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In Defence Of The Poor Taste Of Tanmay Bhat
Bollywood stars and social media trolls have virtually made the video a hit and Snapchat a household name. Sutanu Guru marvels at the the incredible hypocrisy surrounding freedom of speech in India
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This author saw the video spoof of Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar posted by the so called stand up comic Tanmay Bhat of AIB a few days ago. It had all the inklings of a provocative, silly and cheap jibe guaranteed to attract antics, abuse, attention and attacks. No wonder it has succeeded in doing that. Completely marginalized by the voter in election after election despite brave attempts to demonize and terrorize Indians from regions other than Maharashtra, the MNS has led the attack on Tanmay Bhat. Other political parties too have joined in, as have many assorted Bollywood “celebrities” of differing degrees of importance. Chances are very high that, like the other denizen of Mumbai named Suddhendra Kulkarni, Tanmay Bhat might get his face painted black and get slapped by an “activist” and become a beacon for freedom of expression.
It pains this author to see the likes of Tanmay Bhat become public torch bearers of freedom of speech and expression. Of course, it also pains intellectuals like Shiv Vishwanathan to see the likes of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah being chosen by many Indian voters to lead the country-into or out of darkness, who knows! But this author does remember the abject manner in which AIB, the outfit whom Bhat represents, had gone sniveling and genuflecting in front of some Bishop in Mumbai when one of their gigs had “offended” the Christian community. That one single act of surrender had illustrated all that is wrong with Indian “liberals” who cry hoarse about hoary words like secularism, freedom of speech, liberty and the right to offend.
Nevertheless, liberals must defend the stupidity and crass humour of the likes of Tanmay Bhat. After all, he is just a more “polished” version of the kind of juvenile, sexist and loaded satirists like the more famous and popular Kapil Sharma. Look at the facts. It seems Bhat has insulted “icons” like Sachin Tendulkar and LataMangeshkar and must be spanked a bit at least. But then, is it ok to make puerile jokes on other Indians if they are not “icons”? And whose icons? This icon obsession has gone beyond crazy. If you insult Arvind Kejriwal, an army of bots will descend upon your timeline. We all of course know about the numerous Bhakts of Narendra Modi who give an entirely new spin to “BhartiyaSanskriti”. If you are in Tamil Nadu and dare to offend the icon called Jayalalitha, you might be hit with a defamation case that the Supreme Court has recently held to be constitutional. In West Bengal, they don't much care about constitutional niceties if you dare offend the icon Mamata Bannerjee out there. And it goes on and on.
Coming back to Tanmay Bhat, what is wrong in offending Sachin and Lata? Sure they are icons and this author is a big fan of both (though he reluctantly admits that Rahul Dravid then and Virat Kohli now are better players!). But haven't there been stories for decades on end in how Lata Mangeshkar used her power to discourage competition when it came to singing for Bollywood songs? Haven't we heard,mid we follow Bollywood of stories when Lata Didi boycotted Mohammed Rafi when the later took a less “commercial” stand when it came to sharing of royalties? Many of us know about her so called “strained” relations with sister Asha Bhosale. And surely Mumbai residents remember the tantrums Lata did threw when a flyover was being constructed near her house is south Mumbai? The author doesn’t need to recount the many comments and commentaries on the other icon Sachin.
The point is: these blemishes affirm they are human beings and are truly great human beings in terms of achievements What this author pines for is the India where we could all make (often salacious) fun of icons and nor harm done. There was a time in our school days when we could “dare” to share jokes full of sexual innuendoes about Hindu religious figures without inviting a barrage of abuse from defenders of the faith.
Who is to blame for this? This author thinks most of the blame has to be shared by so called liberals of India.