If an American performing artiste wants to feel special, all they have to do is visit Bollywood, which lays out the red carpet for any Caucasian who has won even a shred of recognition abroad. That’s the level of firang obsession that prevails in Bollywood.
You can be forgiven if you did not know that American singer and songwriter Katy Perry was in India recently — Mumbai to be precise, where Karan Johar opened his gates for her to party with all of his super-VIP Bollywood guests. Everyone who’s someone in Bollywood was apparently there to do the customary appearance and selfie with Perry, although the layperson on the street couldn’t care less if it was Lady Gaga instead.
Interestingly, it’s been a while since there was such an impressive turnout of Bollywood VIPs at any KJo bash. Just goes to prove that if an American performing artiste wants to feel special, all they have to do is visit Bollywood, which lays out the red carpet for any Caucasian who has won even a shred of recognition abroad.
Meanwhile, the ground reality is a little removed from the high-rise adulation. While Katy Perry was entering the poshest party venue in Bollywood, one could hear the paparazzi at Johar’s place wondering aloud, ‘Yeh kaun hai? Actress hai kya?’
No doubt Perry is hot and glamorous, and makes for good photo-ops. But what about 70-year-old David Letterman, the legendary talk show host who visited Shah Rukh Khan to interview him? Shah Rukh’s wife, Gauri, who doesn’t allow any guest beyond their gleaming living room, allowed Mr Letterman right inside her kitchen, and later, even sat and had the breakfast which they had cooked with the veteran talk show host and her husband. Would the Khans have ever opened their inner chambers for an Indian media person, no matter how distinguished they might be?
What makes all of Bollywood go weak in the knees at the very mention of a firangi guest? What made the Ambanis, Mukesh and Nita, smile away the snub when Justin Beiber didn’t turn up for their party in his honour?
Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey also came to India in 2012 and went back, vowing never to return. In an ill-informed documentary that she did on her visit, she made some truly nasty comments that once again scoffed at our hospitality.
It wouldn’t be erroneous to say that we carry out the “guest is God” belief to an extreme when it comes to firangi visitors. When Will Smith landed in India, Karan Johar — who seems to be the unofficial host for all American entertainers — took him to the sets of Student Of The Year 2 and made him shake a leg with Tiger Shroff, although the shot, when it appeared in the film, evoked no response. Which is not surprising, considering most Indians don’t know who Will Smith is.
The real stars, the ones who make or shake the global box-office, don’t come to India. Recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger promoted his latest Terminator film all over the world, but chose to skip India.
A prominent representative from a leading international film production company says, “India is seen as a very small market for Hollywood films. Only the superhero films do well here, and that too, when they’re dubbed in the Indian languages. Major Hollywood stars choose to see a few media persons from India in Japan or Korea. Tom Cruise was the last big Hollywood superstar who came to India, and that was because Anil Kapoor, who worked with him in Mission Impossible, invited him."
We are therefore left with a second-tier of entertainers who are allowed to behave like superstars in this country. The British colonists may have left long ago, but our fascination with the firangis lingers.
Sadly, this hyper-adulation makes them feel they have the right to disregard rules and protocol. That might explain why Perry decided that she did not need to show her passport at the airport entry like all of us poor plebeians. Perhaps she mistakenly thinks her face is her passport, even if most Indians wouldn’t recognise her even if she printed her name on the front of her T-shirt!
In 2017, Justin Bieber too flew off in his private jet without properly concluding his Mumbai concert, although he was committed to attend a party at the Ambanis afterwards.
It appears good manners have given way to arrogance, especially since they know they can get away with it. Meanwhile, having known years of colonial servility, the minute we see a gora VIP, we go weak in the knees and fall to the ground as if Neil Armstrong just landed on the moon!