Saturday, January 28, 2012

Allow us to believe! Please? Missing a Sense of Mystique!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

In an era that prides itself on ripping away dreamy veils to reveal ugly truths, a sense of mystique is a rare, undervalued commodity!

If most people were left gawking after actor Sonam Kapoor’s verbal ‘full monty’ recently at an event in the capital, it was certainly not in admiration! Some snickered, others turned up their noses, while yet more frowned in disapproval. Tsk, tsk, tutted the capital’s swish set, how can a well-brought up lady talk of unmentionables like saggy bums, cellulite and facial hair!

More to the point, how can an actor, who is by the nature of her profession a dream merchant, unpeel the glossy layers to reveal an ugly truth?! Let’s be honest, this is not about honest revelations; it is more about shattering illusions! Tough to forgive someone who does that! One can never look at Sonam again without thinking of all that is hidden from view!

As it is, social media sites haven’t left much to the imagination. This is an era that has ripped away the aura of mystique, where very few see the advantage of maintaining an enigmatic image. You do not need to wonder anymore what celebrities are doing, with their obsessive compulsion to tweet minute-to-minute ideas and thoughts; gosh, even details of their illnesses and fears!

Compare this to the mysterious aura that surrounds stars of yesteryears, or even Rekha for that matter. A mistress of mystique, never has she stepped out to confirm or deny a rumour. She has been accused of many things but the lady has never reacted. In fact she has smartly teased rumour mongers further by well-executed, pre-meditated acts. Remember the time she stepped out in public with sindoor in her hair, giving rise to rumours that she had secretly married Big B? Or, another time when at an Awards Nite she hugged each member of the Bachchan family till she reached the man himself, who in panic staged a walk-out?

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a truly enigmatic woman who despite living out a life in full public glare, was able to maintain her mystique. So is Sonia Gandhi; she leaves people with a sense of wonder and curiosity even in an era of totally intrusive and aggressive media coverage. To their credit, a few actors who keep a distant from tweets and tell-all interviews and so retain some enigma, are Aishwarya Rai, Ranbir Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif!

Those who know the art of dwelling long in public imagination and hearts, learn the art of keeping the veil in place; it is those who are desperate for any kind of attention, even if short-lived, that insist on tearing all veils down and executing regrettable full montys!

The incessant blows to imagination by hard-hitting reality make it impossible to indulge the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ (S.T Coleridge’s term for suspending judgement on unreal elements in literature), which is so intrinsic to the true enjoyment of art -- be it fiction, films, theatre or painting and sculpture. It’s almost as if everybody has a compulsion to keep lifting the veil of imagination to let reality make its way through.

For instance, how can you possibly enjoy a television serial when there is a raging controversy on Facebook regarding “double frames vs single frames” and body doubles? When you are made to realize that the romantic lead has actually not shot a single scene together for weeks on end and what you are witnessing is actually a slick job by editors? When while watching a programme, facebook starts vibrating with protests about how the creative team has messed up and the real actor and the body double used for the same scene from different angles, are dressed differently?

You do not want to notice these things! I, for one, find it extremely irritating when people watching a movie keep critically pointing out the liberties the filmmaker has taken with reality. For heaven’s sake, he is supposed to do that in order to build a reality away from your actual world -- a space where you can escape for some blissful moments! A space where you give in to a willing suspension of disbelief and allow yourself to believe all that the dream merchant wants you to believe.

Of course if you allow yourself to do so... And yes, with your permission, all you actors out there busy washing your dirty linen through tweets!

And yes, of course Ms Sonam Kapoor, once you are done telling us all about your bodily hair, insisting we count your moles and warts along with you and critically examine your “rolls of fat” while you confess that your “t*t and a*s are not very nice”!!!

After all that… please, please allow us to weave back together our web of shattered dreams once again…. Allow us to suspend disbelief!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let's all 'feel' together! Emotions are a great comfort!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Emotions– good or bad – can be a great comforting factor, especially when shared with others

There is a comfort in emotions that is difficult to deny. And the succour that a camaraderie of emotions provides is indisputable. If you are happy, your pleasure is intensified when someone shares that happiness with you. If you are unhappy, being able to share the unhappiness and pain with others helps comfort you. If you are angry, venting anger as part of a group that shares your emotion, helps provide cathartic relief. That is what perhaps accounts for flash mobs, anti-corruption protests, et al.

We are better off when experiencing an emotion– good or bad -- rather than at times when we are indifferent and so, bored with everything. And, the most pleasurable of all emotions is romantic love. Extra-marital relationships are also the result, more often than not, of finding the comfort of emotional attachment beyond home and the acceptable.

Time was when we dealt with our conflicting, tumultuous emotional states all by ourselves, or at most by confessing to a parent, a dear friend or sibling. But today, a generation that has been brought up to believe strongly in individualism and to value themselves, their goals, their own feelings and their idea of right and wrong, sees nothing wrong in hanging its innermost emotions out to dry in public spaces. And social networking sites ensure there is no lack of such spaces!

Years ago, as a child, when disturbed at my emotional response to a handsome star of the time, I confessed my mixed feelings to my mother, she told me censoriously, “You must learn to control such emotions.” For quite some time I believed I was some kind of an emotional freak and prayed to be infused by purer thoughts and feelings. Today all you do is sign into any social networking site or forum and find hundreds of others echoing the same feelings. You not only realize you are no freak, but your feelings are actually reinforced!

When I stumbled across the facebook page of Mohnish Bahl who is currently playing the lead for a popular television serial “Kuch to log kahenge…”, I was amazed at the outpouring of young emotions there. Followers of the actor openly talk of their love for him and confess how they cannot wait to watch him again, how they worry about him, pray for him and even advise him on the serial! And Mohnish is no youngster -- he is a married man with a 20-year-old daughter!

What amazes me is the passion these people bring to play upon a serial that is so obviously fictitious! They react to characters as if to real people and all thoroughly enjoy the interaction. Housewives, professionals, students – all bond emotionally on the same page, finding it addictive -- as is proved by their multiple daily visits to the page!

There’s indeed comfort in being part of a group that wallows in emotions!

When I mentioned this obsessive group emotion to my friend Dr Deepak Raheja, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director, Hope Foundation, he said, “It is symbolic of regression. People tend to regress when they are very emotional. They let the conscious mind get synchronized with the heart to feel emotion that brings a surge of feel-good chemicals. In past this state was reserved for a very special person you loved or perhaps an idol. Today people have become frivolous in relationships --the resilience, coping strategies and mechanisms that are required to balance emotions have come down. People are more demanding and want to change the loved one. When that doesn’t happen, there is sourness and relationships break. “

Devoid of gratification and contentment of relationships because you find such few idols and idealistic relationships in real life, an emotionally immature generation transfers its moodiness and starved emotions onto idols and stars. People get carried away on a wave of emotion and when they find themselves part of a like-minded group, they find that high emotions help them bond better with others. This gives them a great sense of comfort. They start romancing the idealistic scenarios found on the screen, believing they can live that life too, even if vicariously.

It can be a scary scenario because emotions run fast and furious here and the landscape changes in the blinking of an eye; the dwellers of this land hate as quickly and as intensely as they love, and they transfer reel emotions into real life as effectively as real emotions get entangled with reel ones. Rather than considered and few, relationships tend to be indiscriminate and many, rather than caring and nurturing, they are demanding and destructive… both in reel and real!