A 'distorted' map. A Bollywood actress of repute. A much-hyped India tour. And a 24-year-old rapper at the centre of it all.
Shubhneet Singh, or Shubh, as we better know him, wakes many of us when we need that peppy number to shake the morning sleep off. He is the man playing in pubs from Noida to Canada. His songs, in Punjabi, have the recurrent themes of Jatt pride, love, false smiles on a beloved's face and the kaala-surma in her eyes. His songs often speak of brands and an aspirational lifestyle that most youngsters emulate. The 'automatic hathyaar' and 'chitta' peek in for an occasional cameo.
To see Shubh's concerts in India with hefty price tags being sold out in a jiffy was nothing unusual. To see him being crucified for something pulled unbelievably out of context was.
In this absurdist play, Bollywood's resident Malcontent Ms Ranaut plays a major role. We will come to that in a bit. In March this year, Punjab was boiling. There were lookouts issued for Khalistani separatist Amritpal Singh. As Amritpal fled from village to city with YouTube videos in tow, Punjab saw an Internet blackout. Punjabis from all over the world watched the events unfold as the police embarked on a days-long chase to get hold of Singh.
It was this Internet blackout that Amandeep Singh made the mistake of painting. He called it 'Panjab'. It was Singh's lament for what was happening in Punjab, mostly directed at the powercut and Internet blackout. And when you see the 'painting', you will see Punjab in the dark, while a policeman pulls the plug out.
Shubh shared the 'map' on his Instagram stories. This 'map' did not have Jammu and Kashmir, and the Northeast was nowhere to be seen. Shubh's story said 'Pray for Punjab'.
Kangana Ranaut, with her penchant for wading into anything that's the talk of the town, added the Khalistan angle to this 'map'. She did it back in March and promptly jumped on the Khalistan narrative all over again, riding the social-media hate wave against Shubh.
Kangana's comments on Khalistan have been around for a while. It began during the farmers' protest, a social media fight with Diljit Dosanjh played out in front of the entire world, and then she began saying that 'all of Punjab' has been boycotting her movies for her comments on Khalistan.
In the days since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused New Delhi of having a hand in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil, Shubh has become an unlikely victim. Tempers are flying all over the place. India and Canada are in a deadlock no diplomacy seems to be able to solve. The altar of Khalistan has claimed a sacrifice: Shubh.
Shubh was supposed to have a series of concerts in India. Cities booked him out. Cruises got him headlining their weekend fests. Tickets in thousands and packages in lakhs were sold out. And then, the Internet struck.
The Internet is unforgiving. The Internet does not forget. Sometimes, the Internet draws conclusions that are so off the mark that the mark gets left behind somewhere on Mars. Shubh's India tour was cancelled. His crime? Sharing a 'map' six months ago, that apparently was in support of the Khalistan movement.
There's no logic in this theatre of absurd. But there are consequences and casualties. This time around, it is the home tour of a 24-year-old rapper.
Till common sense wins, pubs and speakers will play Shubh singing of No Love.