When ministers begin to froth at the mouth over goings-on in reality TV shows, we know two things for sure. One, a dark mountain will be made out of a measly brown mole-hill. And two, the issue at stake, racism, will be all but addressed beyond an exchange of platitudes.
The bottomline now is that Shilpa Shetty must be helped in the reality TV show where participants try to win a cash prize by avoiding publicly-voted evictions from a communal house. Either we vote Shetty out of Channel 4’s Big Brother, or we make sure she stays — and fight her way ahead inspite of wicked racist spirits. If she’s voted out, she’ll emerge richer by Rs 31.5 million and a halo. She will become another face with a ‘cause’. A race ambassador, maybe. Even a Gandhigiri mascot. She will, as likely as not, be adopted by milions of anti-racism groups and win an eternal slot for having paid the price of being a young, beautiful and successful Indian. (What Shilpa’s chances of success are one is not too sure, but who cares? If the label includes it, the bottle must have it.) Deepak Tijori may even make a movie out of her ordeal and stretch reality to impossible limits to show that we’re not being singularly stupid in our exaggerated reaction.
But Indians being Indians, we’re likely to display our stiff upper lip (a very Indian trait) and tell the Bollywoodian, “Atta girl, fight for those brownie points”. Then, Shetty will never be nominated and will stay on the show, along with other B- and C-grade tinseltown acts. For good measure and to correct the balance, Channel 4 will soon have Blacks and Hispanics keeping Shilpa company — so what if Indians are just that bit more comfortable with Whites. If we’re at the receiving end of racist behaviour, we have to agree to be clubbed with other cultures that are discriminated against.
If we don’t care to be part of this club, we can shrug it off with typical Indian flamboyance and holier-than-thou attitude, and preach glorious oneness. That is why we’re brown. We can switch clubs as per our own requirements. And if Shetty isn’t aware of this borderline that we live on, well then, we’ll just say she’s been lucky. My only complaint against Shetty is that she cried. Her tears are what raised this ingratiating alarm. Doesn’t she know that women don’t cry anymore? Only men can? Oh, she knows, you say...she is on TV, and life is a stage...
Now, if Channel 4’s really ambitious, and its queasy sponsors agree, a bearded young Muslim man, educated and suave, should be invited to the show. Then let’s watch the drama unfold. For the moment, Brown and White ministers are agitated. Will they see sense and back off? Or will they make appropriate noises and then back off? Either way, Shetty’s won. As for racism, things will be never be quite black and white, will they?