What Rahul Gandhi's writers can learn from Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan

Advaita Kala
Advaita KalaMay 16, 2015 | 16:50

What Rahul Gandhi's writers can learn from Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan

If Indian politics was viewed from the prism of Bollywood or Hollywood, I wonder what the posters announcing Rahul Gandhi's comeback would look like. That the scion of the Congress party has had more relaunches to his credit than there have been switches in James Bond players, is less than encouraging, though it must keep some people very busy.

But he should realise that even Bonds can't fight time - they retire, get replaced and inadvertently keep the enthusiasm going. Holding on to that edge of familiarity through often repeated dialogues such as - "The name is Bond, James Bond" or "Shaken not stirred" - summon up memories and traditional notions of the alpha male who will save the world from destruction, with a femme fatale or two along the way. It's all predictable, pure fiction and yet we are hooked.



Rahul Gandhi's writers, and there seems to be a team at work, have worked on so many long-winded scripts starring him, that we are all - the viewing public - just a little too confused. But unlike Bond who remains the same man through the decades, Rahul Gandhi (or his scriptwriters) are still unable to pin down his persona, despite his decade long political career.

As any Bollywood hero will tell you, an image is very important, even the three Khans have divvied up personas between them - the romantic, the intellectual and the bad boy with the heart of gold. I don't even have to tell you which Khan is which, but each persona blends into the roles they choose to play on screen and off it. Long-lasting marriage and doting father; "do good" talk show host and social cause ambassador; serial litigant and bespoke charity creator - each Khan - now close to hitting the mid century mark - is almost indistinguishable from who he plays on screen and in life, even if like Gandhi, they all continue to play "youth".

Which brings me back to our political comeback kid. His life hasn't been easy. The constant cynosure, the demands on him, the cranky and increasingly creaky old guard that refuses to get on the retirement escalator, but instead makes its presence heard, like the swing doors with rusty hinges in old style Western salons (think John Wayne movies). We know (despite the clumsy crowd control) that they are around, but neither do they leave or step all the way in, swinging in and out (creak, creak) announcing their presence. It would push any one towards vipassana, or Bangkok, or Cambodia, or Spain… Who knows? During his 56-day sabbatical or sulk or revelry (the jury is out on that one) there were more Rahul Gandhi sightings from around the world, than those recorded from Khan Market in the last decade. But never mind that, a hero must also possess an air of mystery, it is essential, in order to build the persona.



But the question is what persona? Like the film star of yesteryear doing triple shifts, Rahul has been moving from role to role, only to get upstaged by his dialogue writers, and being rendered a caricature, flubbing bad lines. But what's wrong with caricature? It happens to all icons - Bachchan's voice, Rajinikanth's cigarette flip, Rajesh Khanna's head tilt. But the gorilla in the room, let's say King Kong, since we are being cinematic, is that one needs to know when the joke revolves around you and when it's on you. Instead, Rahul wants no power and disappears.

Now we have the Incredible (sometimes green) Hulk in Parliament, who has risen from a slumber (unfortunately captured on camera) and has learnt how to throw his voice like a Shakespearean actor. Surrounded by an orchestra pit of appreciative and voluble party men who drown out audience response, ably conceals the scriptwriter's failure in understanding the one plus that marks Rahul Gandhi's presence in public life - the fact that the viewing public has seen him grow up. From boy to man.


Thus the "superhero" that they wanted to project from first day, first show, should have waited. The vociferous and arrogant defence and his studied silence to the exception of all reason and reality has done Rahul in. His Mr Bean-esque public fumbles and goofy smiles could have endeared, if the script had been more honest. But instead we were told that we (the public) wore the wrong glasses as we sat viewing this live 3D animation that has been Rahul Gandhi's public life. Even superheroes reveal and learn from their frailties - accept their awkward personas - before hopping into elevators and emerging transformed.


Instead we have a Dazed and Confused audience, who is only less so, when compared to the protagonist. As a film trade analyst would say of the latest avatar, "The opening collections have been better than expected, however the word of mouth will decide". But when has public perception or expectation ever mattered to these set directors, in constant pursuit of the transient moment - from Parliament, to scenic trekking routes, and on to crowded train compartments. For as long as the mise en scène changes, the same writing can perhaps engage the audience.

Last updated: November 02, 2016 | 18:25
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