You know that we, as a country, have our priorities all wrong when Snapchat, the go-to app for all your vanishing naked pic needs, throws up a debate of supposedly national importance. Tanmay Bhat, of AIB fame, probably had no idea what he was getting into when he used Snapchat's face-swap feature to 'mock' Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar.
The video, titled 'Sachin vs Lata Civil War', was uploaded by Bhat on Snapchat, and was obviously meant in the lightest vein possible, but it has resulted in a veritable shit storm. From Twitter's ever-ready-to-outrage twits to politicians in need of 15 minutes of fame, Bollywood stars looking to gain relevance and news channels dying to create cheap scandal, everyone has jumped on Bhat's more than ample back.
The National Congress Party's women's wing has already burnt a rather body-positive effigy of the tubby comic and Pahlaj Nihalani, the censor board chief and protector of the nation's morals, has asked for him to be arrested. So 'offensive' was the video that even the usually gung-ho TimesNOW decided to run the video...but blurred everything out:
Given that the 'offensive' part of the video was the audio and not Mangeshkar or Tendulkar's faces, we imagine they have an Allah-must-not-be-pictured approach to Bharat Ratnas.
NewsX, never one to be left behind, ran wall-to-wall coverage of the incident the entire day that proved nothing more than that NewsX should rename itself ExNews.
And all this for what? A video that Bhat himself described as 'nonsense' in the very title of the video. We really know how to pick our scandals.
But, all these defenders of the fabric of India need to understand something - by attempting to curb Bhat's freedom of speech, they're cutting at a core principle this country is based on - freedom of expression. It's a fundamental right and a video as harmless as Bhat's, where there is no call to violence and no real obscenity barring a few 'phucks' (tame at best by today's standards), is most certainly covered by our freedom of speech laws.
Even more laughable are the dolts lining up to cast stones at Bhat. Maharashtra's politicians, horrified that such saints could be slandered have left no stone unturned in their quest for justice. Yet these same politicians turn a blind eye to the plight of those dying from drought. Those in actual need of being defended by the people elected to represent them. No, that doesn't matter enough to burn effigies or demand apologies or the filing of FIRs.
In fact, Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe unwittingly shed light on the real reason for her outrage over the video. Speaking to news channels, she said, "Such people try to misuse the popularity of icons like Sachin and Lata tai for their own publicity". Ironic, because did any of us know who Gorhe was before she did precisely what she accused Bhat of doing? Where there is cheap publicity and brownie points to be scored b-list politicians appear out of nowhere, like vultures scouting carrion. In truth they don't give a damn.
Our news channels, who are appalled that Mangeshkar and Tendular have been 'mocked', would also do well to introspect. After all, there is no platform that indulges in as much slander, mockery and rudeness as Indian primetime news does. Just take the recent case of the Tehelka journalist who was accused of being 'cover for the Indian Mujahideen' by Arnab Goswami. Or the countless accusations of incest that were bandied about during the Indrani Mukherjee scandal. Or every other 'debate' they've ever had. If anything is corrosive to the fabric of India, it's the news circuses our channels run that are passed off as information.
Bollywood is no better and should think twice before calling something offensive. After all, this is an industry that runs on cheap laughs, objectifying women and far more obscene innuendo than Bhat could ever dream up.
This is also the industry that rallies to defend their own no matter how heinous their deeds, whether it's Salman Khan 'allegedly' running over the homeless, Sanjay Dutt's involvement in the 1993 blasts or Abhishek Bachchan's acting. For them to take a moral high ground on this is like Hitler trying to chastise Palestine for acts of aggression against Israel.
Anupam Kher, the lunatic fringe voice of Bollywood, as well as a sentient boiled potato, didn't miss an opportunity to throw in his two cents. He also didn't miss the opportunity to tell us how he was awesome:
If Kher hasn't already realised that his right-wing histrionics have turned him into a national joke, should we really be taking his comedic judgement seriously?
Sure Bhat's video may not be particularly funny. Heck, one could go so far as to say that the video is unfunny, juvenile even. But if we were to judge Bhat by the quality of humour, then most of Bollywood's trash slapstick, like Mastizaade, would land scores of writers in jail.
But it isn't about the quality of Bhat's humour. Even if his jokes were hysterical and without a single swear word, we'd still have our knickers in a twist. We lionise regular people, and then can't bear it when anyone says something against them. We do it with politicians, godmen, actors, singers and sportspeople. But just because someone has a nice voice or was a good cricketer, it doesn't exempt them from ridicule.
In truth, why should Sachin be beyond mockery? Sure he was a good cricketer, but off the field he's done enough to deserve a lot more that just a few good laughs. This is the same man who avoided paying Rs 1.13 crore tax on a Ferrari that was gifted to him and then promptly sold it for a profit. The same man who has pissed all over the sanctity of a nomination to India's upper house the Rajya Sabha by managing an abysmal 6% attendance record. This is a man too sacrosanct to touch? In what world?
We have racist attacks against Africans, atrocities against dalits, droughts, wildfires, rape, pollution, food shortages, corrupt politicians and crony capitalists robbing the country blind. But this is what we choose to focus on?
Go home India, you're drunk.