Forget Sach Ka Saamna. Switch off Rakhi Ka Swayamvar. Trash Balika Vadhu. Millions of eager viewers all over India are tuning in to the country’s longest-running soap opera. Billed as ‘The Biggest Rumble in the Corporate Jungle’, the show has greed, courtroom drama, a fortune and a family feud — ingredients that have made it a smash hit.
I refer, of course, to Ambani versus Ambani, the reality show that has held us all mesmerised over so many years. But critics say it’s just a load of gas.
In the red corner is Mukesh, the bigger of the two heavyweights not just in age but in money, currently ranked world number 7 according to Forbes magazine. In the blue corner is Anil, ranked number 34, who’s been training by running the Mumbai marathon. The prize is apparently a huge amount of gas, and here the storyline admittedly appears a bit thin. Critics say it’s enough to make you feel gaseous.
The fight started with the usual bragging, with Mukesh’s trainer saying, “If you even dream of beating Mukesh you’d better wake up and apologise” and Anil’s man responding with “Anil’s so fast that last night he turned off the light switch in his room and was in bed before the room was dark.”
Muhammad Ali might sue them for plagiarising his quotes. Anil’s trainer also called Mukesh a gastropod. Mukesh’s man said Anil was a gas bag.
The fight started off with both landing solid punches, egged on by a cheering crowd. “Step on the gas, Anil,” shouted a fan, as Anil ducked and weaved beneath Mukesh’s blows. But Mukesh was sluggish, behaving like an inert gas. It wasn’t long before Anil landed a sledgehammer that knocked Mukesh on to the ropes. Later, a critic said Mukesh fought like a man with gastritis. The gas, said the referee, was Anil’s for the taking.
But here’s the twist in the tale. Enter a new character called Murli, who proclaimed the gas belonged to us, the people. This left the audience a bit flabbergasted, their encounters with gas so far being of the sort where they quoted Austin Powers’ line, “I did not mean to be so rude, it was not me, it was my food.” But doubtless in the fullness of time we’ll feel proud owners of all that gas.
Meanwhile, Round Two is about to begin. How do the experts rate the brothers’ chances? “It depends on what the gas price is per MBTU, which depends on how many MMSCDs of gas are sold and on what the EGOM thinks of the NELP,” said an expert before a howling mob pushed him into a gas chamber.
“Gas is not just a national resource but a cosmic one. What is the universe but a cloud of cosmic gas,” mused an oil ministry official. “I blow a gasket whenever I hear that,” retorted an Anil fan.
What happens next? Without giving away the plot, all I can say is it’s going to be a gas bomb.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal