Sunday, September 16, 2012
Aseem Trivedi - one day wonder....?
That's my birthday boy Aditya, with Avantikka....what a party!
Am off to Kolkata after a really long time.... excited! Lovely time of the year to be there...till mid-week.... I'll be missing from this space
This appeared in Sunday Times....
The curse of celebrity…
Mirror,mirror on the wall… who’s the ugh-est of them all? That’s the question Aseem Trivedi seems to ask in his latest cartoon. Errr…. Aseem? Yup. The same. This is what happens when an utterly nonsensical sedition case is filed against a maamuli cartoonist ( high on anger, low on talent) – it’s called a one-day phenomenon.But here’s the upside to the controversy .The recent furor has drawn public attention to the growing antipathy against the Ugly Politician. It sure looks likes this is going to be The Winter of our Discontent. First came the brutal attack on traffic cop Mohan Lal by a minister’s security personnel. Lal’s crime?He had dared to stop the minister’s convoy for jumping a red light. Then came news of some obscure cartoonist’s arrest in Mumbai. In both these seemingly unrelated cases, the strident howls of protest from the aam junta were similar in nature – they were more against the abuse of power by the high and mighty than in support of two wronged individuals. The big question in both cases - how long before we move on? Mohan Lal may end up nursing a bloodied and bulbous eye all by himself, once the media pounces on an even grislier story. After all, Mohan Lal has not announced his intentions of joining a citizens’ movement or turning into an activist. There is nothing ‘sensational’ about Mohan Lal’s predicament.This beastly incident is just another tragic case of an earnest government servant paying a huge price for doing what he’s paid to – his duty.Congress Minister Taj Moiuddin, will carry on… unapologetic, unscathed and unmoved. His repeated chant that he doesn’t have eyes at the back of his head , will also be filed away indifferently and soon forgotten.
But what happens from this moment on to young Aseem Trivedi will be far more interesting to monitor.Here’s a likely scenario: As of now, Aseem is the newest darling of the media… he has been completely co-opted by those crying hoarse against an archaic law. So far, it reads like a meaty story. Aseem, with disheveled hair and wearing the mandatory black kurta , lends himself perfectly to the darkness of the moment,as he plays to the gallery, spewing contempt and talking freedom of expression. He is also producing cartoons on command as apt photo-ops. That is, when he isn’t posing for shutter bugs, hugging well-known people like Dr.Binayak Sen. Aseem’s minders may have taken over his image building , going by how swiftly he undertook an expeditious damage control exercise when the Dalit heat was about to get to him.Once out of jail, what did our cartoonist friend do – he rushed to Buddh Vihar to pay his respects to Babasaheb Ambedkar, adding he had the ‘greatest respect” for the Dalit leader and the Constitution. He also grabbed a quick lunch at Mayank ( India Against Corruption) Gandhi’s office, before addressing a packed press conference.
What does the future hold for disgruntled young people like Aseem when they are suddenly propelled into the limelight and converted into overnight martyrs? What happens when an Aseem becomes a pivot, a symbol… even a hero? Does collective anger find the outlet it seeks? Or does the initial emotional outpouring get dissipated, leading to absolutely nothing but a few dramatic media clips? Political parties are quick to swoop down on people like Aseem. Any person who can grab headlines is worth courting. In such a cynical scenario, someone like him is a catch. So far, he has presented himself as a somewhat naïve but reasonably sensitized young man, using crude cartoons to express his disillusionment. His life has undergone a 360 degrees change after the misplaced Sedition charge. He is now owned by the media. He is hot property. He will make it to international publications and global channels. For a short while at least, Aseem Trivedi will gobble up publicity and share front page space with movie stars and sports heroes. Someone smart will ask him to walk the ramp – for a cause, of course. He will be wooed to play show stopper during the unending Fashion Weeks. Reality shows will chase him. He may enter the Big Boss house. Get a publishing deal. His career as a budding cartoonist may end abruptly. But so what? For another fifteen minutes, or perhaps fifteen days, Aseem Trivedi will be hailed as a bona fide celebrity… a star. The ravenous media monster isn’t done with him yet. And yes, he also draws cartoons for a living.