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Sunday, 17 April 2016

#23 - Why I love Taher Shah, and why you should too.

Who is Taher Shah?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, you’ve probably seen ‘Angel’ - Taher Shah’s second music video which has taken the world by storm. By the time you finish reading this sentence, probably 10,000 more beings have been exposed to his magic.
 In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the video, and in case you have, there’s no such thing as too much of Taher –

So why’s this crap breaking the internet?
Firstly, I object to YOU calling it crap, to be honest, the weird ass video and the tear-inducing lyrics apart, I actually found the tune pretty okay.

My good friend Vijay Purohit told me about Taher Shah a couple of years ago, and I remember watching ‘Eye to Eye’ only halfway, closing the video before the bit about ‘spectrum eyes’.

 But the song didn’t stop on closing the app, it played on in my head, repeatedly.
I gave in to temptation and saw the full video.

Disgusting. Who told this guy he could sing? Who gave him the idea to make a video?

In a while though, I knew something was off when I found myself humming “Without you, I am like a butterfly, without fly.”

I gave myself a mental slap and tried to forget all about Taher.
It was useless; the singer in me might have shut up, but now Taher’s smiling face cropped up everywhere.

Damn. This shit was addictive.
I watched ‘Eye to Eye’ over and over again, until disgust turned to hilarity and finally admiration. Then I watched his interviews.
The thing is, this guy seemed totally oblivious to criticism and didn’t seem to understand that people invited him to their shows with the sole intention of making fun of him.
“What do you plan to do next Taher?” a pretty Pakistani anchor asks him, eyes fluttering.

“My next project is a movie. It is a very love story movie.” He replies, dead serious.
I am still waiting for the said ‘very love story’ movie, it ranks number 3 on my list of ‘Movies I hope are released before I die’ (FYI, ‘Deshdrohi 2 – Return of the Deshdrohi’ and ‘MSG – 3’ are ranked 1 and 2 respectively).

A child like quality about Taher shone through all his interviews, he genuinely seemed to believe that he was the next big thing and that people loved his song for its musical merit.

Maybe the success got to him, maybe he thought he couldn’t fail. But he is at it again, with ‘Angel’.

The video and the lyrics have gotten more atrocious, so have the costumes, but the viewership has expanded as well.

In a span of one week, ‘Angel’ has garnered close to 2 million views.

‘Eye to Eye’ has 2.3 million views in two years.

Let’s face it, Taher Shah has become a bona fide YouTube Superstar.

The versions of the videos with the most views on YouTube appear to have been uploaded by someone else, but I have a sneaky feeling that Taher’s the man who earns from the ads, else he would have obviously had them taken down.

So, here’s what I think.

Behind the cherubic face, sparkling eyes and the 100 watt smile, lies a sharp brain.
You could forgive him for ‘Eye to Eye’, he was an amateur with a modest budget.
But a lot has changed since then, he’s made what I presume to be tons of money, (it shows on the video of Angel, he’s rented a golf course for christ’s sake!) and surely a well-wisher would have subtly warned Taher by now (‘Naa Taher bhai naa, wearing a purple dress and a tiara, and showing off your chest hair is not a good idea’).

Yet, he chose to go ahead, and if viewership and fame are the criteria, it’s obviously a mega success, it’s trended worldwide, even The Washington Post has talked about it.

Taher Shah knows what works and what doesn’t, and he’s made a living out of it.

He keeps the trend going by issuing statements from time to time, such as revealing that his hitherto unknown wife and child have been featured in the video, and issuing a post that says ‘become angel like humans and value humanities worth and diffuse love throughout the world. Like all of you humans are like angels I am also like an angel’ (sic).

He knows that there’s little or no musical merit in his songs, he knows that the videos are pathetic, but he also knows how to turn his weakness into his strength. He knows how the internet works and how to exploit an average internet surfer.

Laugh at him, he wants you to.

For every chuckle and guffaw, keep in mind that he is also laughing; all the way to the bank that is. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

# 22 - Of sexist ads and immature minds

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” 
- Alphonse Karr

‘Pandeymonium’, the semi-autobiographical book by Mr. Piyush Pandey fleetingly mentions an incident that probably deserved an entire chapter.

Apparently, in 1983, a television commercial for Vicks Cough Drops was pulled off the air, simply because the two year old girl winks at her father.

Rules at the time didn’t allow women to wink on television.

Pause for a second and let that seep in. Keep in mind that Bollywood was still seven years away from its lowest, colourful, loud, sexist phase known as the 90s. Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan and Akshay Kumar were yet to start their eve teasing antics on the silver screen, which to be fair to them, was the norm those days (Five songs, four murders, three fight sequences, two rape scenes – One helluva superhit).

The point I am trying to make here is that as far as the mainstream media is concerned, the seeds that germinated to that twisted time in the nineties were probably sown much earlier, earlier than the eighties probably.

The media constantly depicted women as mere sex objects, winking or not. Television told us that women were good-for-nothings, bimbettes.

It was as if the sole aim of the female species was to look glamourous in order to catch an unsuspecting mate. Not too glamourous though, else the girl risked getting raped, and of course she deserved it; good girls didn't wear revealing clothes. 

And when women weren't getting their husbands/boyfriends/brothers into trouble, it was probably their sons/grandsons.

Luckily, better sense eventually prevailed. Public perception of what was acceptable and what wasn't, changed, for the better. 

Cut to 2016. Ajay, Aamir and Akshay may not be playing gentlemen on screen, but their perv playing days are certainly over.

So all is good, right?


True, the times have changed; the in-your-face-sexism is no longer prevalent. The message is more subtle these days, and from what I can make out, the men are now at the receiving end.

It probably started with the ‘my choice’ ad. Here, have a look:

There are so many things wrong with this video. It pretends to be progressive, tries way too hard to look cool, highlights non-existing issues, etc. etc. It ends up being a shallow, unimpressive attempt that merits a second viewing only so that you can do a double check on whether she really said what you thought you heard. 

I thought feminism was about equality and not superiority. 

It's sad that this is a part of the Vogue Empower campaign, as the other advertisements in the series were so well made ('ladke rote nahin' featuring Madhuri Dixit and 'Going home' featuring Alia Bhatt).

Then I saw the OLX advertisement which was, for the lack of a better word, disturbing.

The girl in the ad says 'Shaadi se pehle main zyada independent thi', apparently because she doesn't have a car of her own. The husband promptly sells off his own (big) car and gets two smaller cars. Makes sense, right? Well, at least they had the 'equality' bit covered here. 

On a serious note, is having a personal car the criteria for achieving independence? What's wrong with taking a cab home? 

The third and final ad is one that I caught a couple of weeks ago. It's called 'Ariel - #ShareTheLoad'.

This is actually a pretty good advertisement and makes way more sense than the others referred to in this post. Until you stop and think about it for a while.

The scenario is unrealistic. 

The wife in an urban DISK ('Double Income Single Kid') upper-middle-class family as depicted in the ad, is about as likely to wash clothes after returning from office as.....words fail me, this basically never happens. 

Yes, a woman is more likely to do household chores, but don't demean a homemaker. Being a housewife is a full-time profession that doesn't earn pay in monetary terms, but ask the men, it is rarely unappreciated. 

I felt that this was a  well-made and well-intentioned advertisement, but it sends a wrong message in these confused times where the definition of feminism and equality has been lost somewhere between Miley Cyrus's twerking and Indrani Mukherjea's marriages.

I repeat, these are confused times, people mistake feminism for something else, advertisements that declare women as the sole stakeholders in family matters not only miss the point but inspire an entire generation who believe everything that they see on the internet.

Tread carefully, we know what happened last time.