No matter what anybody may say... there is something magical about the Mumbai monsoon. The first few showers are so welcome, they make all women feel like Sridevi in a wet saree. Last night while enjoying a post -'Raajneeti' family dinner at the 'Souk' ( superlative and authentic Lebanese cuisine), we watched the crowds outside the Gateway of India dancing under a light drizzle. It reminded me of the one really gauche and hopelessly scripted scene from the film - when the actress playing Kunti frolics provocatively under obviously artificial studio rain, kisses a visibly embarrassed Naseeruddin Shah and promptly produces a baby.
This appeared in Bombay Times today.
When I read the ‘Mumbai Mirror’ headlines about a nude video featuring Bipasha Basu that had surfaced on YouTube ( where else?) I groaned. ‘ Oh no…. not another sleazy sting or outing?’ I flipped the pages to read the story and was prepared for the usual denials … you know how that goes …I half -expected Bipasha to pout, throw a fit, stamp her foot and hiss, “ That’s not me! It’s a body double. The images have been doctored. My rivals are trying to defame me.” etc etc. Instead, Bipasha did what any intelligent, honest person would do – she confirmed it was indeed her in an ad she had shot years ago. And yes, she was naked during the shoot – so?? When pressed to clarify, she went into a few key details that provided a convincing backgrounder to the shoot (she was living in New York at the time. It was shot in 1999. She wasn’t experienced enough to figure out camera angles.) But most importantly, Bipasha stated ( sans the standard starry hypocrisy), that she was not ashamed of the ad, nor were her parents embarrassed by it. As for her boyfriend John, he told her she was looking really hot in the video! How’s that for upfrontness? As also for the much needed courage in an industry where all this and more goes on chhupke chhupke and every Bollywood Babe behaves like a vestal virgin?
There are several top stars with worse skeletons rattling in their cupboards. But catch them admitting to having committed even a tiny indiscretion? Some of them have pasts that are not just colourful but positively shadey. A few have graduated from porn movies\videos to c-grade thrillers and found their feet finally in the dream factory. There are a couple of star wives who have changed their original names, re- structured their faces\bodies and acquired a new identity. Not that they have succeeded in fooling the sharks of Bollywood, but that’s okay. Showbiz is made up of such stories – the grittier, the better. When one looks at those chastely dressed Bollywood Biwis hanging on to their husbands on the red carpet, their sleazy pasts cleverly buried under newly acquired designer outfits, and freshly invented histories , it makes a Bipasha stand out for her bold stand and candid confession. More industry girls should take their cue from Bips. It was only because she didn’t lie about her past, that the story died an instant death. Nothing further remained to be dug up and thrown at her. Smart girl. She walked away with her head held high - no apologies, no shame. And most importantly, no ugly repercussions.
To read or not to read ‘The Red Saree’ – that is no longer the question. Similarly, to watch or not watch a controversial film ( ‘Raajneeti’), is irrelevant. In today’s zamana, readers and viewers are sharp enough to decide for themselves, and any attempt to suppress a book or movie is likely to backfire. Since both the book and the movie involve Sonia Gandhi, it is important to send out a message to her over zealous minders that in a vibrant democracy it is no longer possible to impose any kind of censorship. Everything is out there - you can’t kill it, no matter what kind of pressure you apply.
Javier Moro’s book is likely to become an overnight best seller, thanks to the reams and reams of free publicity it has already generated. Whether or not Sonia’s lawyers go ahead with the threatened law suit, the book has served its purpose. And will make Moro a very rich man! Content wise, the book is innocuous, even naïve! Since it is a dramatized biography, most of the dialogues are made up by the author. This is not something new in publishing. Historical fiction attributes quotes to its charismatic characters – be it Napoleon or Hitler or Princess Diana. Were the writers present when those conversations took place? This is known as creative license, and every author of similar books, freely exploits it. So long as the matter is not defamatory, nobody minds. Aha – this is the tricky part. Who decides what’s libelous and what isn’t? I’d say , the public. Especially in a vibrant democracy which guarantees freedom of speech and expression. Like ours does. Unless of course we have a separate set of laws for the Nehru-Gandhi family???