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Thursday, July 18, 2013

From a stereotyping hypocrite...

Arnab’s voice rises up, as he dramatically bellows out “Your channel poses a question; a question that the nation has in mind. Is Bollywood perpetuating stereotypes…” And the debate continues, with panelists desperately attempting to complete a sentence without being cut short by Arnab. The questions are rhetorical perhaps; he appears to have no interest in the answers. He seems more resolute on dramatically shooting shouting out more questions in relatively higher pitches of his ear-splitting voice. One of the panelists is evidently stifling a smile at the drama happening; it isn’t just me finding the talk funny.

Down south, everyone is all enraged. At ShahRukh Khan for Chennai Express. I suspect it’s mostly because of his earlier antics such as his famed “Enna rascala dai mind it” which ignorant people recited repeatedly in pride, to show the Tamilians they knew a new language. The rage, I think mostly about the men ShahRukh is flanked by. How comical the state would be if Tamil men actually don gaudy lungis while sporting a mammoth, hairy pot belly that causes the lungi line to drop to a massive U and Tamil women sounded like Deepika! What if it wasn't just Vadivelu walking around in boxers that reveal their unabashed self below the folded lungi. It would be a "bokwas" state if it was Shah Rukh’s way in actuality. Oh did you notice the difference in skin color between the whites at the forefront and the Tamils surrounding, in the poster? The contrast is starker than in my grandmother’s ‘contrast pattu sarees’. Bring in a few more whites and rearrange them; Voila: a human chess board. Someone tweets, “The men in Chennai Express look like the cohorts of Tamil movie villains.” and I wonder why no one ever called that stereotyping. Who said bad Tamil men aren't fair-skinned? In the same Tamil movies, the women always manage to look like walking goddesses. They even make us forget that they are just walking figurines mostly a result of the brilliance of make-up artists, sellers of cosmetics and Veet of course. Poor men, even their stereotypes are ugly.

But big deal! These are movies after all. Similar to what a caricature is of a person, an unreal and hyperbolic representation of reality, like this movie, exaggerates aspects of the subject it represents. If we can enjoy comics, if Anna Hazare is okay with cartoons that give him a mammoth sized parrot nose, we got to learn to be okay with wearing lungis on screen. How sad is it if we aren't okay with a joke made out of us? If the comedy isn't hilarious enough, laugh at the attempt or the movie itself. I did that watching Aiyya and it was a jolly good evening. 

Talking about stereotyping.. to the richer nations, India is that crowded picture that TLC paints of us: we pray to cows, charm snakes, read palms and prophesize, spend hours in the yoga room, ride buffalos and horses on the roads, sit on the pavement dressed in rags and scream things raucously in the already cacophonous street where vehicles try to find a way to get through the stubborn crowds. We are too many people and too small a land that we can mostly be found in herds doing the aforementioned. It was funny when Oprah got her backsides kicked and handed to her after her melodramatic show of poverty in India and not so much when Slum Dog Millionaire was resented for its biased exposé of a few aspects handpicked from the massive arsenal of “the world’s most diverse country”. Anyone stereotypes us, we get all mad; we run on the roads, burn effigies and paint their pictures with coal. And our channel calls Harsha Bhogle or Khushbhoo or any person they find, so Arnab can do what he does: let’s not talk about that further. The whole of India jumps up and down. And then in the evening, we sit down for tea. We talk about the world and politics and then about countries like Somalia. Arrey you don’t know Somalia? It is that country with malnourished children and anorexic people. It has dangerous, life-threatening insects too; it’s in Africa after all.

Stereotyping is an amalgam of partial comprehension, ignorance, creativity and a lot of exaggeration. It’s human to classify and stereotype. We can’t abstain from it, yet we make a loud hoo-ha when it’s not us that’s doing the doing. What hypocrisy!

And I talk about hypocrisy: again, what hypocrisy! 


  1. You echo my thoughts about Arnab perfectly! I liked that you showed the hypocrisy involved.. I personally think we just try to over simplify things by stereotyping..

    nice read :)

    you might be interested in this op-ed

    1. Thanks Aswhin. I think Arnab's managed to piss off everyone to some extent. He's too uncouth.If you missed the link I've put on the post, check this out :

  2. Replies
    1. Russell Peters said in Mumbai, "When a Indian woman looks at you, its like she is video-taping you all the time, with a red circle on her head"
      The room was bursting with laughter.

      Portraying Tamils eating "noodles with curd on top" by SRK in Ra.One, not funny and is rather stupid. Same goes with "bokwas",and other crap.

      This shows that people do know how to laugh at themselves, be it self-made or exported, but as long as its laughable. But when someone shows rage towards bokwas stereotypes, it not being hypocrite. Its rather a condition - an "inability" to stand bad jokes.

      When people go 'hoo-ha' (as you coined,obviously) when they desist authentic-funny stereotypes, I blame the dwindling humour glands. All they need is more "stand-ups" to accept change.

      Stereotyping is what we want to define it as. It can be a "conventional conception" or "a funny mix of authentic categorisation" or of course the "blend of partial comprehension, ignorance and caricaturing", just that we see more prominence of the latter.

      Hypocrites do exist, naturally, but let us leave them for Arnab to deal with. I know we will not confuse them to be the majority of us.

      But sure, I would like to go out on a coffee date with the "Somali hypocrite".

      -"Perspective, yet the world has million eyes to deal with"

    2. That's a nice comment with a lot of opinions and some info too. Too bad it's anonymous.

      Anyway, call something a bad joke and I'd agree. I'm with you on that. That's exactly why I said if the joke is too bad, laugh at the movie. You're saying quite the same as what I said.

      "But when someone shows rage towards bokwas stereotypes, it not being hypocrite. Its rather a condition - an "inability" to stand bad jokes." - Rage aroused by an inability to take a bad joke isn't hypocrisy. It's just an angry man and a stern critic of bad humor. This is perfectly fine.
      Whereas "rage towards bokwas stereotypes" is certainly not the same. You have every right to get angry. I don't condemn this. If you're a person that stereotypes, this is hypocrisy, no doubt. All I say is we all stereotype. So when someone else does, chill. It's okay. If you still choose to be angry, go ahead. It's fine by me. We are all hypocrites to some extent and so I'm not getting judgemental here.

      I'd set you on a blind date with the Somali hypocrite, if I knew who you were. But unfortunately, that's not going to happen, anonymous man.

      "All they need is more "stand-ups" to accept change." That's my favorite part of the comment. I agree. :) Thanks for commenting.

  3. The eternal question - If someone stereotypes and I just chill does he ever get to know that his stereotyping is not valid?

    Stereotyping is a sort of shorthand means to file information. Problems with stereotyping arise only when we apply the generalization to each individual and we fail to understand that our generalization is dated.

    As for reactions - if I sat in my house chatting in an ill-informed manner about racial stereotypes I am at best misinforming a few. When the same happens in a news channel or a movie it is misleading hordes of people. Both cannot be considered on the same basis.

    In the latter case I do see the need for reaction. I'd prefer a reaction like say "Do Americans learn about the world from the likes of Oprah? No wonder they are so ill-informed" rather than burning effigies :)

    1. I cannot disagree with you.

      That's completely true. That if I stereotype in a conversation, that's wrong info to hardly anyone. Whereas Oprah'd make a country believe something which may be partially or completely false. Agreed.

      A show like Oprah's, a documentary or a reality based movie : I take your point. These people are in some way responsible for the opinions that the society makes.
      Whereas in a movie that does stereotyping in a way as stupid as in Chennai Express, maybe we can just ignore it. Aren't we just giving them more attention by creating a ruckus?

      Thanks for reading :)

  4. Like you say 'stereotyping' has become a way of life, not just with Indians but the world over.

    I guess part of it has to do with the fact that we need 'placeholders' and 'descriptions' for our minds to store the various types of people we come across in our daily lives. The fact is that our generation is exposed to so many things, so many cultures, so many people when compared to our earlier generation. And our minds have not evolved enough or mature enough to treat them all the same. We therefore stereotype people based on where they are from, how they look, the color of their skin, etc.

    As long as this stereotyping is just normal and doesn't become racist, I am Ok with it, I guess.

    What say you???

    Nice post, by the way...

    1. That's exactly what I think too.

      It's very difficult to draw a line between stereotyping and classification/categorization. The latter is probably something our brain needs to do. When this categorization is generalized, it is inconsiderate to the exceptions that always exist. And that becomes an issue.

      As long as a stereotype isn't portrayed as fact, I think it is alright.

    2. And of course discrimination/bias based on race/caste/gender/sexuality isn't okay. This again has a line which one must stay safely within.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. I'm impressed with your extensive criticism of the one and only saviour of the Indian people.
    And I agree with you on the stereotyping trend.
    A well-written commentary on the same.

    1. I cannot stop criticising the savior. Just watched a show with the man talking incessantly interrupting everyone. No one taught him manners,perhaps.
      thanks for reading :)

  6. wao treuleey graet. yew ar ay gretas ritar,ok,k.wao osam two tha coar,,,,,,ekew


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