In case you were wondering, Vodafone and Idea were not the only two significant entities merging in India last week. A far more meaningful, albeit inadvertent, alliance was being formed by Rhea and Kangana in terms of shaping national conversations. If the corporate version was a merger of equals, the cinematic equivalent was certainly the merger of unequals, with divergent sources of infamy.
On Vodafone and Idea, a lot has been said about the branding and design dimensions and I frankly have limited views. ‘Together for Tomorrow’ seems to be an analogue-era promise and largely Nehruvian in construction, which makes it an anachronism. My larger opinion rests on the appalling quality of mobile telephony services in India and how even hyper-sensitive customers are so cool about it. It is challenging to complete a simple voice conversation in a car, a highway or a residence and data services are only marginally better. In spite of superlative branding efforts over the years, this category has been reverse commoditised and frankly does not deserve so much attention. If consumer vigilantism can be channelled to ensure the upgrade of basic services that would be the truest blessing.
On the two ladies though, the narrative is truly scintillating and there is so much to observe and learn. Rhea, whether guilty or not, is clearly a victim of the ‘witch next door’ syndrome, which Indian boys are direly warned about by their possessive mothers. The neighbourly damsel who bears a cyanide-laced rakhi with the clear and malevolent intent to usurp and ruin the lives of innocent boys. It is quite underrated how women and not men are the greatest enemies of women, petting the male child while denigrating the emerging lady. So Sushant, like most wayward Indian men, would have ideally been playing ludo or carrom in boy scout gear, till maliciously diverted by the scheming drug peddler aka Rhea. Full-grown men with global mega careers suddenly rendered incapable of directing basic motor movements and completely under the influence of the significant other.
On Kangana, she is a maestro of the underdog card which truthfully has not been much of a success story in our culture or popular culture. Indians do not like underdogs perhaps as an adjunct of the mythology culture, as our heroes and indeed heroines are born with celestial destiny. Unlike say the west where success stories are driven largely by the transition from past to present and the fiery rebel is considered an integral element of the mainstream. So, for one, she has repositioned the modern day heroine from copybook gracefulness to inspirational resistance, as daredevil as Fearless Nadia. Which extends to the war against nepotism to matters more sensitively communal but in each case the spunk and character demolishes the myth of the perfect Indian lady, petite to a fault. Perhaps this will inspire men to act their age and speak up more vehemently than they ever possibly will.
So, why am I referring to the Kangana and Rhea episodes as merger and not unrelated? Well, for one, they have in tandem captured the national sentiment and overwritten even the Covid scourge. Thus anchoring a brand new narrative centred around the hitherto flawless fairer sex — rebellious, disruptive, outspoken, provocative and walking the talk. Qualities that were once ascribed to semi-seditious rebels working in the Chhattisgarh belt or the occasionally vibrant Shabana Azmi now entering the mainstream of daily conversations and life, albeit partly villainous. Most vitally, absolutely mainstream ladies and gentlemen are siding with them for reasons of empathy or sympathy and doubtlessly encouraging their daughters to follow a honest and righteous path. I certainly predict that this will have a positive effect on the stature of women in society and this will only be for the positive.
Another way the Rhea-Kangana shenanigans qualify as merger is the ability to divert the focus from Covid and this is not a bad thing at all. By now we all know what needs to be done and what must be undone so an unnecessary repetition of direness is not desirable so it is actually better that our over-engineered minds be rescued from global and local statistics. At times, intrigue is better than fatigue and if all home-stuck souls can apply their wisdom to unravel the mysteries or the persecution, we will actually feel happier about living. Together they represent the societal underbelly that we have always known yet long denied but now must grudgingly come out of the closet.
On Vodafone and Idea, it must be reiterated that nobody really cares if they merge, live or die as the service shows no signs of improving. On Kangana and Rhea, it must be equally said that everybody cares if they survive and thrive as the interest shows no signs of receding. Which arguably makes the latter a way more compelling merger than the former as societal bonds are way more potent than corporate.
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