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Mumbai tamasha

Incidentally, Shah Rukh’s bold stand in welcoming Pakistani cricketers has been welcomed in Pakistan, but not everybody is willing to praise him, writes Manas Chakravarty.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2010 23:35 IST

Senior Meghalaya politician Thursday Lyngdoh said today he was offended by Rahul Gandhi omitting to mention the NSG commandos from Meghalaya who freed Mumbai from the clutches of terrorists. “He mentioned commandos from Bihar and other states but not Meghalaya in his speech,” he lamented, adding that it was an insult to Meghalayans. Thursday was, however, rudely told to shut up by his wife, who reminded him there were no elections due in the state. His enemies say he was creating a ruckus so that he too could become a chief minister, joining the other four chief ministers in the state.

Other statesmen have criticised Rahul’s “India is for Indians” statement. “What’s the point of saying an obvious thing like that,” retorted a BJP functionary, adding “The real point is that Australia is for Indians.”

Meanwhile, Ajmal Kasab is reported to be thankful for Raj Thackeray praising him on his Marathi. “How can I not know the language, since I am actually a born and bred Mumbaikar,” he allegedly told the court. He then applied for a licence to drive a taxi in Mumbai. Also, the split between the RSS and the Shiv Sena over the North Indian issue has been gleefully welcomed by the Congress, with reports that Chief Minister Ashok Chavan will distribute free taxi licenses to RSS swayamsevaks.

The fracas has spilled over to Bollywood, with Shah Rukh Khan refusing to bow down to threats from the Shiv Sena. But unreliable sources say that Karan Johar, who had earlier apologised for calling Mumbai Bombay, has been thinking about changing the name of his film to avoid trouble. “We thought of changing it to ‘My name is Uddhav’ but that would create trouble with Raj. Changing it to ‘My name is Raj’ would be a problem for Uddhav. So we decided to call it ‘My name is Thackeray’”, said a shady person who claimed to be Karan’s great-aunt. “At the very least,” she added, “it will run to packed houses in England, where they will think it’s about William Makepeace Thackeray, the 19th century English novelist who wrote Vanity Fair.” A Shiv Sena worker, however, said that William was a traitor. “Why didn’t he live in Mumbai and write ‘Vanity Fair’ in his mother-tongue?” he asked caustically.

Incidentally, Shah Rukh’s bold stand in welcoming Pakistani cricketers has been welcomed in Pakistan, but not everybody is willing to praise him. Shahid Afridi, for instance, reportedly said it was too soon to comment. “I’d like to chew over it”, he said.

In the meantime, mindful of the confusion in their supporters’ minds over who really supports the Marathi manoos, the two regional parties are reportedly working on brand differentiation strategies. Unconfirmed rumours say that while one of them will promote vada pav, the other will promote pav bhaji; one will threaten Pakistani players, the other will target Australians; one will bash up fat North Indians, the other will pick on thin ones. But here too the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is stealing a march over its rival. “By targeting fat North Indians,” said an MNS worker, “we do more for Mumbai, since the fat ones take up more space.”

But perhaps the last word on the subject was from a grizzled peasant from one of the 20,000 scarcity-hit villages in Maharashtra. As he began the long trek to Mumbai, he was asked whether he was going there in search of food. “Not at all,” he grinned, “with so many circuses, who needs bread?”

n manas.c@livemint.com

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

The views expressed by the author are personal.