It's all about power

Telly talk
Last Updated 27 March 2010, 08:27 IST

‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’, a trashy Hollywood film released in 1958 narrated the implausible story of a powerless female protagonist, ignored for long by her cheating husband. An accident flips her life over and she turns so tall that she can no longer be ignored or brushed aside. And then, burning with the desire to find her philandering husband, like a human version of Godzilla, she then goes stomping across the cityscape to avenge herself. On the surface, this is just an unintentionally comic, horror film but at another level, it articulates the deep psychosis all societies and milieus suffer when they come face-to-face with powerful women.

To what extent, a woman in control of her life and choices frightens our society can be seen when goons beat pub-going girls and spare the boys, when honour killing punishes young women who decide to marry for love, or when a Bill proposing a share of the power pie to women is taken and torn in the full gaze of the nation by rampaging MPs. The idea of a powerful woman evokes exaggerated fear and helpless anger almost as if a 50 foot woman were knocking down edifices that have been built over centuries.
So it was a rather historic moment when Sonia Gandhi told NDTV with the gentle firmness we have all come to associate with her, “How long are we going to wait?” The backlash to the Bill is old news but if Sonia Gandhi’s khadi and steel determination is anything to go by, the spectre of the 50 foot woman in Parliament is going to haunt the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav for a long time.

On another note, Discovery Travel and Living’s show, ‘Living With a Super Star’ pays a rivetting though a tad fawning tribute to Shah Rukh Khan. We get to see that he has a closet bigger than most people’s homes. An elevator in an annexe attached to his bungalow. The morning kisses he exchanges with his kids and a rather beautiful glance of pure love he shares with his wife just before they are supposed to walk the ramp for a friend. What really stands out if you brush the opulent vanity van and the trappings of Khan’s stardom aside is just how extraordinary his will power is.

We get the feeling that nothing in his personal and professional life is an accident. We learn that he never says ‘no’ to friends,  never tells anyone that he is tired, and would rather be known as the man who makes time to play soccer with his children in Hyde Park than a superstar.

It is hard to tell when reality begins and make-believe ends when celebrities live in public gaze, but something about Shah Rukh Khan makes you want to believe in life, in the possibility of a dream coming true, in the power of intent and in the idea that regardless of where we come from, we can go wherever we want to.

But even his turn as a host of the Filmfare Awards cannot save the show from being an utterly tasteless experience where cinema is not the star, branding is. The Oscars televised live just a night after we saw the Filmfare Awards brought home the difference between an event that honours cinema and one that sponsors it piecemeal.

Yes, Indian cinema must be measured with Indian yardsticks and we are indeed unique and incomparable as an industry but our award shows make a mockery of  this legacy. Clever editing of head shots, canned laughter, prerecorded dance items, constant references to sponsors bleach the proceedings of all dignity.

There was a time when the likes of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar sang live on the Filmfare stage. No one then would have dared to cut them short for an ad break but then times have changed. We are not supposed to be awestruck in the presence of greatness anymore. Today, for every well-earned honour that goes to gentle giants like Khayyam and Shashi Kapoor, we have to endure the money shot of Salman Khan’s towel trick one more time.

(Published 27 March 2010, 08:27 IST)

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