When Narendra Damodardas Modi was three months short of turning 30, Subhas Ghai’s to-be blockbuster
had just been released in June 1980.
went on to become a classic in Hindi movie over-the-topness; Tina Munim would go on to become one of the Mrs Ambanis; and Rishi Kapoor, as the hallucinating orphan Monty Oberoi, would become my only role model from Bombay’s tinsel town. But with the last round of polling in Gujarat today and the results expected next Sunday, I can’t help but wonder whether Narendra-
and I might have watched
around the same time.
Now let my liberal friends not pounce on me like a pack of liberal wolves on a black sheep. But from what I’ve seen of Narendra Damodardas over the last few weeks, I was left mesmerised and, well, impressed with his oratory. Now, my Gujarati is non-functional and I wasn’t even in Gujarat while he held his rallies (
couldn’t risk sending me to a dry state). But from what I could make out from TV images, this was a man who knew how to speak to crowds by speaking with them. During the last campaign rally at Bapu Nagar in Ahmedabad on Thursday, he spoke into the mike with his hands raised, fingers pointing opposite directions à la Travlota:
“Don’t you want a BJP government?
“Yeees!” roared back the crowd.
“Do you want Modi to be CM?”
“Do you trust Modi?”
“Do you love Modi?”
And this sort of thing apparently went on for a good while. (What if he had, as his 16th question, asked the crowd, “Do you want to have a long-term, live-in relationship with Atalji?” I am pretty sure the answer would have been a rousing, “Yeees!” Never mind what the man has said and was saying. I was completely in awe of his performing skills.
Now where had I heard that level of audience connect before? In a Bryan Adams concert? Nope. In a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar bash? Nope. In an
leadership-enhancing workshop? Nope. In a Inder Kumar Gujral press conference? Heck no.
Now my friends will point out at this stage that I am playing into the hands of Narendra Modi and singlehandedly ushering in a renewed phase of Modi-cheering in the English media by playing the role of William Shirer to his Adolf-
. (The American journalist in Berlin had noted after one particular stirring speech by the Führer, “Hitler was a superb actor today.”) But let me further disappoint them by saying that Narendra Damodardas’ performances seemed to me to be less out of any 1930s Berlin Sportpalast and straight out of one particular scene in Subhash Ghai’s
“Tumne kabhi kisi se pyaar kiya?” cries out Rishi Kapoor a.k.a Monty Oberoi in the voice of Kishore Kumar to the enthralled crowd below (with Om Prakash Makhija jostling among them?). “Kiyaaa!” comes the lusty response.
“Kabhi kisi ko dil diya?”
“Maine bhi diya! La la la-la, la la la-la...”
Moronic-cum-ecstatic crowd: “La la la-la, la la la-la...”
The carefully slung anga vastra and the frequent Nataraja mudras while speaking may have been something Modi picked up from the Washington-based image consulting firm, Apco Worldwide, that the Gujarat BJP hired. But the totally alive and crackling speeches were pure
Om Shanti Om
moments plucked out of
. And if you want a vital clue, both
and Farah Khan’s
Om Shanti Om
are based on the theme of reincarnation. Now, you don’t have to be an L.K. Advani to figure out who wants to be reincarnated in the nation’s political firmament these days. Just buy the DVD — of
, not the Modi rallies — for confirmation.