April 18, 2007

It wasn’t a kiss, says The Times of India

What Richard Gere did to Shilpa Shetty on stage in New Delhi the other day wasn’t a kiss. It was a peck, says The Times of India, making a finer point. And here we were, the uninformed, getting hot and bothered, protesting, burning effigies and shouting hai, hai slogans without as much as knowing a peck from a kiss. Now we have it from TOI, quite unambiguously, and I quote, “About the latest case of Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere, it must be clarified that it wasn’t a kiss, which is meant to be planted on the partner’s lips”.

“It was a peck,” adds TOI, “which in many countries is a normal way to greet each other, and not a sexual act”. It wasn't an S-act, agreed,; but it wasn’t a normal greeting either. Shilpa herself admits it – ‘Richard went slightly overboard’. People elsewhere in the world who peck each other by way of normal greeting are not usually seen bending over their partner in close embrace, while working on her cheeks, both sides, more than once.

The Times(Mysore edition)story – Curb national pecking disorder - carries a picture showing Richard, bending over Shilpa, in a ‘pecking’ position. Says the photo caption,‘The kiss that has nation up in arms’. Nit-picking apart, the newspaper story, played up on Page One, has it, “in a situation where the law is vague and the general public apathetic, the moral brigade seems to be usurping the space’. Shouldn’t that be read as ‘morality brigade’?

Anyway, the thing about TOI is that it gets down to the basics, just in case its readers are clueless even four days after the event, which has been played out in newspapers, TV channels and by bloggers (including this one). I can’t think of many other newspapers that would have given thought to the possibility that the millions who read the Gere-Shetty story and viewed visuals on TV and the Internet, wouldn’t have applied their mind to draw a line between a peck and a kiss.

Where TOI lays it on the line is in this sentence – ‘even the slightest of pecks can raise a furore in the land of the Kamasutra and Khajuraho. Correction, my reporter friend, we’re now known as the land of call centres and the Bollywood that gave the world the song number – Choli ke peeche kya hai. And I have a problem with the TOI report that says bizarre public reaction (to ’a slight peck or a mere brush of the lips’) is not something peculiar to India – ‘it seems to be a sub-continental malady’.

Such needless comparison, that in no way furthers the story, may not go down well with our neighbours. I doubt if the story would have played out in this manner, had a comparable incident happened in Pakistan or Bangladesh. I don’t know if TV channels there would have shown the tell-tale video clip, which fueled widespread public protest. One can’t imagine such incident happening there, in the first place. And in some parts of the world, the pair involved would not have got away with it, and survived to tell their tale to the media.

Cross-posted in Desicitics .


Anonymous said...

The beneficiary in any point of view
is Shilpa Shetty. A Bollywood actress who was not known in Britian became an instant celebrity in Europe because of verbal jibes by an ignorant person oozing with with prejudice (before that it was reported that she accepted to be incarcerated in this show because of the fist full of pounds stirling dangled in front of her). Now Richard Gere elevated her status by up one gear by this kiss, and now she would be hoping for a role in a Hollywood movie.

As far other comments about the nature of the kiss, I can only say
'Indians seem to have a strange attitude which makes them vociferously express' more moral than thou' attitude. Millions in India are affected by aids, I have seen many cases of aids in families who 'uphold moral values', and who still argue that the afult lies not with them.

Anonymous said...

Shilpa and media both stand to benefit.Poor Gere thought he had gained something!Looks like Shilpa S is paving the way for out of job starlets.She has certainly managed to keep the effervescent media attention on.
Our media has been indeed busy-what with a Bollwood fairy tale wedding to cover,a peck to uncover...

Anonymous said...

Whether it is a kiss or embracing it amounts the same feelings as for as Indians are concerned. But there is a message to the whole universe reg.AIDS awareness and that is more Important.

Rahul Mediratta said...

The irony of the Shilpa/Richard controversy is that the modest sexual act of a peck has been entirely blown out of proportion relative to the event they were promotion about HIV/AIDS awareness. There has little to no discussion about educating truck-wale whatsoever. My colleagues and I here in Canada strongly feel that the burning of effigies is outlandish and ridiculous. It certainly does not present India in sensible light.

Maddy said...

GVK, you know what, something similar did happen in Pakistan, just around the same time. Tourism minister Nilufer Bhaktiar hugged her elderly parachute instructor in france after a good jump. the photo came in some newspaper and then it was a mess with effigies burnt and the such..well she had to resign, finally!!