For the first time in the history of the Communist Party of India, a journalist has donned a jacket and bow tie of many hues to meet bush shirt-clad former general secretary AB Bardhan. Karan Thapar’s outfit in the election special of Devil’s Advocate was like a blast from the past, part glam rock, part acid jazz with strong overtones of Purple Haze. An outfit like that should come with a free laser and disco ball.
But Bardhan didn’t let it rattle him, Thapar was not his usual intrusive self, halting his guest in mid-flow with a suddenly upraised hand, and the result was a mighty fine interview. Bardhan was polite but candid, as always. He declared the expectations of the Left (32 Lok Sabha seats, up from 24 in 2009) and dismissed the fall predicted by the NDTV poll (18 seats). “Being a student of statistics, I know what sort of poll surveys are being done these days,” he laughed.
He diagnosed Manmohan Singh as “a non-functioning, non-delivering person, a failure as a prime minister”. Asked about Rahul Gandhi’s viability, he grinned: “Should I comment at all? All right, another failure.” The interview ended there and as Thapar shook hands with him, Bardhan said impishly: “Shaking hands on someone’s failure is not good.”
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Before every election, when the great and the good become vulnerable, political satire becomes as exciting as political news. Cyrus Broacha’s The Week that Wasn’t (the title of the programme sends up Prannoy Roy’s The World This Week) took off from the “character dheela” comment made by Amar Singh to Rajdeep Sardesai after he joined Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal.
Broacha interviewed a fake Amar Singh named Beemar Singh. He was exercising a lot to get better, walking all day, first to Mayawati’s office, then to Sonia Gandhi’s, then to the BJP, Kejriwal… In addition, he was doing bending exercises in Ajit Singh’s office, bending both backwards and forwards. Beemar Singh queried inscrutably: “Tum karo to tum rangeela, hum karen to hum Godzilla?”
Broacha has also done a face-to-face between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, in which Modi denied any resemblance between Hitler and himself because “Hitler did not get a clean chit”. The skit on Arvind Kejriwal’s visitation of Mumbai is great satire, with Broacha explaining why the real aam aadmi of his city does not vibe with the Aam Aadmi Party — because Kejriwal muffed the act. He found an auto the moment he stepped out of the airport, while the authentic aam aadmi must wait until his children forget what he looks like. And he got a window seat in the train to Churchgate, while the real thing hangs on in the doorway with his face in someone’s armpit. “Please tell me that you whistled at some foreigners in Colaba, at least,” Broacha pleaded hopelessly.
Every year, just once a year, Holi lays bare India’s problematic relationship with cannabis. Bhang is integral to Holi, but all other forms of the weed are illegal. The media holds up a mirror to this clash of civilisations as Oriental enthusiasms struggle with colonial anxieties. Usually, the anxieties carry the day but this year, there is radicalism on the airwaves.
CNN-IBN travelled to a bar in Ghaziabad on Holi morning to learn how to make a bhangarita. That’s for washing down a Nutella and bhang pizza. Has the sudden legalisation of cannabis in various parts of the Americas emboldened TV producers? Anyway, after some exposure to Ghaziabadi cuisine and bartending, CNN-IBN’s reporter became irrepressibly jovial and wished everyone a happy Diwali.
Doesn’t matter. It was Holi, when only the thought counts.