Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to create a perfect controversy


I present to you the world's shortest and most accurate instruction manual.

1. Get on Twitter
2. Hang around for a while.
3. Unleash a bold tweet. (Preferably involving a celeb)

     Because Shashi Tharoor had one, Rajeev Masand had one, and even li'l Sonam Kapoor had one, I also wanted a controversy of my own.  So, on one fine Twitter day, I woke up and expressed my desire thus: "Wants to 'jackass' someone and create a Twitter outrage. Are you game? Are you a celebrity?" [For those who are completely at a loss for context, film journo Rajeev Masand called Akshay Kumar a 'jackass' and faced the film fraternity's wrath].
     But since I am no Angelina Jolie with people lining up to fulfill every desire of mine, no outrages occurred. 
     So I hung around and observed and revised those textbooks on 'No Publicity is Bad Publicity' and 'How to Copy-Paste Self to Page 3'. Every lesson in the science of eyeball grabbing ended with one axiom: If you want to be famous, create a controversy'. Thanks to Twitter, it is now as easy as 1-2-3 (read manual above).
     Unless you're the kind who wears a suit in his shower or protects his tweets, your thoughts are as naked on Twitter as any web baby. And thanks to the power of retweets, rallying and bullying come nice and easy.
    I took my third bold step on a Friday, which happened to be the birth anniversary of our freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad. I noticed a few tweets about how shameful it was that our media wasn't dedicating any airtime to him and how disgraceful it was that the media should be interested in Shah Rukh Khan's moves. Scold. Scold. Scold.
     Because it struck me as purist and childish, I ventured to boldly say what no one has said before. "Do only textbook heroes deserve worship? Why is Azad greater than, say SRK?"
     And then came the fireworks! Before I knew what was happening, my philo-logical question snowballed (shitballed is more like it) in to a miniature hate campaign. 
     "How can you compare the two? This is a shock!" said one.
     "Are you insane? How could you compare a great freedom fighter to a film star?", said another.
     "Shah Rukh Khan is a pornstar and dances at weddings for cash. How can you compare him to Azad?" said a particularly malicious one.
     "You are pathetic! You can't compare the two. Take back your words, now!" said yet another, seething with rage.
     From doubt to shock to malice to anger to condescension to patronising pity to insults to virtual blows, I saw it all in a matter of minutes. And because my genda-skin hasn't bloomed completely yet, I recoiled. I mumbled an apology of sorts and ran as far as my tweets could carry me. And I learned one thing. Twitter is no place for the profound. 140 characters are too little to make big philosophical propositions. The treatises are best kept for blogs. And so I will make mine here (and remember, this is MY blog. We play by MY rules). I will answer those bitter Twitter questions the way I meant to.
     The biggest objection of them purists was my comparison. I said, in essence, that Shah Rukh Khan is like Chandrashekhar Azad. Before you scream 'How???' in disbelief, I'll interject, 'How not?' 
      Let's dissect your shock to shreds with some pure reasoning. With all due respect to the martyr, let's keep emotions - patriotic and otherwise - aside. Let's discuss fundamentals. Let's throw your faux morality into the dustbin for a while.  
     Every era has a right to worship its heroes; and if more people in India care about SRK's toilet habits than what Azad did in the yellow pages of history, it makes perfect sense. We've all learnt that in our standard five textbooks anyway.    
     Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is a movie superstar. We live in the age of TRPs. So, if you think the media should 'waste' its precious airtime on Azad, you're effing stupid. Just as nationalist newspapers back then wouldn't waste column space on a movie star. You may be a nationalist, idealist, purist and all that jazz, but wake up to the way the world whirls. It all boils down to the money, honey.
    OK, if money is too shallow for you, how about purpose? SRK works in the movies for fame and (pardon the redundancy) money. Azad worked to free his country. Both act/ed in ways that pleased their soul; that met the purpose of their life. We all live and die for what pleases us most. It could be fame or it could be freedom. To each his own, right?
    Now, for the question of contributions. Azad did a lot for his country. SRK is doing a lot for his country too - only the domains are different. We all play the parts we are destined for.
     What about means, you may ask. Azad died fighting for the freedom of his nation. SRK dances in weddings for money. Yes. True. Also, we all try to earn our keep. Only the denominations differ.
    They are both human beings, I say. The comparison is fair. "Hah! Tomorrow you may compare Azad to Kasab on that scale, then!" you smirk. "I totally will," I say. They are the same; if a government and the law of a land are made judges. Azad, pretty much, committed the same crimes against the British Indian government as Kasab did against the Indian government. They both committed murder. They both killed human beings. They both were motivated by passions justified to them. The end result is the same: a death sentence.       
     You can call Kasab a murderer, Azad a martyr and SRK a money mongering male whore, whatever. Your tags only depend on which side of the story you are on. Who are you and I to decide whether the use of this temporary shell of human flesh in this way or that, is good or bad? Nothing is absolute. Time and context changes all definitions. It makes a hero of a villain and a villain of a hero. 
     I rest my case.  


Vitasta said...

Read your latest blog post, urmi. very well done :D ...(via Twitter)

Juno Maheswari said...

ahaaa....some write up there ! Though i have no reference to context here...i think the basic premise is very interesting...You have a knack to use the mundane to create these well written ART FROM SCRAP ;) keep it up !

Gaurav said...

interesting thought. Liked the fact that you stood by your opinion and views. good post

Uday said...

take 2 successful men in there prime from 2 different eras, compare them, n u will always have a times its funny and at times thoughtful...srk and azad, i cud not have compared them the way u do...even after reading i cant picture them in the same frame...this one was out of the box

Big Fish Mag said...

I read. It sucks that you had to apologize but you defended yourself rather well in your blog.

Ramesh said...

Blog summary: Azad and SRK both had their 15 minutes of Warholian fame. Products of their respective times. Nothing controversial really :D

I really never figured out how people get carried away by personas..

astatine said... is getting boring. Start another controversy please. Whatever it is, I will support you :-)

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?

Unknown!!! said...

Very interesting post..thanks for sharing the tip to stir controversy :)..

Subhadip Sural said...

thanks for demystifying twitter..i will sure work on it... about using the coming independence day to stir up some more?

Anonymous said...

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Tara said...

You remind me of a story I read today, Israel to expel children of immigrants. Totally flawed bases or values are impossible to argue with.

A 3 year old child makes sense because her world is based on 'me'.

But this makes sense too... because minisculity is hard to accept.

By the way, what sets human beings aside from the rest of the animal kingdom? The first step to a better world is the understanding of what is better. Its not too huge a leap, it just takes the use of your brilliance towards something better than inane. We have too much stupidity in the world.

Anonymous said...

Shashi Tharoor and the like... pffft. are celebrities anything more than stupid? Dont add to all the backscratching grossness they package and propagate all over the world please. Especially so with your intelligence.

Urmi Chanda Vaz said...

Dear anonymous,
It's a pity that the one with such a loud voice shouldn't have a name. Keep your admonishments to yourself. I've heard them purists and this post was meant as a purely theoretical comparison. I have no place for hate - celebrities or otherwise. If you were one, your drums would probably be louder.

Abhimanyu Jain said...

"shitballed is more like it"...

This "shit" is funny. Seriously funny.

As far as Qasab and Azad go, well, the truth remains that both have been , by their respective oppressed, deemed terrorists. The victor always gets to write history, and everything changes.

But whether we choose to blame the media or not, I think it is a degradation of our collective conscience that Azad, Bose, and the lot are forgotten today. We haven't evolved, we've crumbled and rotted into this state of existence where money remains the sole purpose, Mormon the sole God! Young men while studying History curse Gandhi and hail Bhagat Singh - not having understood either - but quickly forget all when Facebook rears its head.

We are to blame!

iBeingMe said...

Well I guess I am reading this too late but interesting thought and comparison. It goes well with how I think.

Urmi Chanda Vaz said...

It is heartening to know and find people who care to think a little, just a little differently. Thanks, Yogesh.