Pitaji of MSG does what no Khan of Bollywood can: He gives hope, faith and lowbrow magnificence
By Vaibhav Vishal
The last time somebody was referred to as "Papa The Great" in a Hindi movie, it was Kishan Kumar, paradropped on the innocent audiences in the eponymous movie released in 2000. Kumar was the resident rajah of graceless grunge, aproducerputra (ok, younger brother, if we are to get technical) who was inflicted upon audiences in at least five movies between 1993 and 2000. From Aaja Meri Jaan to Bewafa Sanam and from Kasam Teri Kasam to Papa The Great, Kumar was on mission impossible, gunning for the unachievable. But he kept trying. Diligently, self assuredly, continuously. Despite a face that only his mother would have found palatable and acting skills that even his mother would not have found palatable. Papa The Great was one final assault, till brother Gulshan became wiser and moved on to non-Kishan things. The movie, and everything about it, remains an unforgettable piece of awkward awesomeness, much like its hero.
Poetic, therefore, that 15 years later, the contender to topple and gobble Kumar’s peachy coarseness is another Papa The Great: Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, aka The Messenger, or The Artist Formerly Known as the Messenger of God.
And this Papa does not fly solo. He comes all guns blazing, with stadiums full of people chanting his name and carnivals dedicated to his bonbon affability as he portrays India’s messiah, the middle class man-crush. Hell, I was the only person at the theatre when I watched the movie, yet I was whistling away to glory!
And that’s what Pitaji does to you. Before you realise it, you’ve become one with him, mildly suffocating though this sounds considering the kilos he commands as his person. He builds your confidence, one fat cell at a time, layering one adipose tissue over another, and soon enough, you start believing that you can conquer the entire world. Like Papa, sorry Pitaji.
All that you need to win the world over is extreme self belief. I don’t know what Pitaji does in real life, but if I were to just go by his film persona, he left me totally charged, yes sir. That Pitaji can look like a complex, cross-pollination-product combining Hagrid, Govinda, Barbie and Austin Powers and mesmerise millions with that persona is reason enough for me to believe I can score and more with whoever I want. That he can wear red slacks purchased from Sarojini Nagar Market and yet make enough money to buy red helicopters is motivational for the multitudes, including me. That you can be a dreadful singer, an awful dancer and still get 10 costume changes in a music video and have three laadli betis, including a firangi, as your heroines, adds a spring to my step, with both my left feet raring to go.
Not one of the Khans can do this. We get out of that dark cinema and return to our dull and dreary lives, knowing very well that Raj, Rahul and Prem are best left behind on that screen. Pitaji in MSG, on the other hand, gives us hope, confidence and faith.
The film also underlines that it is okay to be lowbrow. Why, it takes pride in it! The villain, Chillum Khurana, is a throwback to the over-acting Jogindar of yore. Gaurav Gera digs his nose and throws booger-balls at the bald head of a villain. A prostitute mouths lines like “Hum chalti phirti gaaliyan hain” and humour supposedly lurks in dialogues like “Main gas chhodunga” and “Because Guru ji is god and you are dog”. Crummy computer graphics meet Punjabi Baroque, and the resultant set of dolphins and lotus pods in a swimming pool are delightfully cringe-inducing. The blind set of followers in the film is what MSG wants to achieve in real life, and it does an awesome job of it. You stop feeling sorry about your own sorry self when you leave the theatre.
At the same time, Pitaji immortalizes the spirit of the new India where it is okay to work hard and party harder, flaunting what one has worked hard to achieve. He keeps calling himself “ek adna sa fakir”. And yet, every single part of his rotund frame, and every single frame featuring every single part of his rotund frame, has bling on it. Everything around him is a by-product of shiny disco balls.
His jhadoo, bicycle, motorbikes, cars, thrones, carpets, swimming pool and even the hot air balloon with which he makes one of his entries, AND his hair follicles, all shimmer and sparkle. Unashamedly. The sets are loud, ostentatious and trippy, almost as if they have been designed by a poor man's Sanjay Leela Bhansali on bad quality ganja. But this blatant display of Pitaji's ostentation is very matter of fact and contains a singular, underlying message: Don’t denounce the world, but love and celebrate it. Also, sometimes it is okay to cross-dress.
Thank you, Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan. Thank you, for taking over from where Kishan Kumar left us. Thank you, for the lowbrow magnificence. Thank you, for the gauche pomposity. Thank you, for the boisterous flamboyance. And thank you, for reaffirming my faith in high art.
Vaibhav Vishal a middlebrow creative resource attached to a film studio in Mumbai. He has worked with brands like MTV and Red FM for over a decade, but refuses to take the blame. One of the key goals in his life is to master the brooding Ajay Devgn expression. He is @ofnosurnamefame on Twitter and blogs on www.ofnosurnamefame.com. And, no, he is NOT a film critic.
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2015 18:15:45 IST