Monday, January 16, 2012

Clarkson goes potty over India: let's be outraged but for reasons other than the HCI's

Here's why I can't agree with High Commission of India, London's, demand that BBC apologises for Top Gear's offensive portrayal of India on their 90-minutes Christmas Special.

If we don't give others the right to make fun of us, we must also give-up the right to make fun of others. And I dearly don't want to lose my right to make fun of the British: their terrible food; their inability to hold down a drink (evident in the all the puke you see on the streets on Saturday and Sunday mornings); the Katie Price-inspired fashion that dominates Picadilly Circus; the quixotic British train system that breaks down at the mere mention of snow, rain or autumn leaves; the famous British bureaucracy and the mad Prince Charles.

Remember, if we don't want the British to laugh at the Top Gear episode, we have no right to laugh at this scene from our own beloved Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham.

This, after the British Government so kindly allowed us to shoot half our film in their country!

Besides, here's something I don't get about stereotypes? Is a depiction still a stereotype if it is true?

Ok, so the Top Gear showed street dogs and Indian men pissing on the streets of Mumbai, long queues in front of Railway ticket counters, they talk about tourists in India getting the trots (or diahorrea), the dangerous highway between Delhi and Jaipur. But aren't they true depictions of our lives. I can't remember a single day in my fifteen years in Mumbai (or 22 years in India) when I didn't see street dogs and men pissing in the open. And yes, public toilets in India are a shame. I challenge the High Commissioner of India to England to use the public toilet at Kurla Terminus in Mumbai. These are not generalisations, these are the realities of living in India. It is just that the Top Gear depicts them in their standard cheeky style.

The Top Gear team also showed the lively street stalls and enterprise of Mumbai (in fact, Clarkson and team come sloppy seconds against the dabbawallas), Delhi's glitterati in their incredibly expensive cars and the beauty of the Himalayas.

The show hosts also constantly make fun of Britain. The whole exercise shows the British products as awful and poorly constructed, and themselves as buffoons in the garb of Britain's representatives. And they are happy to make fun of themselves. (In fact, over the years, they have made more fun of Britain than of any other culture, country or people).

If I do have a quibble, it is this. Their's jokes - whether on us or themselves - were so contrived. The Top Gear humour is at its best when it is spontaneous and full of surprise. But over the years, the character of the three hosts has become so fixed and the dynamics between them so predictable, that one can foretell the result of all their pranks before they have played themselves out. That is just bad television.

If we must protest, it is over this. That even with all the chaos, crowds, surprise, and fodder for humour that India provided them: Clarkson, Hammond and May couldn't really give us a genuine moment of spontaneous humour. We deserved better!


jaimit said...

Nobody can criticize us. We are answerable to no one. We are as a race superior to any. We invented the zero, we invented medicine, yoga, and we are the moral and spiritual custodian of the Universe! So what if what you tell is true.
I think we have not learnt to give and take criticism. None of our media seem to be doing anywhere near a good job of it.
And finally now that we have some economic clout, we will protest anything, and you better apologise.

globalbabble said...

Hehehehe!!! I sense sarcasm.

Though I must say that in this case there were quite a few articles (and online commentary) questioning HCI's ridiculous reaction.