Are Mumbaikars leading the nation to learn to admire and adore mavericks, the ‘hatke’? Have the Tendulkars and the Dravids – those married-and-settled role models, the ‘regular’ types – lost their mojo?
Such questions seized my mind the previous Saturday as hundreds of Mumbaikars attended the grand finale of Bigg Boss (season 6) at Lonavla while millions voted via mobiles for their favourites.
Who were their darlings? Of course, above all was Salman Khan, 47 and unmarried, the show’s host and Bollywood’s enfant terrible. His (some alleged, some known) past shenanigans (like destruction of wildlife, difficult relationships, careers and the accidental death of pavement people) are history. His every word, gesture, glance, were wildly cheered by the raucous crowd.
What left me dumbfounded, however, was the utter popularity of both the winner, actor Urvashi Dholakia, and the runner-up, image consultant Imam Siddique. They are not your typical ‘goody-goody’ winners.
Not exactly a Xantippe, Urvashi, 35, yesteryear teenaged mother, now single parent of two teenage twins (boys), has no pretensions to humility and social correctness. Minutes after winning Rs50 lakh in prize money, she is ensconsed in her exclusive vanity van, enjoying a lungful of smoke, fingering a premium cigarette with elan. “Perhaps, it’s time that a ‘vamp’, too, wins,” she tells a friend matter-of-factly on her mobile.
She has played a vamp on screen alright, but I ask her which of her real-life traits might have impressed her supporters. “I’ve no clue. Lemme guess. Perhaps, they liked my straightforward approach, sincerity and absence of eagerness to conform to popular expectations of how an Indian woman should be.”
You could say Imam, 47, is the male version of Urvashi, only a zillion times more acerbic, the very antithesis of politeness, yet, oddly, charming and courteous. As media vied for his reactions, his nervous energy and seemingly affected manners seemed to coast on the momentum gained in the Bigg Boss house.
Not for him suave demeanour aimed at befriending journalists. Instead, he revels in having an adversarial relationship. Here, he lambastes an FM radio cub reporter for asking whether he would “fine-tune” himself in future. “I don’t like words like ‘fine-tune’... I’m done with you.” There, he takes another journalist to task for missing nuances. “A brown (skin-coloured, figure-hugging) suit is not the same as ‘nude’. I think I’ll report you to your seniors.” Then, he demands the crowd keep silence in the background as he is doing a TV interview. “I’m not a celebrity, but a ‘sell’abrity out to monetise all my worth.”
“You’ve shown it’s okay for Indians to have attitude and not be apologetic about it, haven’t you?” I ask.
“Well, I’d say people like positive attitude, not ‘baditude’. I’d say, ‘Be cool but stay within limits.’ But if people think I’m arrogant, too bad, time out,” Imam blurts out in his trademark style, pushing his index finger into his cheek.
Mavericks’ time isn’t up; thanks to Mumbai, it’s just started, it seems. Mumbaikar Vinod Kambli (and BB contestant Navjot Sidhu) will probably agree.