Lalit Modi’s the guy that everyone loves to hate these days. Whether or not he’ll be found guilty of snorting up money into his pockets, we have already decided that he’s not someone whom we can let our proverbial son-in-law be seen doing business with.
Dodgy though all his wheeling-dealings may be, I somehow can’t get to throw the allotted rotten tomatoes at him. Modi may be the next worst thing after Sanjay Gandhi — brash and impervious to any rulebook and not batting an eyelid while raking in the cash even as he is rightfully credited as the man without whom the biggest, phattest dhamaka in India’s dhamaka history wouldn’t have been possible.
But hey, they finally got Al Capone on a charge of dodging income tax — not on smuggling or running prostitution and bootlegging rackets or for the many murders he ordered. But I still love Brian De Palma’s 1983 gangster movie, Scarface, that was loosely based on Howard Hawks’ 1932 gangster movie by the same name that was based on Armitage Trail’s 1929 dime novel by the same name that was in turn loosely based on the life and crimes of Al Capone. (Capone was nicknamed ‘Scarface’ after the left side of his face was slashed with a knife three times by a man whose sister he had insulted outside a Brooklyn night club.)
Of course, Capone’s 1930s Chicago isn’t Modi’s 2005-2010 India. The lines between mobsters and magistrates and businessmen were a bit thicker those days. But if making money out of selling alcohol during Capone’s Prohibition era was seen by most Americans as an ‘understandable, helpful’ crime, I’ll bet my bottom sweat equity that for most of us, betting on cricket matches that no one takes seriously anyway, fixing games, using the whole burlesque mega-show as a gigantic mattress under which countless wads are tucked in, are as scandalous as, well, rich people blowing up money or Mayawati building Mayawati statues with taxpayers’ cash.
In other words, frankly dear, we don’t give a damn.
We get to see some people get their Warholian 20 overs of fame, read about the closest thing we here in India have to a sex scandal (a political personage with an attention-seeking disorder defending his girlfriend), sublimate our discomfort with tut-tuts and sniggers about gyrating white women with flesh-coloured tights and multi-coloured pom-poms and other ladies caught on candid camera with India’s most famous boy-men at parties, hear about crores being dangled as bait to get more crores, and then turn in till the next day’s IPL yada yada starts.
So this Lalit Modi chap snorts something most of us can’t afford. So a lot of big money exchanges manicured hands. So air kisses turn French when ‘Do not disturb’ signs are duly noted by hotel bellhops who are friendly to reporters. So what? As my colleague and cricket writer Anand Vasu reminded me, one of my favourite batsmen — and the world’s finest practitioner of the leg glance ever — has a fetish for expensive watches, divorced his wife for a model, is the only recognised match-fixer in India, and is the sitting Congress MP from Moradabad.
The howls of protests against the muck in crickentertainment is as novel as the novelty of IPL. And it isn’t us, bereft of Grade A Colombian or Grade C Ukranian, blowing the whistle and playing party pooper. It’s the guys in the thick of this Bollywood-style rompfest who are pulling the towels off each other because they themselves don’t want to be exposed in public.
At the premiere of De Palma’s Scarface, director Martin Scorsese turned to one of the actors in the film to tell him: “You guys are great. But be prepared. They’re going to hate it in Hollywood because it’s about them.”
So, all of us watching this 3D epic movie billed as ‘Cricket! Women! Money! Politics!’, let’s just sit back and enjoy the freakshow. It’s about them.