OF MISOGYNY, MENTAL HEALTH, STORYTELLING AND ALL INDIA BAKHCHOD!by Vinta Nanda February 2 2015, 1:17 pm Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins, 38 secs
Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius - and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. ~ Marilyn Monroe
It has now been a long time that I have questioned conformity and wondered why the biggest challenge that this world faces, at least since the time I was born, is that of bringing people to belong.
Belong to religion, community, philosophy, ideology, color, class, caste, a creed, sex, gender; belong to an idiom that defines us; and once squared, a great effort with a massive budget spend is exploited to keep people confined to the space; immaculate!
The outsider is he who questions; the one who dares to be different.
While in being different a person may find comfort, societies at large, not just those which wish for all to be like themselves, but even those who secretly agree with deviation but choose to remain closeted; feel cheated.
My courage came from my ability to belong to the gender that I was born to; and in continuing to be unsparingly, the person who I am 50 years later.
As in being a woman.
I was at first, that is when I was very young, considered to be 'gutsy', later in my teens and 20's, I was called 'bold'; in my early 30's and 40's I was looked at as if to be a 'slut' because I smoked and drank alcohol openly and got up to dance wherever music played; now as I get closer to my 50th, and at times hold my single malt in one hand and an occasional cigar in the other; I am supposed to be mad.
It cannot be more simply put.
When they cannot slot you, they have to box you in some adjective that gives them to believe that everything is right with them because all that you are, is wrong.
Life is a never-ending chase between misogyny and people trying desperately to keep within the tracks to avoid the accident.
Once, it was the country that you took birth in, the color and the religion you belonged to, that put you in a bracket; and at this interval, in which an overarching global conscience is fast becoming universal consciousness; it is the economic class that you belong to, which predestines you.
We can take the liberty here, to categorize people today, in terms of the way they travel from one place to another; by bullock cart, tempo, bus, train in second class or third class; by air, economy, business or first.
You can be cattle or you are a honcho.
So at least we as a people have transcended White and Black, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jew, men and women, and have landed upon an era that now segregates us economically.
Anything and everything that outcasts or deports a person from being part of an accepted norm is an act of misogyny and the ones who are denied legitimacy to acceptable patterns, require psychiatric help.
I don't want to generalize, because I do respect the science of mental health and believe that it is the very paradigm which is enabling the inclusion of castaways in contemporary cultures; but I do wish to make my point here, that we, over the years of there being a lack of understanding of human behavior, as a matter of fact there being repeated insensitivity towards it; have wasted unimaginable amounts of intelligence and intellect that could've brought so much more meaning to our cerebrally deprived world.
I now see it happening in our business, in the world of media and entertainment.
I see young blood with raging energy and drive being dumbed down and forced to comply, by an older generation terrified of the impressions of probity.
The candor, with which the honest mind creates, peels the masks off hypocritical institutions and reveals their duplicity; it is well known to a cocky youngster, but never mind.
It is the well-fed adult wielding powerthat calls the shots, and his duality is his comfort zone.
His acts of bullying are tentatively talked about as a harmonizing and an integration with prevailing and popular belief, so as not to hurt the feelings of others; but fact is that expression in a creative world when muzzled, is a voice suppressed and a voice extinguished can have the most dangerous consequences upon this world; which we are seeing happening around us all over the place.
Imagine what happens to meaningful stories when fiercely independent and intelligent young minds go to present their idea's to networks and studios, which have lists of criterions to qualify them?
This is how it goes!
- Who are you? ...If you are a nobody, then...
- Which is the production company that you belong to? ...If it is a new company, then...
- Who is backing you? ??f it is nobody known, then...
- Does your project have names, stars? ??f your project has none but your portfolio is powered with a bunch of enthusiastic theatre actors, devoted technicians and artistes, all hugely talented then...
- This is experimental stuff ya... Indian audiences are not yet ready for it; come back after a few months/years and we'll see; but it was nice meeting you, and until we meet next, build your brand, get some heavy weight to back youya, or else hang in there till you get a star to bite into your storyya.... All the best man!
Now if you are a somebody, who has a production company which has done some trailblazing work in the past, or if you are backed by a heavy weight; with names attached to your project and a finger on the pulse as well, then... 'You don't have the team ya... these bacchhas (kids) with you won't workya, they will take a long time to understand the process...'
And if you are a somebody, who has a production company which has done some trailblazing work in the past, or backed by a heavy weight, with names attached to your project and a finger on the pulse; and you have a bunch of middle of the line people that have the experience of having worked at networks and studios; who have stepped out to make a faster buck than they did at their jobs in squared and structured centers; or who have been kicked out because they were unable to climb the ladder because younger kids at lower salaries in the networks and studios needed to be accommodated; then you get an opportunity to produce content.
These middle of the line people who have sat at networks and studios for years and ordered creative people around to do or not do things because they are armed with some statistics which divide and segregate audiences in economic segments and seem to know everything based on the numbers; are a tribe that communicates comfortably on your behalf with their younger counterparts now occupying the chairs that they sat on and the senior management at networks and studios who were once their contemporaries.
All writers, directors, musicians, actors, cinematographers, artistes and singers are ostracized from the process and dance to the tune of this burgeoning middle class of the business, which has been created by a system led by a marketing and sales tribe (the capitalists in this context), that does not want to be questioned; nor held accountable for anything other than the cash that they are registering by the seconds.
Who ever looks for a story, or wants it?
When you give them one that is different... 'Our audience is not ready for it ya...'
When you give them one that is in the archaic genres that they are thriving on (obviously with some realism thrown in to enrich the narratives) ... 'We already have something like this happening ya...'
We know you already have something like this happening; and yeah, what you have is mindless beyond imaginable; and yeah, we know it gets you ratings and Indian viewers, specially those that hail from the lowest caste, sorry lowest economic segments, have brains the size of a pea and therefore it doesn?? matter what you dole out to them as long as what you do keeps your balance sheets in tact, but listen, what we have for you has depth and truth, something that we believe in; it will resonate with the pea brains ??but who is listening??
De-risking happens at the cost of the viewer and the audiences.
If you have a star, you have played safe!
If the project failed... 'The audience rejected him/her ya...'
If you have heavy weights, then failure of the project belongs to them! Period!
(A recent example is AshutoshGowarikars' Everest) ... 'We tried ya... it?? not working ya... we gave him a chance ya... the audience is not ready for quality work ya...'
Meanwhile communication goes on between the programmers of the networks and studios with ex programmers of networks and studios on behalf of producers, directors, writers, technicians, musicians, lyricists, singers, dancers, choreographers and actors, within a comfort zone; among people who will not question the status quo and also toe the line as and when required.
So when a free media emerges, which cannot be censored or controlled for a long time to come, the outcome in India is, AIB.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against All India Bakhchod (AIB); on the contrary, I love the fact that its emergence has given relevance and legitimacy to 'irreverence'.
Irreverence, which has been there among the young towards their older peers across every generation since the time the world, came to existence.
Irreverence gives vent to expression, which pushes the envelope and makes the world progress; it is what questions status quo and coerces humanity to shake itself out of convenience and accept change.
Irreverence, mocks and insults the order, ridicules the estate and wakes it up to realities, which in turn lead to innovation, discovery and invention.
Irreverence is the precursor to evolving technology and science.
Therefore irreverence 'must' prevail.
I am against censorship because there is a law of the land, which precedes all dictates (as this piece goes to print, the word Bombay has been beeped out in a music video by orders of the censors because the city we belong to is now called Mumbai on insistence of a cult which believes that every trace colonial remains, of the British Empire that left us more than 66 years ago must be wiped out).
When irreverence crosses the line and becomes blasphemous, it is law that should take course.
Censorship, contrary to what its purpose is, gives cover to that which is illegal; and the monitor is generally institutionalized in developing and third world countries to gag the politically incorrect.
In reality, that what is politically incorrect is healthy for a society; and when dissent is held captive and incarcerated in confines of dictatorial and autocratic institutions, it cripples generations of young people.
On the other hand, it is regulation and the book of rules what is most required but in our case it eludes the process.
Reform through regulatory mechanisms has to be evolving criterion that mirror progress and help to push the boundaries for societies.
The role of the group of people who select and certify entertainment and media is not to decide what people should see or what they should not see; but to instead watch dynamic trends around the world unfold and reform the fundamentals for storytellers, consistently and gradually (this requires hard work with intellectual investment, but who cares?).
A creative universe without a discourse with an institution that is able to predict the times to come instead of constantly pandering to a market is bereft of new ideas and thus becomes a playground for formulaic and one-dimensional characters in stories told repeatedly, over and over again.
That unfortunately is the case in the whole universe of entertainment in India.
Now that Karan Johar, Rajeev Masand, Raghu,Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor have consented to the roast, taken it on their chin in the right spirit (hugely appreciated by each and every creative person), and allowed a bunch of mad stand ups to pound them to pulp (also giving it back to Tanmay Bhatt, Rohan Joshi, AshieshShakya, Khamba and Aditi Mittal in the same measure); what I can't wait to see is a bunch of marketers, content leaders/decision makers and media researchers, who sit secure in safe havens; on the AIB stage allowing themselves to get roasted!
There is a whole two generations of creative artistes and people waiting in the wings to have a good laugh.
Meanwhile full power to DeepikaPadukone, Alia Bhatt and Sonakshi Sinha, Sanjay Kapoor and all others who could laugh and get laughed at, during the KnockOut!