By Lipi Mehta:
I have been following Tanmay Bhat on Snapchat for a while and honestly, I look forward to his Snap Stories, however ridiculous they might be. I loved that he explained why feminism isn’t a bad word in a recent Story, despite being aware of the hate he’d get from his followers (An FB comment on his video reads, “In the country of bitches and feminist, men are slaves”). I liked how he followed up on this, answered some questions and explained misandry in his next video. But here’s something I never expected – that a Tanmay Bhat Snap Story would be national news.
Titled ‘Sachin Vs Lata Civil War’, Bhat’s story uses the ‘face swap’ feature on Snapchat to create an imaginary dialogue between Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar (both played by Bhat) and is basically a 2-minute video of ridiculous nothingness. I say this because it really is that – it’s a made-up dialogue between two people you wouldn’t imagine talking this way in real life. Some found it funny, some found it distasteful, but some really, really took offence and thought it was a national threat – a threat to the legacy of Tendulkar and Mangeshkar, a threat to Marathi culture, a threat to the collective nationalist sentiment of the country.
And so, the usual jing-bang followed: Twitter was ablaze with equal parts anger and humour, newspapers and news channels took a piece out of the cake and in what seems like a first in recent times, Arnab Goswami actually had a TEN-member panel debating on whether “Tanmay Bhat has gone too far”. No seriously, take a minute to soak in this visual travesty:
However, I think the real question should be: Have we gone too far? Tanmay made a stupid video but the responses to it are really something we shouldn’t take pride in.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray has actually filed an FIR against Bhat and party leader Ameya Kopekar said, “Forgiveness won’t do, these people should be caught on the road and beaten up. We will protest and he won’t be able to come out on the road. We won’t let his shows happen anymore.” Yep, because that’s what we do best. Step 1: Threat | Step 2: Violence | Step 3: Curb freedom of speech | Step 4: ‘Protect’ the nation like a boss. And if you’re wondering how ‘insulting’ someone is freedom of speech, just to remind you: a ton of hate speech exists online and nobody seems to be wondering how that’s even a thing.
Is it just me or is anyone else thinking about the ‘glorious’ days of Section 66A when two girls were arrested for a Facebook post on Bal Thackeray? It was a victory for free speech that Section 66A was scrapped but I guess Tanmay’s right to use the internet and its services freely warrant an arrest in this case.
As a reaction to his video going viral, Bhat tweeted: “Please pay me @Snapchat. It was obviously a joke, and a reaction to the social media platform being in the mainstream limelight in India probably for the first time.” NewsX and Aaj Tak were outraged however: How could Bhat demand money for such an insulting video?
— NewsX (@NewsX) May 30, 2016
Are you kidding me?! They evidently need to lighten up, and if not that, then fact check at least. Also, this is literally the repercussion that teens using Snapchat will have to bear, now that the mainstream media has ‘called him out’:
Shout-out to all the poor #teens who will have to spend the rest of the week explaining Snapchat to their older relatives.
— Overrated Outcast (@over_rated) May 30, 2016
But not to be left far behind was Bangalore Mirror, that actually ran a story about Rega Jha (Editor of Buzzfeed India) supporting Tanmay Bhat. It’s fascinating how in 100 words or so, you can produce a cringeworthy news story, but Mirror performed really well on that front. They said Jha “happens to be” politician Sanjay Jha’s daughter (she isn’t) and added that she supports Bhat but is no “background prop either” as she heads one of India’s largest websites. When the news is about Bhat, how does it even make sense to run a news story on Jha? What is the connection? And of course, a woman who “isn’t just a background prop” and “happens to be” a politician’s daughter?! Wow, that’s amazing! Just two things to keep in mind, Mirror: Fact check and relevance.
Actor Riteish Deshmukh tweeted and said being ‘disrespectful is not cool and neither it is funny’. Yes, I agree, it isn’t. But it’s also not funny to mock and disrespect transgender people or those who cross-dress like Deshmukh did in ‘Humshakals’ (despite how Bollywood already has a history of horrific trans representation). Journalist Bhupendra Chaubey took on Bhat in his news show and said, “It’s time that our 2.0 type comedy kings spend some time honing their craft.” Chaubey ji, what about honing your craft? Need we remind you of your disastrously sexist interview with Sunny Leone?
And for those of you who’ve felt outraged, offended or insulted by Bhat’s video, fat shaming and rape jokes are really not the way forward. Neither is saying that his brain is the “cunt of a slut” or that he is a “fat bastard”.
Is this really that big a deal that the Mumbai Police’s cyber cell has approached Google, Facebook and YouTube to take down the ‘controversial video’? Clearly, the cyber cell has better things to do (or so we’d hope!). And what is with us being so outraged when two of our ‘cultural icons’ are ‘insulted’ but we don’t see such outrage when Yogi Adityanath says *really* scary shit like how Muslims’ voting rights should be snatched, and how (kid you not) dead Muslim women should be raped? What about when Babu Bajrangi said he felt like “Maharana Pratap after killing Muslims” and boasted about killing pregnant women? Was the cyber cell called to take these videos down?
And why didn’t we outrage when Kapil Sharma physically harassed his on-screen wife (or some or the other character on his show) almost every night in the garb of comedy? Nope, that’s family entertainment for us, isn’t it? Why is our concern about the drought in Maharashtra seen only when a ridiculous hashtag like #SnapchatOrDrought trends?
Well, while many of us get easily offended by something that’s ‘insulting’ or makes us uncomfortable, let’s please focus on what really matters, and not forget that such a response speaks of us poorly as a society. Amidst all this outrage, I personally like how Bhat hasn’t bowed down, though he did take the best protective measure of today’s time. He tweeted: ‘bharat mata ki jai‘.