Blogdosts, I got back from the Jaipur Lit Fest late this evening. And no, I didn't attend THE session of the Fest - the one that led to a near stampede. People started to pour into the Diggi Palace grounds at 7 a.m. to grab their seats for the Oprah interaction ( she refused to take questions from the audience). By 10 a.m. all approach roads were sealed! I hear Oprah was at her scintillating best. And Barkha Dutt did a brilliant job of interviewing her. But I am a little puzzled - did Oprah really say, "This is my first and last trip to India?" to another journo? I had met Barkha at the totally amazing Penguin party the night before and asked her to throw that question to Oprah. Apparently, Oprah told Barkha she wants to come back to India again and again and again! So, honey.... which one is it??? Never again? Or again and again?
This appeared in the Sunday Times today...
The Big ‘O’ leaves Mumbai cops cold!
Oprah spontaneously mopped the brow of a profusely sweating waiter with a napkin she’d grabbed from his tray… and followed that up with a warm hug. Onlookers thought the overwhelmed young man would faint there and then! He didn’t, but it was easy to conclude the magical ‘Oprah Effect’ had effortlessly claimed another lifelong fan! Her presence is indeed so powerful, so magnetic, it’s impossible not to get instantly drawn to her. It’s equally impossible not to blabber inanities, gush embarrassingly, take pictures, and generally carry on in a cringe-making manner that would shame teenage fans at a rock concert.Everyone wants a piece of Oprah. And here’s the surprising bit – Oprah wants a piece of everyone! It is this single and unique quality to engage with a complete stranger and make that person feel like family, that is the key to Oprah’s phenomenal global success.She calls herself ‘Everywoman’. But she is actually ‘Everyperson’. She doesn’t have to work the room. The room walks up to her. And when she throws back her head to laugh at yet another clumsy compliment, her laughter is genuine. Having got the gooey stuff out of the way, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. What exactly is Oprah doing in India (it’s her first trip, and it sure has taken her years to make it). Bluntly stated :She’s here to make money.Tap new markets. Recast herself in a brand new show titled Oprah’s Next Chapter.There’s a huge, immensely profitable constituency waiting to be exploited.She said she was planning a five hour special on the country. That’s a lot of footage. Television is a ravenously hungry beast. To feed five hours of crackling programming, Oprah would need ten times as much material. No dearth of that in our land. Especially for a really smart and extraordinarily dynamic businessperson who heads the world’s rich list for women. It is evident from her high energy levels that never seem to flag, that Oprah works 24x7. It’s a relentless pace , but as she put it, it’s love that keeps her going. Love for what she does. And she does that superbly well - better than any other tv personality on earth. Does she never tire of meeting people and hearing the same old, recycled, trite reactions? Never, she exclaims dramatically, adding, “It’s a new person every time.” Her delivery of the simplest lines is so emphatic and convincing, it does not encourage contradiction. Her own clichés (about the ‘great Indian family’, and how happy the poor in India are) expectedly, went unchallenged.
As Mumbai’s Most Wonderful swirled around the world’s most charismatic woman, frequently tripping over their vertiginous stilettos… and words… Oprah did not miss a trick.She took it all in, listening keenly, watching closely, absorbing, making mental notes. Occasionally, she called the attention of her minders and managers, while her competent crew filmed away.From Bollywood stars to Indian billionaires, they were happy to be in Oprah’s court.Mumbai did go unabashedly gaga over Winfrey! She looked at the sea of fashionistas clad in all-black and commented, “I was planning to wear black myself, but was told women don’t wear black in India.” Oh-oh. One factoid wrong! There goes the head of at least one researcher! She was also informed that unlike Tom Cruise whose handlers had to hire crowds when he arrived in Mumbai to promote his latest film, she was by far a bigger draw.Ouch! It was Tom who had ludicrously jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch to declare his love for Katie - making the cut as an unforgettable ‘Oprah Moment’! From a swishy soiree one glorious night, hosted by Parmeshwar Godrej at her magnificent seaside villa , to a walkabout through a sprawling slum the next day, Oprah sure had the taste of real Mumbai. But apart from the super celebrities of the city who glided up in droves to welcome Oprah, she also had the chance to encounter Mumbai’s asli bosses – our diligent cops! It was their moment to shine as they remained unimpressed and unmoved by the momentous occasion or the mega celebrity in their midst.There they were, pointedly standing their ground and refusing to budge from the beach where a stage had been erected for a performance in Oprah’s honour. Rules are rules, they insisted as they broke up the glamourous party after commenting dismissively, “ Yeh Oprah-Woprah kaun hai?”
Let’s call that a reality check. Knowing Oprah, she must have been amused…. and impressed! Perhaps it marked a first for a lady who we all believe has done it all and seen it all. At least, she’ll never forget Mumbai no matter where she goes in the world. Our adorable Pandu Havaldars have ensured just that!