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Fizool ke meltdowns and fluid scoldings

Updated on: 26 May,2024 06:53 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Paromita Vohra |

Priyanka Gandhi on the other hand, has been demonstrating a rather different approach, in her interviews

Fizool ke meltdowns and fluid scoldings

Illustration/Uday Mohite

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Fizool ke meltdowns and fluid scoldings

Paromita VohraPrashant Kishor had a showstopping meltdown on Karan Thapar’s show and social media was gleeful. PK is always scolding the media for asking predictable questions—not that he lets them complete their questions, while KT is famed for his pugilistic approach. The show played out with an uneasy air, as a volley of interruptions and undercurrents. It was a contest of two masculinities: one, with an Oxbridge accent, to the club membership born. The other with a flavourful Hindi, data-swag and a passkey to contemporary corridors of power. Unsurprisingly this civilisational subtext climaxed with PK saying “be man enough” and KT saying “I will be man enough.” They seemed remarkably alike separated only by a bowtie.

People felt KT had exposed PK. But what had he exposed exactly? That, like most Indian gents, Thapar included, Kishor loves the sound of his own voice, and hates being contradicted? What’s new?  This ‘gotcha’ form of binary debate is merely about establishing one’s own position as superior, humiliations and triumphalism, devoid of curiosity or exchange. It leaves no room for doubt on either side.

Priyanka Gandhi on the other hand, has been demonstrating a rather different approach, in her interviews. I like to call this style Weapons of Masi Destruction, because we all have a masi or a bua who is a masterful exponent of this form of letting you know who is in charge.

Anchors ask questions about Kangana Ranaut or Modiji’s latest insult. Gandhi listens with amused patience. Then she will ask with deceptive mildness: Modiji said we would get Rs 15 lakhs. Did we? “But ma’am….” “No, first tell me Mousumi – did we?” Mousumi becomes like a student in the viva who has forgotten everything, being gently reminded of the right answer by the teacher. She says, “no ma’am we didn’t”.  “So then Mousumi, shouldn’t you and I be focusing on real issues like price rise and unemployment? Why discuss fizool ki baatein which Modiji is khamakha doing?”  ‘Fizool ki baatein’ and ‘khamakha’ are the weapons moms use to demolish all your flimsy excuses, yaniki, “khamakha fizool ki baatein mat karo. Chup chap doodh peeke home work karo.’ Musumi nods, reformed, and Gandhi holds forth on substantive matters, uninterrupted.

“Vasu you have a very bad habit of interrupting.” “Rajdeep, your Hindi has really improved.”  Like the Hindi teacher who remembers the name and mischief of every student, she may scold you—but she knows your name. You feel like a person. The scolding is followed by some holding—or vice versa.

It is a familiar way older women exercise authority and talk about older men and younger children in this same tone, thus setting themselves apart and above. But the difference between this and the fizool ke zero-sum games of masculinist, polarised discussions we are habituated to in today’s public culture, is that this method first acknowledges or makes a connection. It draw on registers and textures of apnapan and relationality that cut across society, and so draws you to its side. 

We miss this texture, don’t we? Of satire and intimacy, of the twinkly eyed challenge? Lalu Prasad Yadav doled it out like ghee on rotis. It’s why we watch old SRK videos. The fluid exchange that holds disagreement alongside common ground. Where you can concede another’s point without fear of obliteration or debasement. That breathing room, that let’s us change.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

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