Friday, 4 April 2014

Marx(Groucho) and The Indian Elections

In 1933 , when Hollywood no longer wished to gaze for long at the Great Depression at home or the rise of murderous and conniving totalitarian Right and Left wing leaders elsewhere ,the Marx brothers led by Groucho , created the  unforgettable, Duck Soup .  A similar silly season is upon us ! Like hypnotized rabbits we watched Delhi’s newly sworn in Chief Minister stageing a Dharna against the Union Government and declaring himself an anarchist, followed by another Chief Minister thumping his chest and saying it takes a 56 inch chest to create the wonder that his state is today . Then another Chief Minister’s father ( an ex Chief Minister himself) spoke up on the cardio thoracic enlargement , and said well , in his area such assertion of manhood was common among wrestlers not Chief Ministers ! Last but not the least was a quotable quote from a Chief Minister from a macho northern state who mocked his female bete noir by saying she was a Shadi ki Ghodi ( a filly decked up at a wedding) while he himself was a veteran war horse ! 

It was natural that at this point that one’s fancy should turn to the Utube . Here is where we rediscover the  Duck Soup . This great movie , banned by Benito Mussolini in Italy, plays out in the mythical land of Freedonia . Its brave and great leader (played by Groucho Marx) is constantly being challenged by the evil Ambassador Trentino, from the neighbouring land of Sylvania . This is the dialogue that follows when during their mad sparring , the Ambassador tries to mollify Groucho by offering a truce :

Groucho : It was silly of me to lose my temper on account of that little thing you called me .

Trentino: ..Why what did I call you ?

Groucho : Gosh , I don’t remember .

Trentino : Do you mean it was worm ?

Groucho : No…

Trentino : I know , Swine !

Groucho : No , it was a seven letter word .

Trentino: yes , Upstart !

Groucho: That’s it , upstart ! ( leaps up and slaps the ambassador with a glove).

Trentino: This man is impossible ! Its an outrage . My course is clear . This means war you runt !

Groucho : I still like Upstart the best . …


Internally within Party Headquarters sharp tongued  Party spokespersons, like the Jallikattu bulls must create panic and fear in public . Their few smart oneliners will go viral no sooner than uttered . Drunk on much thumping of male chests and ululations , the Great Leader’s mug shots are being used all over to create masks for his followers , and his varying head gear and beard have become their style statements as well. In this uniquely Indian version of Sylvania, past fuses with the present and the loquacious Leader is happy to mouth lines being created by hired gag writers, so long as the fabled ‘youth’ in the audience boom their approval and plump middle class matrons stare at him with more than hope in their eyes . Should the audiences threaten to pse too many unanswerables , Groucho comes in handy : ‘ those are my principles and if you don’t like them , well I have others .’


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