Category Archives: Social Media

DEEPIKA PADUKONE & THE “IT’S MY CHOICE” VIDEO: MISFIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS!

“Vogue” roped in Homi Adjania & Deepika Padukone for its Vogue Empower video on women’s empowerment in India. A seemingly fantastic mix of editorial, production and marketing choices indeed, which were bound to spur skywards the prospects of all involved. But after 22 million hits on You Tube, strangely, none of them is sure if that happened. So what went wrong?

Vogue India decided to celebrate their 7th anniversary by launching a social awareness initiative, #VogueEmpower, with the aim of drawing attention to women’s empowerment issues which (as per the Vogue website) “touch and impact the lives of both urban and rural women”. As part of the campaign Vogue India planned to include features in the magazine, get its ambassadors to espouse causes, to tie up with Give India to fundraise for various women focused organistations and to finally be a “conduit of change and champion of women’s rights to empowerment of mind, body, thought and action.” The chosen medium were the magazine, social media, multimedia, digital and off line activities with a simple message “It starts with you.”

To reach out to the social media, Vogue made its first video on the theme on the issue of women’s safety, titled Going Home, a film by Vikas Behl, it featured Alia Bhatt and received wide acclaim and was an inferno on the social media.

Emboldened by the response the next video was boldly titled “Its My Choice” and was about a woman’s ability or inability to freely exercise her choices. It’s a slick 2min:35 sec video with a catchy back ground score which had a montage of Deepika Padukone and 98 other women, in various expressions from joy to anger, with Deepika providing the voice over. The art in the video is predominantly black, for greater impact and to also go with the aggressive theme.

The opening lines go along fine when it talks about letting women wear clothes they want to and whether they want to be size zero or 15, because after all these actually are personal choices.Few controversial issues follow such as whether the woman wants to marry or not, whether she wants to have sex before marriage, outside of marriage or not at all, and whether she wants to love temporarily or lust forever, or if she wants to not to love or love a boy or girl- and in all of this Deepika says -it’s her choice. And her (woman’s)choice alone!!! And when adulterous behavior is simplified as a mere matter of mere choice, devoid of sensitivity , then the video would naturally lose appeal.After all havent the men been accused of the same callous attitude?Then how is the same behaviour a sign of empowerment for the fairer sex?Something doesn’t quite click, isn’t it?

The confrontational and “me versus you” undertones become OVERtones when Deepika says “you are my choice, I am not your privilege”. The apparaent trivialisation of the male hardly wins the video support from the “oppressors”, ironically, this is what the video set out to achieve.Instead of thoughtful reflection most men would easily,and damagingly, end up construing that “women’s empowerment = women’s supremacy” !When the reality is just the opposite.

Deepika reveals naivete when she associates empowerment with freedom to return home late and the offensive tone bars the father, brother or partner from even being concerned !The best (or the worst) is saved for the last when Deepika says it’s “her choice”  (alone) whether she wants to have “your” baby or not, and if the male wants it then he is being “cocky” (pun intended?).Now what kind of logic is this??Since when has having a baby been an individual’s choice alone?Isnt it a collective decision?

Finally,Deepika delivers the coup de grace by stating that the women’s songs, order or virtues are essentially a man’s noise, anarchy and sins respectively !Mercifully,the video ends soon after and all that lingers is the scent of controversy.

This Amul ad / topical on the Its My Choice video shows the Amul Girl depicting the montage of Deepika Padukone with open and windblown hair from the video itself. Designed against a black backdrop it is consonance with the black setting in the video too.

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The Tag Line …Its My Choice… is a play on the theme of the #VogueEmpower video.The all yellow “O” is a take on the traditional “bindi” which has been chosen by Vogue as its symbol of women empowered.

The Punch Line … To Use a Butter Knife or to Use My Fingers… is a witty play on the theme of the video while playfully endorsing the inviting and delicious taste of the Amul Butter.

So why did the video not click with the audience?

Vogue went off target right from the start. It chose mostly bourgeois topics to raise awareness. It totally panned to its upwardly mobile clientele and overlooked issues such as equal rights to education, health, support for seeking employment, more representation in public services, work – life balance, dowry, domestic violence, safety and security and respect in public places. So what was covered was essentially the peripherals to the debate.It seems someone at Vogue did his or her studies on women’s empowerment from IIN and goofed it up royally!

Next, the meaning of empowerment is mutual understanding, trust and respect which should lead to equality between the sexes. Whereas the video reduced mutual coexistence between the sexes to the realm of imagination.It alienated its target audience and was rejected across the sexes for being offensive, insensitive, missing the point and portraying an untrue and incomplete dimension of the espoused cause.Instead of a “me and you” approach the video embarked on a “me versus you” trajectory.

The above was exemplified by the controversy over the two most contentious issuse in the video – adultery and child bearing.

The entire agenda got hijacked when the video was seen to endorse adultery – “sex outside of marriage”- as a matter of choice for a woman.The men ofcourse turned around and asked if it was open season for them as well, with no questions asked?Is this what Deepika had in mind when she says “my virtues, your sins”?

The line adopted on the issue bearing a child was another sticking point which exposed the flawed logic and the misplaced sense of empowerment being espoused by Deepika and Co.And here she rings the death knell for the compassion sought to be generated.Women’s empowerment cannot happen without mutual undestanding and factoring in of each others sensitivity.

 As is obvious, the arguments were vacuous and the lines hollow and this undoubtedly damaged the espoused cause substantially.

In the aftermath, the men now, gleefully, demanded that they be not judged when they exercise absolute freedom of choice to love temporarily, lust permannently, to be adulterous and to consider everything about a relationship temporary. This retort and the line of argument by the men not only turned the logic of the video on its head but also exposed its hollowness completely. Seriously, I think Rahul Gandhi did more for women’s empowerment in his disastrous interview with Arnab Goswamy, than this video. At least in his case there wasn’t any hostility associated with the concept! Only hilarity.

The lines on returning home at 4am totally obfuscated the intent behind the video. It was as if the woman was saying that I will do whatever and you, the guy, can neither question (still understandable) nor have the right to be worried. And this in a country where crimes against women are committed on the streets, in the by lanes, homes, neighbourhood, trains, buses, fields, public parks and of all the places – Police Stations! So is being genuinely worried about a woman mutually exclusive with her sense of freedom??? If yes, then for me this is – #VagueEmpower!

The topics spoken about in the video are hardly mirroring rural concerns. Was there any mention of female infanticide (it happens in urban India too) or of the necessity to provide proper ablutions to the women or about the atrocities of the Khap Panchayats? If not then Vogue failed in its stated intent as mentioned in the beginning of the Post.

If it’s about absolute freedom, then let everybody do what they want. Let rapists run riot, let murders be committed, let eve teasing be the norm, let wife beating and marital rape not be cognizable offences, then don’t drag boys to court on charges of rape when they walk out of relationships – as in all these cases it was all about “their” choices and they exercised it. So, whats wrong with it?

Everything.

There is a fine line between freedom of choice and absolute freedom. The latter will lead to chaos and anarchy. Choices have consequences and the ones who make them have to be accountable for it, as these always impact lives of those affected by these choices. Even the universe, which Deepika has alluded to, conforms to rules to maintain order and eschews chaos.

The utter gibberish dished out by Vogue led to numerous spoofs. The best amongst them was the one titled #DogueEmpower, where the cute little canine politely tells us about “his/her” choices. And believe me, the canine’s assertions for exercising “his/ her” choices are far more convincing than those of Deepika Padukone. The video has thus far received over a 100000 hits.

For her part in this charade, Deepika Padukone of course has proven that she is competing with Aliya Bhat for the “new blonde in town” title. She comes across as comfortably dumb, to have not realized the implications of the hollow lines she was parroting. And she can’t seek refuge in the fact that here she was merely in her “on screen” avatar. Doesn’t she add value to her dialogues and roles, in a movie, by sharing inputs with her director? Then we expect her to have exercised her discretion in this case too. Thus she is equally responsible for the fiasco and is also a poor choice as a feminist poster girl.She speaks of the uncaged female spirit and the expanding universe but then in reality does everything that signifies enslavement of a woman’s mind, body and spirit – just to stay on top of in the film industry, which happens to be the most exploitative of the women who are part of it ! Ironical, isnt it?

Padukone’s association with the #VogueEmpower campaign is extremely hypocritical as she is herself endorsing figure slimming cereals and skin lightening creams and perpetuating myths and stereotypes about the way women should be seen rather than want to be seen (choice.. Remember?) So, Deepika, see if you can differentiate between “real” and “fake” feminism!

As for Homi Adjania – “yeh hi hai wrong choice baby”. In the Bollywood flick “Cocktail” he has trashed the freewheeling “snowflake” (girl), in favour of the nice “snowflake” who is the exact antithesis of the “coming-home-at-4am-sex before marriage-sex outside of marriage” type endorsed by him as the poster girl for women’s empowerment. So, Mr Adjania, what do you have to say about this? After all, a director’s work also mirrors his beliefs.And yours appear as hollow as the video you dished out !

The in-congruence of the video also lay in the choice of the 99 women. Though successful in their own right, they are all from privileged backgrounds where they would have hardly ever experienced the denial of a choice. Vogue had hoped to carry out a marketing blitz and cash in on the latest big thing – Indian Feminism. And the fact that the video was a result of a marketing ploy rather than a reflection of the realities of women empowerment explains why it did not resonate even with the mere 30% percent (english speakng) of the population that it targetted.It also suffered due to the poor credibility levels of fashion and life style magazines as they are known to perpetuate trends and stereotypes which are totally against their professed stand on issues such as empowerment !

The video was an utter failure and i really wonder how much #VogueEmpower can do for women’s issues especially when the campaign is floundering and misfiring on all cylinders!

In the end, my heart goes out to Jiten Ram Majhi, who was pilloried when he endorsed the extra marital affair of his son as a consensual relationship. But here , #VogueEmpower wants us to believe that it is a sign of women’s empowerment.If this video would have happened a few months back Majhi could have cited it in his support.

Its never too late though.Makes for good copy and some more juicy controversy !

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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.

sec 66A

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!!!!

 

MORAL POLICING: MUCH ADO ABOUT A KISS WHILE THE PISS GETS THE MISS !

If Indian Culture is under imminent threat follow these simple steps to render it invulnerable -shout obscenities, slap randomly, smash windows and time it for the TV cameras! And to share a secret, the easiest to prey upon are young couples confused between love and hormones. But beware, sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted and its even more bizarre when the weapon used is a mere “Kiss of Love”.

In end October 2014, Downtown Café in Khozikode,Kerela was vandalised and ransacked by members of the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) for allegedly “facilitating immoral activities” by its young patrons. This was after Jai Hind TV telecast a programme about the alleged “immoral activities”.Interestingly the entire drama unfolded in front of the cameras and yet BJYM goons managed to evade arrest.

This incident led to the Free Thinkers group and others organizing a “kiss of love” protest against the “moral police” and its wanton and unrestrained hooliganism.Promptly a Facebook page came up and exhorted people to defy moral policing by locking lips at the Marine Drive on Kochi on the 2nd of November! Soon there was furore all over. The Shiv Sena,like all extremists painted a grim and murky picture when it  bizarrely predicted that the “Kiss of Love” protests would lead to “sexual anarchy” (what does this mean) and a renewed and more virulent form of “love jihad”.The battle lines were drawn and the stage was now set for a “kiss-ectrfying”  protest day.

On the anointed day, some protestors did managed to lock their lips (same sex also). Most of them though may have actually bitten each other because of the attendant chaos caused by throngs of yet-to-kiss-for-the-first-tine onlookers and i-am-jealous-of-your-girlfriend type goons of the “morchas”! Pandemonium reigned as the goons wanted to hurl the “kissers” into the sea, the “kissers” wanted to keep kissing as life had never been so good and the Police did what they are good at – baton charged, broke up the crowds, arrested the kissers and let the “morcha” hooligans go.Like always.

The fire spread to all corners of India and in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi similar protests were organized. The media focused only on the kissing and invented a “kiss counter” which did not miss out on a single “kiss” whatever be the level of chaos taking place. Inadvertent fights too broke out and the Police did what they had in Kochi.

In spite of the “kissers” endangering themselves for a seemingly just cause, opinion was largely divided on the issue of the propriety of the form of protest and it did deflect attention from the moot issue -the “heckler’s veto” which is being exercised by the “moral police” and leading to infringement of liberty and fundamental rights as well.

This Amul ad captured the dominant national controversy of the time. It shows a love struck couple sitting on a bench poised to kiss, though appearing to do it on butter draped slices. The “moral police” is depicted by a caricature holding a placard and remonstrating angrily with the couple. A camera holding caricature represents the over zealous media. The Amul Girl is shown separating the “kissers and the morchas”.

kiss of love

The Tag LineKiss Power Ya Uss Paar..is a play on the protest titled the “Kiss of Love” and a popular hindi proverb “is paar ya us paar” which urges people to make a decisive choice which in this case is either for supporting the “kiss of love” or not supporting it and bringing to fore the question of propriety of the chosen form.

The Punch Line..Lipsmakhan Taste... is a subtle play on the lips and kiss and is spin off of the English term Lipsmacking Taste, which simply implies that the Amul butter has an amazing taste.

The “Kiss of Love” protest was not a knee jerk reaction to the Downtown Café incident, but a pent up reaction to a series of instances of moral policing in Kerala. So , though, the idea of a protest received wide spread support but a call to openly kiss did not receive the same kind of acceptance. It appeared that some took it as a right for indulging in “in your face” public display of affection which irked the majority sentiment. Call it false morality or what you may, most of us are not comfortable with “lolling tongues” and drooling couples in our vicinity. Even Bollywood used embracing flowers or a raging fire to depict the “ultimate expression of love ” (or lust). In a country where Emraan Hashmi movies were considered soft porn, accepting lip locks as a form of public protest was a tad too much to accept. Most related it with their own children and disapproved of the form.

This is where the protest lost its zing and instead struggled for its own legitimacy.

It is well understood that protests need to be innovative to have an impact but the organisers got the form wrong. The focus should have been on the over reach of the “morchas” instead it became an effort towards making maximum lip locks possible with leery on lookers assembling for a free show.Women protestors being chased by hoodlums seeking “kisses of love” totally queered the pitch and the accompanying obscenities was totally avoidable.

Another aspect is that the Police never really arrested the hooligans indulging in violence at the protest venues but preemptively arrested the protestors on the pretext of maintaining public order as the yet-to-be-planted-kiss could invite an imaginary sucker punch from a real hoodlum present in the gathering. So who is a threat to public order? The real hoodlum or the hypothetical kisser?

Also while our “moral police” raves and rants about women’s hem lines and kissing in public it is conspicuously quiet about “pissing in public” .Why? Isn’t it obscene and unIndian? And while women are blamed for getting raped because of their dress where is the moral police when the need for community policing arises?

The Central Government maintained a studied silence and got blamed for soft pedaling on the issue of the “morchas” due to its own umbilical linkages with the Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS). This will only encourage the obscurantist groups to try and apportion more and more of the social landscape and one fine day we will be like Pakistan.

“Kiss of Love” protests were an eye opener and a definitive moment when some amongst us tried to push back the tide of rising moral policing. Only that it got waylaid out of exuberance but still managed to leave a “bite” on the moral police’s hips. Vigilante groups have no sanction under law and they should be restrained at all costs. If they have a problem with a particular behavior then like all law abiding citizens they should approach the courts and not run riot.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner let’s get serious about getting the “morcha types” girlfriends as this will keep them away from smashing windows and chasing couples. Otherwise be prepared for a sucker punch heading your way and also ending up spending the night in a lock up while the “puncher” keeps counting his hits.

OMG! DEEPIKA PADUKONE & THE “DIRTY TIMES”!

When a leading daily decided to “showcase” the cleavage of actress Deepika Padukone ,it had no idea of the furore about to unfold.Spurred by a spirited counter attack by the actress herself,celebrities & netizens tore into the reputation of the Times of India (TOI).

On 14 September 2014, TOI Entertainment tweeted a link to a web photo gallery with the caption: “OMG: Deepika Padukone’s cleavage show.” The clips shows Deepika wearing a low cut dress designed by Anaita Shroff Adajania for the trailer launch of Chennai Express in 2013

Padukone responded by tweeting -“YES! I Am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??”.

Within no time Deepika was hailed as a crusader.Her reaction was re tweeted more than 7,000 times & #IStandWithDeepikaPadukone started trending.

The newspaper has since tried to backtrack telling her the tweet was intended as a “compliment” !

Padukone came up with her Point of View,titled -My issue is objectification of a real person!In this the actress essentially arguing that the media & the society in general should differentiate between the “REEL” world, depicted by the characters she portrays & the “REAL” world wherein she is woman & deserves to be treated with respect & not objectified by showcasing parts of her body for the sake of head lines & leveraging the power of “influence to proliferate recessive thought”.

TOI came up with its defence wherein it accepted the actresses’ “reel versus real argument” but accused her of hypocrisy especially since she has been photographed “flaunting her body off screen” in “real” life.

Not accepting the faux pas & facing the heat from rivals (who have themselves indulged in similar “objectification”), TOI put forth a vacuous argument & justified its actions by disregarding the actresses’ reservations & confirming the notion that they totally ignored the fact that Deepika is a woman first & an actress later & she needs to be respected.

Media houses need to survive & sometimes they adopt reprehensible tactics (News of the World is a case in point) & justifying their scrupulousness by laying the blame on the society, that they present what is likely to be read or watched more!

Bollywood too is under the scanner for constantly raising the bar for indecency & vulgarity & relying on raunchy “item numbers”, in the name of artistic expression & that “the script demanded it”. Though Bollywood as an entity rallied around Deepika but it continues to perpetuate the very actions which are leading to the increasing objectification of women.

Shakespeare never needed a rape or an intimate scene or an “item number” to progress his script, yet he is known as the greatest playwright ever. Food for thought?

The women in Bollywood too need to stand up against being depicted as “Pinky hai paise walon ki”, or as ” Main to tanduri murgi hoon yaar,Gatkale saiyan alcohol se ” or inviting the hero with ” Aabroo ke silaayi khulegi, Sharm ka bhi lifafa phatega ,Kaddu katega to sab mein batega”.And please stop taking pride in being “item girls”..for an item is essentially an object!!!

Sadly, Deepika, you fumbled when Barkha Dutt asked if you would take the issue of objectification of women in films to its logical end? Your answer was the same banal “if the script demands”….

This is getting too serious!

I have realised that there are some who willingly get exposed & dont mind getting ripped of all dignity as well.And remain thick skinned enough to repeat their ridiculous acts.

Some of the “guests”  on Arnab Goswami’s News Hour are the chief culprits.

Peerzada from Pakistan, is a classic. Almost gullitioned each time that he appears on the show, yet in his exposure lies publicity & may be financial interests.After all “muft mein koi itni beizzati kyon karwayega”..okay i am not game for it !

Next – the spokespersons of political parties.

Rahul Gandhi tears an ordnance in public & gets kudos from his media team!!! Sakshi Maharaj rant about Love Jehad & their party spokesperson defends it by invoking everything under the sun & still doesn’t sound convincing! Stout defence can after all get them in the political fray itself!

Ajit Singh shamelessly tries to blackmail the government into letting him be a regularised “squatter” in a bungalow, by unleashing hordes of “distressed farmers” on New Delhi & its water supply. Exposed totally!! But appears next instant as the “lokpriya kisan neta”! And the closest that Ajit Singh has been to the word ” farmer” is when he orders the Farmhouse Pizza from Dominoes!

Kapil Sibal stated that there was zero loss to the exchequer in the 2G scam when the CAG pegged it at Rupees 1lakh 76 thousand crores!You see in a hurry to make brownie points ,Sibal saw 176 on one page & a pageful of zeroes on the other..and showcased his inteligence!!Then he wanted to be re-elected in 2014!!!

The nation & the crocodiles demand an answer for the secret of the thick skin on these stalwarts!!!!

Coming to the Amul ad/ topical on Deepika Padukone.It depicts a caricature of the actress wearing a similar gown as the one which generated the controversy.A bit of the cleavage too is shown to draw parallels.The Amul girl is the likely assistant while reporters are obscenely vying for odd angles to take sneak pics of the actress.

IMG-20141012-WA0005

The Tag Line…Newspaperazzi…is an apt take on newspapers crossing the line & including tabloid & paperazzi content in the name of news.Thus the inglorious correlation of serious reporting with that of the paperazzi kind!

The Punch Line…Star Power…is inspired by the power of a star to stand for a cause & rally massive support.It also draws a parallel with the Amul butter being a star product with the power to pull customers!

Lastly, Deepika..Shah Rukh Khan..Hrithik Roshan..do take up cudgels against excessive violence, vulgarity & obscenity in films because most confuse the “reel for the real”!

And unlike all papers which reported the incident – I am not tagging this as the “Deepika Padukone cleavage row” .I don’t need publicity at the cost of a woman!

WHEN MARIA SHARAPOVA MET GOD !

maria-sharapova-sachin Had Maria Sharapova not asked the question in the picture above, we would have never had the ‘delectable’ Amul ad featuring Sachin Tendulkar and Maria Sharapova together!

There have been occasions when I have wondered what it is like to be Maria Sharapova – a 27 year old gorgeous 6ft plus blonde who has the tennis world at her feet with 5 Grand Slam wins to include a Career Grand Slam, who is also the richest sportswoman in the world and owns a delicious sounding candy brand ! I am sure the answer is as if ‘you are on top of the world’.

Also, for the record I am not a cross dresser or a drag artist wanting to unleash the woman within!!! I have wondered this about Federer, Ronaldo, Nadal and yes ..yes…wait .. Sachin Tendulkar .(The last name has saved my Twitter & Facebook account from crashing within 5 minutes of my posting this!!! )

Coming back to Maria Sharapova.

She  had her world turned upside down between 28 June  & 03 July 14 when she lost in the Wimbledon fourth round & also found herself on the receiving end of the wrath of India’s net savvy & cricket mad netizens. images-7

And from being on  top of the world she found herself under a heap of  cricket bats , balls & stumps!!!To top it all, no amount of high decibel screeching (and when Maria screeches all the night owls of the world listen in awe…and her opponents are left in shock!) was going to get her out of the mess she found herself in (did she find Ness there? He’s in a mess too😎 ; read my earlier post ‘A Preity -Nessy Affair ?)

Sharapova’s travails began as an outcome of an innocuous query asked by a journo during the post match press interaction after her third round win at Wimbledon on 28th of June 14.The match had been witnessed by a number of famous sports personalities including David Beckham (English Premier League, La Liga & England Football star),Andrew Strauss (cricket) & a third idividual about whom the journo simply asked that;

‘Sachin Tendulkar was the other person who came in at the same time as David. Do you know who Sachin is?’

And Sharapova came up with a harmless ‘I dont’!!! images-9

Just as she said it,the world came to a stand still in a mythical land named India..where tigers roam free and play cricket!

8For my non Asian friends (it should be non SAARC readers actually)I wrote what I meant .I did not mean ‘play with crickets’..yes..cricket is a game too..no..not played by insects or not about insects! Do you not want an Indian visa ever that you don’t know this most important virtue of Indian-ness?!!!( Ness again..This time I am not promoting my blog 😎) Wonder if cricket forms part of the test on British way of life that immigrants in the UK have to undergo..especially with the Britishers having invented the game! David Cameron..hope you are paying attention !!)

Okay ,we were at the world having come to a stand still.And when it moved again Sharapova was directly behind the after burner of an Indian backlash! Her mesmerising beauty counted for not even the cheapest cricket ball in India. When she said she did not know Sachin Tendulkar she had lived a part of her life for ever.From here on Sharapova will refer to her life story in two parts..Before I Knew Sachin Tendulkar. ..and… After I Knew Sachin Tendulkar !!! images-15

How could you do this Maria?Even my smart phone knows him !!! The moment I type ‘Ten’ it fills the rest with ‘Tendulkar’!!And don’t even try misspelling Tendulkar as the damn set shuts down on its own and doesn’t rev up till I have recounted Tendulkar’s feats at least ten times over!!! The immediate reaction from the land of 17.5% of the world population was one of utter disbelief. Sharapova doesn’t know Sachin Tendulkar??? Sachin Tendulkar??? Sachin Tendulkar – The God of Cricket??? So she must pay for it! The high priest of the temples of Tendulkar had thus ordained that Maria Sharapova be taught a lesson for her sacrilegious ignorance.She was to be put on a rake for being an atheist as she did not know God!!! She was condemned to a life in hell!! images-8

Angry supporters of Tendulkar, indignant at their God being a non entity for Sharapova, trashed her Twitter & Facebook pages with the choicest of abuses & insults. It came in such torrents that her page was swamped by 50000 messages in three days, castigating her for such blasphemous ignorance!!!

The storm did settled down, but not after Sharapova begged for mercy ,but when the social media buffs in India found another serious topic to lavish their attention on.And thankfully for Sharapova this time it was the speculation of Tiger Shroff ( a new comer Bollywood hero) being none other than Priyanka Gandhi (daughter of late Rajiv Gandhi) and the ambush marketing tactics of Neymar in favour of the makers of his underwear! (Did you think they were going to talk about the Union budget or women’s safety!!!)

A flip side to all this was the heightened sale of Sharapova posters (so these could be burnt during processions😎) and the possibility of Sachin Tendulkar being nominated for the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Physics, Neuro Science, Biology and whatever else.This way the world would come to know of the game of cricket and it’s God!!! And being Indians we have been reasonable as we haven’t demanded the Nobel Prize for Sports , which doesnt exist and also for English and Peace as the former is the sign of slavery and has British origins (never mind that Cricket is a British invention too)and the latter will be opposed by Vladimir Putin as he is the main contender for it on account of the peaceful disintegration  of Ukraine! (A certain George Bush and Tony Blair have all the reasons to be miffed as their efforts in the unravelling of Iraq have gone unnoticed by the Nobel Committee!)

All in all the incident was quite a hilarious example of the reach and ‘over reach’ of the social media and the netizens in general. The ‘over the top’ reaction of the Indians did not factor in the fact that cricket is not part of the sporting culture of Russia and even Sachin Tendulkar will not know the name of the all time great of Russian Ice Hockey, a game followed with as much passion in Russia as cricket in India.

So Sharapova dear, don’t lose heart as your spat with ‘Soldiers of God (Sachin Tendulkar)’ in India or the ‘Mujahideen’ (literal translation) or should I say with the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ 😎😎😎 hasn’t made you lose fans instead it has earned you millions more! How? Well, your supposed ignorance has been splashed on the front pages all over India even in the vernacular press.That’s the segment which out numbers the netizens & the English speaking people by millions and millions! So stop wasting time and close down your ‘Sugarpova’ outlet at Wimbledon and open hundreds of them in India & a business tip that will surely work is to wrap the candy in Sachin Tendulkar’s visage based wrappers and give a free cricket ball as an incentive too.This way you would have atoned for your ‘sins’ as well as made money too! (Hire me Maria..hire me!!) images-32

The incident was controversial enough to find favour with the Amul ad line & important enough to feature in the midst of the FIFA 2014 / World Cup 2014.

It depicts a tennis player, a pretty blonde, sitting with her racquet and scratching her head to desperately figure out who the gentleman is who is trying to introduce himself to her.The girl has the face of the Amul Girl but her hair style, pink dress, with matching shoes depicts the style of Maria Sharapova. The gentleman talking to her is in a black suit and shirt & tie & holding a poster of a cricket player in India colours with Sachin printed on it.The man is depicting Sachin Tendulkar, his body structure,  hair style & his dress is the same as was worn by the original the day he sat next to David Beckham while witnessing Sharapova’s 3rd round match.Details have been well picked up by the creator. IMG-20140704-WA0002 The Tag Line…Maria , Share-a-poah with Sachin..is a wonderful take on the name of the tennis star Maria Sharapova & has combined it with the name of a delicacy of Maharashtra (the home state of Sachin Tendulkar) -Poha- is asking Maria Sharapova to share a Poha with Sachin Tendulkar & to get to know him better😁

The Punch Line…Known Everywhere…is once again establishing the universal appeal (in India) of the Amul Butter & takes a dig at the unseemly controversy about Sachin Tendulkar not be in known everywhere!!! I still feel that the winner is Sharapova as she is better recognised in India now than what Sachin would be in Russia as I wonder if the Russian press devoted any worthwhile space on the matter.

Lastly, this incident has come as a shot in the arm for the beleaguered intellectual capabilities of Alia Bhatt who has bettered Maria Sharapova as the former knows Sachin Tendulkar & the latter didn’t!!

As of right now the two protagonists of the strip are yet to comment on the controversy.And in the ‘After I Got to know Sachin Tendulkar’  phase of her life Maria Sharapova is bound to see better days as a celebrity in India & better sales of her candy product line! For her too ‘Achche din aayenge’ & she has Sachin Tendulkar to thank for it.God tussi great Ho! !! Really! images-41

My advise to the social media buffs is that India is not the centre of the universe or the earth and claim to the ‘Middle Kingdom’ tag is of the Chinese! And don’t mess with the Chinese for they are better & meaner at computer games😎

Leaving you with the best memes on the Sachin Tendulkar -Maria Sharapova  (needless) controversy.

Sorry Sachin Tendulkar, Sharapova has put you & me in the same league.She doesn’t know both of us & I play cricket too !!! Bro0WY0CAAEbHS-  sharapova-meme-7 images-26BrlkYfaCUAAVEF9