Dear Manoj Kumar (And Bollywood, as a whole)
Rohan Joshi writes a letter to Manoj Kumar, who sued the makers of 'Om Shaanti Om' for allegedly making fun of him in the film
I hope this column finds you in good health. If it doesn't, I would be happy to send you (for NO FEES) a cassette player with fresh batteries and a recording of "Kadam Kadam Badhaaye Ja" because as you taught me in Clerk, that song cures everything, including heart trouble, terrible acting, and the need for logic
In your career you earned several awards, and the nickname Manoj “Bharat” Kumar. This was due to films like Shaheed, Kranti, and Upkaar, all of which were steeped in such blind patriotism that they make Sunny Deol look like an ISI agent. For the sake of keeping things civil, we’ll ignore the fact that you then joined the Shiv Sena.
Besides, I’m more interested in a legal matter that you were involved in this week. You’ve sued the makers of Om Shaanti Om for a scene which, according to you, makes fun of you. I must confess that my first instinct when I read about this was to facepalm (or as you call it, “Patriotic Gangnam Style”). In case I infringed any copyrights while doing so, please tell me where I can mail you a cheque for the required amount.
You’ve sued the makers of this film before, and now you’re suing them again, because the film released in Japan with that particular scene unchanged. I feel your pain. I also feel the pain of the millions of fans you have in Japan, who must have been shattered to see their idol so cruelly mimicked. In fact, I asked one of your Japanese fans what he thought of the entire issue, and he said “????????????????????” which translates to “Did you know Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot is now available on DVD?”
My first question is, what is your grievance exactly? Is it that they made fun of you? And my second question is, so what if they did? I’ve seen the scene in question, and it plays on one of the oldest comedic tropes of all time; parodying an iconic gesture in a context that acts as comedic homage. If anything, that scene was a compliment. It doesn’t portray you in a negative light. In fact one could argue that you’re more likely to be seen in a negative light if you, as a grown man, act like a hyper-sensitive little girl about a perceived slur to your reputation. Besides, if you really want to hit Shah Rukh Khan where it hurts, do a movie with Salman Khan where you stand with your arms outstretched the whole time. (OR become brand ambassador of the Mumbai Cricket Association.)
What really bugs me is the fact that you (and most of Bollywood’s “senior” citizens) walk around like the world owes you some form of respect that borders on fealty. This is real life, not an episode of Game of Thrones. You demand respect like a petulant child demands ice-cream, and you respond to perceived slights with frivolous cases like this, the equivalent of lying on the floor and kicking about.
Is nobody else sick of award-show photographs of young actors and actresses touching the feet of older Bollywood people? I have nothing against the touching of feet as a gesture of respect, but in that context, it always looks more like a gesture of obligation than respect. Why does Rekha still get front-row tickets to every award show? Does she even leave the venue, or stay in her chair at the end until they build everything around her the next year? If Steven Spielberg asked Ryan Gosling to touch his feet, George Lucas would probably roundhouse-kick him in the face with a leg made of lightsabers to shame him.
My point is Mr Kumar, it’s an industry. Treat it like one. Am I suggesting that respect is a bad thing? Not at all. But if you want it, Mr Kumar (and everybody else), don’t demand it, command it. The sooner we stop treating it like some sort of feudal patriarchy, the better.
PS: Please check out Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot on DVD, that show is even better than Clerk.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi