fishing boat, which was 365 km off the Indian coast and heading towards Porbander. The ICGS Rajratna was launched to intercept this “uninvited guest” and an hour long chase ensued. A few warning shots and edgy minutes later the boat was set alight by four persons on board who initially hid below deck. Later a huge explosion destroyed the boat and its crew and no remains or debris could be retrieved due to weather and sea conditions.

 The ICG and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recorded all of the above issues as part of their press release and that the boat was planning some “illicit transaction”. No mention was made of any purported terror plot as that was yet to be ascertained.

Since the incident happened in the backdrop of renewed firing on the Line of Control and the strained India-Pakistan relations, the media raised the pitch celebrated it as a foiling of a terror plot.

This Amul advertisement on the Indian Coast Guard depicts the Amul Girl standing alongside two caricatures depicting the Coast Guard personnel on the deck of an ICGS. A reconnaissance helicopter completes the picture of vigilance.A small fishing boat in the background is a reminder of the incident which which inspired the strip.

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The Tag Line…A Toast to the Coast Guard…is celebrating the prompt action of the ICG.

The Punch Line…Guard against uninvited guests !….is more a statement on the suspicious boat trying to breach Indian coastal security than for the Amul brand itself.

Then most interestingly we had naysayers coming up with their stories with an alarming regularity and conviction, which suggested they were perhaps amongst the 4 crew members of the star crossed boat.

Manu Pubby of India Today called this an “encounter” and Sunetra Choudhry of NDTV doubted as to how the MoD knew the boat was going to do some “illicit transaction”.Praveen Swami of the Indian Express was the most vociferous and he came out with a piece debunking the official version totally.

Swami doubted India’s claims of “destroying” a terror boat” as “highly placed government sources” told him there wasn’t any terror link at all”. He quoted more “sources” to state that the boat belonged to small time smugglers from Keti Bandar and was ferrying “bootleg cargo” from Gwadar to Karachi. Further “three naval officers” stated there could not have been a chase at all as the larger ICGS would have easily outran the hapless fishing boat. He finally insinuated that “disproportionate” and “lethal” force was used to “destroy” the boat and that the official line was a cover up of sorts. Swami doubted the inability to retrieve debris etc. by quoting an open source site to point out that the contrary to the official version the weather and sea conditions on that fateful night were perfect ! He also blamed the NTRO for violating laid down procedures in sharing information.

This “source and evidence” infested article evoked interest internationally with many Pakistani channels using it to stoke the embers of the “staged chase” theory. It contributed largely to the perception that the Indian Government was fabricating facts for ulterior motives and cast a serious doubt on the credibility of the ICG and created a needless controversy.

Swami tried to showcase his reach but in actuality was dishing out, as one observer has put it, stenography in place of investigative journalism.

Firstly,who said anything about a terror plot or the “destroying” of a “terror boat”? It was consistently stated that the boat was set alight by its crew and that it was out to carry out “illicit transaction”. This was vindicated when India Today and Aaj Tak accessed the transcripts and reported that the Pakistani handlers, including the Army, constantly monitored and instructed the ill-fated boat and two others, which were later ordered to abort mission and return. All actions by the crew were known to and approved by the Pakistani handlers, who even spoke about suitably compensating the families of the 4 dead.

Then, If these were smugglers on the Gwadar –Karachi route why were they 400 miles south of an obviously easterly course and into an unfrequented stretch of Indian waters? Any experienced hand will tell you that smugglers tend to stick to busy sea lanes to merge into the trawler traffic and not venture as lone wolves waiting to become headlines! And if it was boot leg cargo only why did the occupants of the boat set it afire when they could have simply dumped the cargo in the sea???

Swami claims a “staged chase” as the ICGS would have easily outran the fishing boat and also that the weather conditions were clear and the sea calm. But the Indian Meteorological Department (IMT) talks of disturbances and poor visibility for the period in question. Yes, an ICGS can easily outrun a small boat anytime but on a choppy sea the scenario is entirely different especially with the prey carrying out evasive actions too. It seems Swami’s “open source” web site was referring to some intergalactic as yet undiscovered sea on planet Z67TREW2 and probably the IMT too involved in a grand conspiracy hatched by the Indian Government to establish its robust security credentials? Seems Mr Swami watched “Knight and Day” and “Tomorrow Never Dies” just before penning his article.

He also paints the ICG as wanton marauders keen on using “disproportionate” and “lethal” force. But are the ICG so daft as to destroy the boat knowing that absence of debris and the culprits will leave them with egg on their faces? And is their 12.7mm gun so potent as to set alight plastic explosives and diesel, both of which are not known to burn easily. Rajnikant would accomplish this with his eyes but it’s beyond the ICG for sure.

Swami is partially right regarding the NTRO’s actions as the latter crucially left out the Intelligence Bureau and the maritime and coastal Police in Gujarat and Maharashtra from the info sharing loop.

However,the alacrity of the ICG cannot be faulted .In 1993 it was the same Porbander coast where the explosives for the Bombay blasts were landed. The 26/11 Mumbai attacks too were set into motion by the hijacking of a small fishing boat, Kuber. So what’s the harm if the ICG wanted to be doubly sure especially since the incident was happening in the backdrop of the Vibrant India Summit being held in Gujarat?

The Pappu led, Indian National Congress (INC) seemed all at sea in its attempt to  politicize the issue.It bemoaned “civilian” deaths at sea (now how were they so sure of it?) and then asked the government to “come clean” with the facts,as if it was the PM himself who was at the helm of the sunken boat! Manish Tewari coined a lovely term and accused the government of being “chaperones of terror” (which means?)Some even wanted to know which “terror outfit” was behind the incident and if the government failed to provide the name then they blame it for obfuscating facts.

In a world where terror can be wrought upon the public from air, sea and land and the internet,what harm will it do to initiate the preventive measures whenever there’s even an iota of doubt? And this boat and its crew were suspicious by any count,especially when seen in conjunction with the intercepts.Every lead is to be investigated and struck down otherwise the prospects are ghastly to say the least. It’s important for the media to behave responsibly and to neither prematurely celebrate nor denigrate matters pertaining to national security. All this eventually contributes towards developing uncertainty in the minds of the security forces, which can one day prove counter-productive for national security. Even politicians should shun petty bickering in favour of national security otherwise they  are only compromising on national interests.

It was a bizarre sequence of events with stenographers serenading as journalists and clowns masquerading as politicians. I don’t advocate that no scrutiny be carried out.But base it on considered thoughts. Journalists and politicians need to be restrained and not embark on personal glory hunting at the cost of the nation’s image and security. I don’t remember any one asking George Bush to “come clean” when conspiracy theories emerged regarding the 9/11 World Trade  Centre attacks.

At least something should be sacrosanct.

I wonder if Swami and the political lot would dare to try similar antics with the IS,if they were citizens in the newly established Caliphate ?

18 February 15; the ICG finds itself in more controversy when it’s DIG,BK Loshali was quoted from what he reportedly told a gathering of guests during th launch of ICGS C-421in Surat that he ordered the blowing off of the Pakistani boat as he didn’t want to “serve them biryani” after arresting the crew. 

This directly contradicts the government’ stance regarding the crew setting the boat alight . Loshali has clarified that he was quoted out of context and his comments have been blown out of proportion.He also says that he wasn’t in charge of  the operation hence could not have ordered the blowing up of the boat

This once again rakes up the controversy and Manish Tewari of the INC, not learning any lessons, has tweeted that he is worried about the civilian deaths if these were not terrorists.

I think expecting full time politicians to place national issues over their petty 2 bit hassles is a bit too much actually. And Mr Loshali too should be served some biryani so he would keep away from speaking out of turn.Lets all just wait for the final report an if there’s a discrepancy then the government should not dither in disclosing it so that vital lessons are learnt.

Till  then let’s just hold our horses or shall I say  -our  plates of biryani!