“What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence”, said Ludwig Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I have NO clue what that means or who Ludwig Wittgenstein was, but this sure makes my discourse esoteric and academic right at the outset! Almost like all the Bombay Velvet reviews. The only difference is that I actually am here to discuss academics today. Specifically, the appointment of Gajendra Chahuan (or Chouhan or Chauan depending on which stage of his numerically challenged life you are talking about) as the Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India.
There have been protests galore against the selection of Mr. Chauhan, the erstwhile Dharmaraja Yudhishthir from BR Chopra’s eponymous TV series Mahabharata, and the entire world seems to have colluded to collide with the coronation of Gajendra. They say that the legacy of the hallowed premises of FTII has to be respected and that he doesn’t have the vision or knowledge of cinema. That he has no experience in the field of academics. That he is the Caesar of C-grade cinema, with the C standing for very many things. That he is a bad actor and a stooge of the ruling political party. That he is an obtuse idiot, a bumbling moron and a blockheaded dimwit. Okay, the last bit was me taking poetic liberty, but, yeah, similar sentiments.
Well. I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him!
According to IMDB, Gajendra Chauhan started his career way back in 1985 with Main Chup Nahin Rahoongi. So 2015 marks his 30th year in Hindi Cinema. That’s a really really long time for a nasal-twanged-single-expressioned-monotoned-jumna-paar-drawl to survive in this very competitive industry. And that, by itself, should be the reason enough for all of us to embrace him with open arms. But let this not be the only reason to be dazed and dazzled by our man. For somebody whose body of work includes watching bodies at work in Vasna, Khuli Khidki, Reshma, Samri and Rupa Rani Ramkali, Chauhan deserves our prostration, obedience and submission, in anywhich order. Find me another actor who can abduct, molest and defile with just his eyes and a lubed mass of thick hair. And the naysayers can die.
Chauhan says he has been in the field of art for 34 years. That is just him being his regular modest and humble self. On the contrary, it is art that has been in the field of Chauhan for 34 years. From Awara Zindagi to Janam Se Pehle, from Jawani Jaaneman to Pathreela Rasta and from Gumnam Hai Koi to A Sublime Love Story: Barsaat, he has taken the service of every single dead cell generated by him to construct and deconstruct his histrionics. Sample the scene from Bhayaanak Panjaa (1997) in which he is being exorcised. It is sublime pantomime. And I just wanted that to rhyme. The technique of conveying emotions and feelings by the mere physicality of the actions is not something every thespian can master. But one look at Gajendra’s frenzied movement can make you immediately realise the years of hamheadeness that must have gone in perfecting that fall. Legendary.
The swagger comes naturally to the Chairman sir. And it is not just because he played Inspector Patil in Himmatvar (1996) or Mukesh Mathur in Vishwavidhata (1997) or Virendra Chaudhary in Arjun Devaa (2001) or Naresh Chand in Issi Life Mein…! (2010). These were, of course, author backed roles where he got the opportunity to stretch his awesome campiness to the fullest for those ten minutes that he was on screen. But the style and the charisma of the man is inherent to his schmaltzy Tank-Road-Jeans-Market self.
To those questioning his acting abilities, I just have one answer two answers. Jungle Love (1986) and Rupa Rani Ramkali (2001). Ah, those consciously constipated expressions where death becomes him. That fierce fervour, those extreme emotions, the deadly deluge. And the arbitrary alliterations.
Haters gonna hate his religious baggage thanks to the Mahabharat connect, but Chauhan never actually has tried overtly exploiting his Pitashri-Matoshri affiliations. Apart from the yet to be released Barbareek aur Mahabharat and Jai Maa Vaishnodevi (1994), mouthing Ayushman bhavah at party meetings and selling some random concoction on teleshopping networks, that is. Of course, the performer in him has been more satisfied with challenging roles like playing Rahul’s father in International Khiladi (1999), Pinky’s dad in Billa no. 786 (2000) and the car salesman in Baghban (2003). And the Ganesh fest dancer in Parwana (2003). Of course.
And so what if he knows people in the reigning political party! Mr. Chairman has worked hard to be where he is right now. The tonsils are getting their due. And deservedly so.
Eventually, the annals of time would judge Gajendra Chauhan on his performance as the FTII Chairman, protesters and wiseguys be damned. If not him, they would find another extremely talented Chauhan, suited perfectly for the job. So yeah. I just hope the hammer is restricted only to his acting skills while I gloat over my punnery.
“What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence”, said Ludwig Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I still have NO clue what that means or who Ludwig Wittgenstein was, but he was right. Exactly why you must forget about them protests already. Think of this as a long movie, treat this as a willing suspension of disbelief, and all would be good. Also, please slip in the word ‘pedantic’ somewhere in here to close the intellectual loop. Thank you.
PS: And now, thank me. Here.
Posted this on Facebook, and the response was touching. While this note does not quite fit in with the general tonality of my blog, I am still posting it in here. Because I can. :)
I haven’t quite been well for the last four days and have been severely out of action. Made the first move out of home today for a drive to Bandra Kurla Complex for some work. To my horror, I discovered that there was some Vishwa Hindu Sammelan being organized at BKC. The roads were filled with various hues of saffron covering the rural Maharashtrian tourists on their first visit to Mumbai. There also was Poonam Mahajan showcasing her beatific smile from illegal hoardings in the backdrop of Jai Shri Ram war-cries and at least 30 of those huge Police trucks with the battalions deployed all over. I was suddenly taken back to Advani’s Rath Yatra that I had witnessed at the Rajendra Nagar over-bridge in Patna, and while the context today was not as militant, the confused feeling inside my head was the same… of unease, discomfort and fear, not being able to understand the motivation behind such a loud and ferocious assertion of the faith.
I drove back home, and had to leave again in an auto to Sion to get my other car from Servicing. (Yeah. First world issues. I know.) On the LBS Road just before Sion, I was suddenly greeted by a sea of green flags, long beards and Aligarh pyjamas. There were speaker-stacks on the side of the road matching the length and breadth of the Gateway of India, with their thump hitting the insides of the intestines, playing what sounded like some Islamic religious songs. I could not understand the context. But the feeling in my head was exactly the same that I had encountered not too long time back.
The auto stopped at the Sion station and I had to switch to a taxi. Had totally forgotten about this little technicality that no autos run beyond Sion. Womenfolk and cabbies always find reasons to reject me, and it was only after a wait for almost half hour that I finally found an affable Sikh driver asking me to hop in. The moment the car was about to leave, a Muslim man along with his burqa-clad wife carrying a toddler leaned in, and asked the cabbie to take them to Sion Hospital. Of course, I was in the cab already, so the driver expressed his inability, and zipped the car past the yellow blinking light to reach the other side of the signal.
I felt uneasy again. And this was worse than the discomfort encountered twice already in the span of last two hours. Something was acutely wrong and I wanted to make it right. And at least in this case, I knew how to. I told the cabbie to stop the car. I wanted those people to get in, too. The Sardar said he was just about to do that himself, “aur aapne muh ki baat chheen li, bauji.”
Soon enough, the couple crossed the road and was surprised to find us waiting for them. Thus began our 5-minute journey towards Sion Hospital. A Hindu, a Sikh and a Muslim family travelling together to ensure that a toddler got timely treatment for whatever was bothering him. We talked about the baby and his health and told the mother that all would be okay.
I don’t know how much of a Hindu I was or how much of a Muslim or Sikh they were in that little ride that we took together. There were no Sammelans or congregations that we were going to. We weren’t getting satiated by loud songs or war-cries either. No flags were being carried. No overt symbols of our respective religiosities were being flashed. And yet, I knew I was a good Hindu. And that the couple were good Muslims, and the cabbie was a good Sikh.
All would be okay. I hope. I pray.
PS: Of course, I had to spoil it all by being the lowbrow low-light selfie-taker. But in my defence, I was just too overwhelmed by the moment, and what the heck, I am so good-looking!