By Nisha Susan
A new movie called Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is being praised by critics for its unusual use of nudity. In this movie, male nudity has been treated as sexual, and female nudity as comic. Whether the movie is more than a blip on our screens is yet to be seen, but this deliberate choice by the filmmakers is currently being discussed carefully. Because really, when was the last time you saw a woman’s body on screen set up to be anything other than sexual? And when was the last time that male nudity was deployed other than for hilarious shock value and perhaps at a stretch — a still comic, but lewd nudge?
This has been making me think of what it means that a thousand memes have bloomed to decorate Baba Ramdev’s appearance on the cover of the latest issue of India Today. He is upside down, he is smiling and his behind is in your face. It’s a slightly more covered-up version of what they used to call 'mooning' in American movies, which I watched with bewilderment when I was a teenager (the other thing that bewildered me was people not taking off their shoes when lying on sofas).
Many readers, who usually associate him with political chicanery, avarice and power-mongering, have responded to the sight of Baba Ramdev on the cover of one of India’s last national magazines and… laughed. They’ve said chee-chee, giggled from behind the palms covering their eyes and looked again. Could it be? Is he really there on the cover in this sab-kuch-dikhta-hai mode? Oh my god, you made me look at THAT, you bad people.
But what does it mean that Baba Ramdev is on the cover in this pose that would not be discordant for a retro-teen magazine and child models with double ponytails? Is it just hasee toh phasee? Because after the chee-chee came the memes of the Baba as rocket, Baba as the McDonalds M and so on. And in a bit we will be inoculated with the innocuousness of the Baba, his products already sitting blandly on our supermarket shelves.
In an interview with Mint, the yoga guru said that his 10-year target for Patanjali Ayurved Ltd is $14.9 billion (around Rs 1,00,000 crore) in net sales. On 31 March, 2015, the company posted Rs 5,000 crore in net sales and hopes to double that this financial year. The excellent Mint report usefully sets his target alongside the ancient Hindustan Unilever Limited (in India since 1888!) and its latest net sales: Rs 32,482.72 crore.
It is not accidental that Baba Ramdev chooses not to appear on the most mainstream of Indian magazines in the pose adopted everywhere by tycoons and those who dream of tycoon-ishness. The expanded chest, the widened feet, the flexed arms and the steely glint. That would have given all those giggling right now considerable pause (not to mention the fuel for quite another kind of thinkpiece).
In slightly dated Malayalam slang for a combination of machismo and gravitas, a man is described as “muscle pidikyuga”, flexing his muscles. This is the pose in which the hero customarily enters the stage, arms angled as if to accommodate his bulging chest. What does it mean when a man who built his empire on his muscles chooses to disarm with an inverted pose (which as all yoga teachers will tell you is a ‘relaxing aasana’)?
In that interview, Ramdev said of his outrageous targets, “It’ll happen naturally. I don’t dream, I only work.” And because he doesn’t dream and only works we should remember that even in this pose Ramdev is flexing his muscles. In fact, he is flexing the biggest muscle in the body at you: his gluteous maximus.
The Ladies Finger is an online feminist magazine