“When Rakhi Sawant calls for a press conference, you go,” a colleague/friend once told me. “Really? Why? She only speaks nonsense,” I retorted. “She’s honest. How many B-town celebs can say that about themselves?” she concluded.
Almost half a decade since that conversation — and nothing has changed. Rakhi is still as honest, with varying shades of obnoxious, crazy, ridiculous and bizarre thrown in for good measure.
Let’s take her recent press conference where she talks about being raped, for instance. She alleges that Tanushree Dutta, who’s herself embroiled in a sexual harassment tug of war with Nana Patekar, had raped her repeatedly some 12 years ago. That they used to be best friends, and that she had apparently violated the sanctity of that relationship.
Rakhi further claims that Tanushree is a ‘lesbian with male body parts’ which lays the foundation of Rakhi’s allegations.
Anyone who woke up to this video, available both in snippet form and as a full 20-minute clip on the Internet, passed a sweeping judgement — what’s wrong with this woman?
An animated discussion soon ensued in the newsroom and amidst fighting to defend her— she doesn’t make it easy, though — one suddenly wonders: Are we trying to silence her simply because she’s so different?
Rakhi is a drama queen, there’s no denying that.
She petitions to ban ceiling fans in order to curb suicides, she pledges to donate her boobs (which she later clarified as boob cells) for the betterment of mankind, she even designs outfits to stop rapes. And she does this with child-like earnestness and unwavering belief. It’s difficult to be on the same page as her — but does that automatically make her wrong?
But why on earth does she make such outrageous statements?
To understand the phenomenon that is Rakhi Sawant, one needs to rewind considerably back to her initial years. Rakhi burst into the Bollywood scene with music videos like Pardesiya and ‘item numbers’ like Mohabbat Hai Mirchi. She eventually did bitsy roles in Main Hoon Na and Masti. If Koffee With Karan is cool and posh, well, Rakhi has been on the couch, too.
But things went downhill after that infamous kiss with Mika Singh. The ludicrousness of the incident and the mockery Mika made of it with his song stayed in our psyche. Rakhi Sawant became controversy’s favourite child — and laughing at her expense, our hobby.
The narrative from this point could have gone either way — she could have hired an expensive image management firm to manipulate the media and the audience (haven’t we seen that happen far too often to deny the possibility? What do you think Being Human is?), or she could have locked herself up and gone into hiding.
She, instead, did what everyone in Bollywood is advised never to do — she spoke her mind.
Okay, but every time she speaks her mind she sounds so... for want of a better word... crass!
To stifle a voice simply because it is doesn’t speak the same language, to exclude a dialogue because it is not polished enough, to deny someone the vehicle of self-expression because it doesn’t match your standards, is an act of bullying.
Now that we agree on this, can we deny that bingeing on Rakhi’s supposed ‘mind-numbing’ posts is one of our guilty pleasures? Can we deny that we tend to opine more on Rakhi’s outrageous statements than we do when she makes a seemingly sensible one? If Rakhi Sawant is a monster, doesn’t that make us — who get off at her expense — Victor Frankenstein?
When the entire industry desperately denied ever having gone under the knife, Rakhi admitted, “Jo bhagwaan nahin deta woh doctor de deta hai.” When newcomers romanticised their struggle period, Rakhi reminisced, “Family sambhal ne ke daud mein heroine banna chhut gaya.” How many can you expect such matter-of-factness from?
But she makes a fool out of herself every single time.
What if it’s deliberate to hold a mirror to our hypocrisies?
What if, like the court jester, she’s making a mockery of herself to highlight our follies?
What if she’s ridiculing herself to dispense a frank and bold observation about our society at large? What if the joke’s actually on us for criticising her but still going back for more? What if we’re fuelling the fire that makes her want to outdo herself every time? What if we’ve created a monster out of a woman, and are now trying to justify our actions by locking her up in the metaphorical attic of appropriation?