When was the first ever selfie taken? Selfologists reckon that the art of ‘shooting oneself’ has been practised ever since vanity existed.
Henry VIII shot himself. Mona Lisa isn’t actually a painting, but a selfie (Leonardo da Vinci was in another room at the time). The lady’s two folded hands were an afterthought. But in the modern era, cast your mind back no further than Ellen DeGeneres’s Oscar selfie, retweeted some millions of times worldwide. Indians being Indians, we copy anything foreign.
Illustration / Amit Bandre
DeGeneres is the one foreigner who has had the most impact on us. Not Winston Churchill, or Lord Mountbatten, or Bill Clinton — Ellen DeGeneres. That one selfie with Bradley Cooper and Co. has just opened the floodgates of self-preening in this country. ‘Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all’ has morphed into ‘iPhone iPhone in my hand, who’s the loveliest in the land’.
We have become so utterly self-obsessed. No special occasion is required to shoot ourselves. No ‘say cheese’, no coyness, no shrinking violets. There is a new-found confidence to capture oneself every few seconds. Everyone’s a posing model. Just aim and self-shoot.
I have endeavoured to go on a series of ‘selfie searches’, attempting to understand this new social trend. My extensive research reveals Mumbai’s selfie users fall under several broad categories. Here are a few.
1. The 'Serial Selfie Fanatic': This person carries his phone camera around like a Japanese tourist. But not for him a Parthenon or the Pyramids. He is his own preferred tourist attraction. Every few steps he sees a sight to behold which he must click. That sight is usually himself.
2. The 'Catastrophe Addict': For this selfie-obsessed person, not the gentle lapping sea or the sun-kissed Himalayas behind him. He needs a man-made or natural disaster, raging behind, to shoot himself. Buildings on fire, earthquakes, volcanoes, riots, scenes of police brutality are his background of choice. Even the Arabian Sea Marine Drive monsoon waves, throwing up paper bags and ‘bhutta’ stubs are fine — after all it looks like a tsunami on the small screen.
3. The ‘George Clooney meets Anand Mahindra’ self-styled guru: This guy is a perpetual ‘I’m 50 trying to pass as 32’ peacock. He’s a greying corporate type, wanting to give the impression that he single-handedly doubles the turnover of his company. That he has no time to waste shooting selfies. Complete lies. His selfies are never front on. It’s always a profile shot, head tilted upwards to disguise the double chin. Unsmiling to seem unconcerned. There’s usually a phone in his hand to seem busy. And always a sporty backdrop. FIFA, Formula One, anything. A slick way to suggest that he’s a super jock too.
4. The ‘Perpetual Holidayer’: To this person every single activity in his day is a Kodak selfie moment. His selfies range from brushing his teeth in the morning to switching the lights off at night. Plus everything in between. And always with a smile and a thumbs up.
Gotta go, dear reader. Heading to Inox, it’s the Kick premiere. I need a selfie with Salman Bhai. Yeah, I’m part of a fifth category called ‘Celeb Stalkers’.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.