People should leave Pahlaj Nihalani alone. I have not felt as relaxed and calm in a very long time, as I did when I saw the video Mr Nihalani has produced to praise Narendra Modi. As Mr Nihalani said, “If this is chamchagiri then I’m proud of it.” We should be proud of him too. Here, he has excelled at chamchagiri and there everyone wants to pull him down. This is the reason India does not progress you know, we don’t recognise the kamal of chamchagiri blooming in the keechad of mediocrity, to borrow a metaphor from Mr Nihalani’s earlier video Ghar Ghar Modi.
A still from the video Mera Desh Hai Mahaan
Some people are saying the video is not desi. I have no idea what they mean. Or, it could be they do not know who Manmohan Desai is because without him there would be no video.
Because there they are in the video — Amar Akbar Anthony. Dressed in the costumes from Maganlal Dresswala — that taveez and topi, the tikka and dhoti, that gigantic crucifix pendant and denim jacket. What could be more desi than this triple tadka? Everything is just like it was in the 1970s except there’s a lot more muscles because, well, protein supplements.
Oh, right, now you’re going to bring up those foreign backdrops. And what do you think was the backdrop in ‘dekha ek khwab toh yeh silsile hue’? Not genda phools, no? It’s a song. Of course there will be foreign locations.
In my childhood there were some Indians who thought India was the pits and all desi stuff was awful. If it was good then it must be “imported”. So, they went off doing the brain drain samba to other countries to become NRIs, yaniki Now Really Imported. Or VIPs, yaniki Very Imported Person. So, in using foreign things to signify anything good, Mr Nihalani has simply shown a desi attitude of a kind.
The important thing is Mr Nihalani, like Indians in socialist times, believes in recycling. So, he has recycled Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra, Mera Bharat Mahan, Bharat Bala and his own earlier campaign video, Ghar Ghar Modi. So committed is he to recycling that he has even recycled Mr Modi into two versions, Bapu Modi and Modi Kaka (Chacha). Talk about clean and green.
I don’t agree it’s old wine in new bottles. Boss, the bottle is also 100 per cent old. Unless you mean the Bisleri bottles in Ghar Ghar Modi which we will all have to use because, I guess, well the government will not be able to provide all Indians with clean, safe drinking water. That’s different.
Most of all, I found this video satisfying as a woman. I was worried this video would ask me to uplift myself or be new lady for new India or something effortful. But phew, no worries there. The gents in Mera Desh Hai Mahaan will visit foreign countries, meditate, conduct prayers, pump the air in chroma studios, wear suits and hang out with other guys, play video games where planes fly out of their hands the way the twin flames of sight once flew out of Sai Baba’s eyes into Nirupa Roy’s.
Meanwhile, women will do rangoli, traditional folk dances, pray to the Kathakali god/man, be widows of Vrinadavan, take kids for eye tests, use laptop and credit card at home, head covered, only and sit weaving on the charkha, like bharatiya naris of old. Winding, winding, winding the thread waiting for Acche Din, waiting like Penelope, for Odysseus to return home from his wars and foreign trips.
If that’s not relaxing, tell me what is.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com