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Bhai, tape ke chalo

Move over chicks, it?s been the week of the Chikna. The entire country forgot about the drought, the Sensex and cross-border terrorism, and broke into a tape dance.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2002 01:41 IST

Move over chicks, it’s been the week of the Chikna. The entire country forgot about the drought, the Sensex and cross-border terrorism, and broke into a tape dance. In its bid to prove ‘Tera Bharat Maha-Guilty’, the prosecution in the Bharat Shah case tabled tapes said to be of conversations between Chhota Shakeel, Sanjay Dutt, etc. This evidence confirmed the nexus between Hindi cinema and the Mob in a manner more clinching than a Shah Rukh-Aishwarya embrace. So much so that the industry should now be called Bolly-hood.
The incriminating conversations led to so many exposures that hearts began to go as dhak-dhak as Madhuri’s hips. I might have said Hrithik’s, but it has turned out that he’s not the ‘Chikna’ mentioned on the tapes. Mumbai’s Mid Day revealed that the reference was to Abu Salem. This disclosure has salvaged the reputation of the underworld. When it comes to being ‘slippery’, how can the Mafia be upstaged by an actor. It’s simply not Don.

This one is a Gangsta Rap, but it’s not the first time that tape-dances have become a tandava. Earlier, politicians were involved, but most of them nimbly managed to ensure that their dirty dancing did not end up as Jailhouse Rock.

Unlike Nixon, whose Presidency was erased by the Watergate tapes, Clinton managed to rise above Monicagate. However, the jury is still out on which of the two was the Trickier Dick.

When General Pinochet of Chile was being tried for genocide in 1998, a woman journalist’s earlier tapes reeled out evidence pointing to his hand in the killing of his predecessor, Salvador Allende, in 1973. More recently and closer to home, Tarun Tape-pal’s revelations rocked, but the expected heads didn’t roll.

The Chhota Shakeel tapes now make everything look like small change. Compared to what the Mumbai Police have unspooled, Tehelka seems no big deal, and Watergate’s Deep Throat sounds like nothing more than a local plumber with a croaking voice.

For me, all this is only of academic interest. I am more concerned about the implications of the Shakeel tapes on our everyday life. The most innocuous conversation lines could acquire sinister undertones.

For instance, it is no longer advisable to call up a friend, and casually ask, ‘Achha, bachhe kaise hain?’ Friend is likely to hit the panic button and the telephone numbers of the Crime Branch rather than responding with the progress of the potty-training of little Pinky.

Indeed, there are several sentences which the Chhota Shakeel tapes have suddenly converted into threat perception.

Ever since they were played in court, it seems as though the most dangerous place on earth is not the West Bank, Kashmir or Fashion Week. It’s the Anjali Mukherjee/Vandana Luthra slimming centre. This is the place where, other than on a gangster’s Nokia, you are likely to hear those lethal lines, “Bahut charbi chari hai!” Once you hear this, you know the fat is really in the fire.

The Finance Minister, psychoanalysts, Samaritan help-lines and assorted do-gooders should forthwith refrain from the word ‘tension’. Chhota Shakeel has damned it as surely as any poor sod bringing a furrow to this Don’s brow or plans. “Usko tension de do”, must surely rank among history’s classic understatements.

Similarly, a socialite should think twice before she tells her husband’s secretary, “Sab ka list banake de do mereko.” After The Tapes such an order means the party’s over, band baj gaya — you get the drift. If I were you, I wouldn’t ‘die to be’ on that list.

The political spectrum had begun to sound like an acrylic emulsion advertisement. Praveen Togadia fluttered his eyelashes and his pennants, and said, ‘Merawalla saffron’, other parties were decked out in blue and green, while Mamata Banerjee only saw red. But no one is too keen on ‘rang jamana’ ever since the court heard the taped voice of CS telling his Bollywood ‘investments manager’, Nazim Rizvi, “Lao, s*** ka number lao. Mere maula ne chaha to sab colour samajh mein ayega.”

Yes, the now-banned publicising of these tapes has made us extremely conscious of subtle hues and hitherto irrelevant details. Nothing exemplifies this as clearly as two words which seem to be the favourites of the Don who talks as rough as he acts. As the tracks reveal, sometimes he lets go of someone who has given him ‘tension’: ‘Apun ne bola bhi hai ke tere ko chhodoonga,” he says magnanimously. But sometimes that last word is pronounced just a little differently. One ‘h’ less is all that stands between getting a reprieve, and getting well and truly screwed.

* * *

Alec Smart said, “How do we know that Azharuddin isn’t as clever as he thinks? He was found lacking in Wisden.”

First Published: Aug 04, 2002 01:41 IST