Three cheers for desi porn!

Saturday, 28 February 2009 - 9:19pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
From masturbation to orgasm, from morning ablutions to sexism, everything politically incorrect was gloriously centrestage.

Last week was rather unusual from a stage entertainment perspective.


Two milestones of sorts of occurred. One was when a troupe of Slumgods went up on stage at Kodak theatre to accept the Oscar statuette and then song n’dance their way through history.


The other was when stand-up comedian Vir Das took stage at Tata Theatre for his first ticketed show to blow the lid off the humourless Indian sexuality and regale/repel a motley audience for two hours.


Both events were milestones in their very occurrence and yet both have been slapped with accusations of porn — ‘poverty porn’ in case of the former and, well, real porn in case of the latter!


The response to Slumdog Millionaire generally varies between two extremes. On one end are the vigorous celebrationists (the UPA government included!) who desperately want to own its success and hail it as a timeless classic, a wonder of filmmaking.


The other end of the spectrum is occupied by the suspicious zealots who either pooh-pooh the film as a neo-colonial conspiracy theory which paints a “totally unreal picture of India” or expose the evil machinations of the cheerful Leroy-lookalike Danny Boyle who “paid just Rs 75 to the child artistes, I know for a fact”. And then there are the purists who keep shouting from the rooftops, “This isn’t an Indian film you morons, quit celebrating!”


The story at the comedy show wasn’t very different either. While walking in, the sight was a typical Sunday evening at NCPA. The well-heeled and the la-di-dah ranging from bankers to businessmen to just plain ol’ Richie Rich stood around casually elegant, exchanging pleasantries, all rather secretly pleased at being part of this decidedly NY/Chicago phenomenon of “spending Sunday evening at the comedy club”.


After all, it indicates that not only do you have an eclectic taste for the arts but also a sense of humour, that elusive Indian dream! Then the show began. And went places no popular media had ever gone in a long while — i.e. south of the pelvis!


From masturbation to orgasm, from morning ablutions to sexism, everything politically incorrect was gloriously centrestage and unabatedly funny for two whole hours. No censors, no euphemisms and definitely no elegance!


And what of the august audience? While some (like yours truly) were genuinely laughing their pants off at Vir’s honest exposition of uniquely Indian sexual tics n’ traits, some had walked out of the show outright, and yet some others just sat tsk-tsking with pursed lips and muttering “this is just too much.”


And of course, there were the mandatory TV cameras as we came out and the routine politically correct bytes to describe this totally politically incorrect show.


But amidst all this brouhaha I wonder if people — especially critics of both events — have ever stopped to notice the sheer momentousness of these events and draw a quiet breath? Yes Indians have been nominated for Oscars before and even one a couple. But who in their dreams would have thought of the kitschy, colourful and loud Indian movie sensibility taking centrestage at the hallowed Oscar podium?


Those extras in the pink ghagra cholis and the dholak players in the aisles interspersed among the Lagerfield and Dior-clad audience was the real moment in history — a uniquely Indian moment — never mind the nationality of the film.


Could any of us have dreamed of it, even when Lagaan with its umpteen songs made its way to the Best Foreign Film nomination and was rumoured to have been nixed because of those very songs? And as for all those superstar super-spoilers who rile against the supremacy of Oscars, well mate that’s the way things are!


And I don’t know a single film actor or technician who wouldn’t like to earn a statuette. Not because it’s Hollywood or it signifies big bucks. But because the event and the award has kept its dignity and exclusivity intact through the years.


The fierce backstage lobbying, changing audience tastes and falling TV ratings haven’t turned it into a garish vaudeville show unlike its Indian counterparts. That’s something to think about.


And as for all those humourless stuffed shirts who probably saw too much of their potbellied sexually inadequate selves in Vir’s jokes, it’s time to take a moment and marvel that we live in a city that despite the repeated invasion of cultural bigots and moral fascists still has the liberty to enjoy an uncensored evening of fun. That’s an achievement of Oscar proportions — if not more — for the precarious times we live in.


And that’s not funny; it’s just the plain truth.
 deblina@dnaindia.net


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