How do you solve a problem like Meera?
How do you, indeed? Meera does the rounds via SMS jokes about her English. Meera helps a damp squib sink to the bottom of the Indian box office. Meera’s alleged husband turns up demanding his house and crores back. Meera predicts she’ll be linked to Musharraf and Clinton next (you wish, M). Meera is the opposite of Humayun Saeed, says Mahesh Bhatt with tongue in cheek. And most recently, Meera interviews photographer Tapu Javeri in her very own talk show.
If, after seeing that clip, you cringed and wrote ‘Not funny,’ or ‘Not her language’ under the link on Facebook, this blog is for you. And if you hooted and laughed, read ahead anyway.
When was the last time you heard about the woman actually doing what she originally became famous for? Remember Meera the actress? No? That’s because last time you saw her she was a wannabe talk show host. As the maybe-been-to-school Meera tried to interview Javeri (of all people) in English (of all languages) one really began to wonder whether she was dropped on her head as a baby.
And before you say she was set up, let’s pause for a moment and accept that some producer hatched the plan with a few friends, laughed about it with his colleagues, and then gave Meera a call in the morning. How cruel. But only if she had been kidnapped, dragged by the hair to the studio, and shown a gun. My point is, Meera did the show willingly, in that slinky black dress with immaculate makeup and a camera in the room. She spent hours there knowing, better than us, that she didn’t know the language. You and I wouldn’t plunge ourselves headlong into a made-for-Filipino-audiences talk show in Tagalog. At least not before some solid language lessons.
The fact is, despite her shenanigans, Meera remains important. Her importance is the same as the importance of the village idiot in a, well, village. She completes the landscape. And for everyone going out on a limb to defend her by citing her ‘lacks’ (of education, background, upbringing) the moment has arrived, post-talk show clip, to just drop it. Stop feeling some elitist guilt about her ‘lacks.’ Delete that ‘Not funny’ that you wrote on Facebook, hold your stomach, throw your head back, and truly laugh for a change. There are very, very few moments that make us laugh in this country, so cherish one when it is provided.
Despite the illiteracy and tastelessness that rules the roost in what’s left of Lollywood, few of its divas make such obvious public blunders with such ridiculous regularity. Time was when Reema would roll out memorised English at award shows to sniggers from all the angrezi-medium types. But Reems has been earning our admiration (because English earns that sort of thing here) as she speaks the language nearly flawlessly, if a little formally, today. The woman has used her time and money wisely to get what she wants.
Saima, another Lollywood mainstay, once admitted in a TV interview that she had never been to school. But really, do you care when you see her light up the silver screen when you watch a Pakistani flick for a laugh and find out that you really can’t laugh at her skills? And Resham who is just too busy wowing us with her metamorphoses in TV play after TV play, and who just doesn’t have the time to worry about English or her lack of it. And their scandals? If ever they leak out, these actresses handle them in a manner that is usually informed by the knowledge that they are public figures. These same actresses, with all their ‘lacks,’ handle it better than Paris Hilton, who incidentally had access to the best education, a privileged background in the most privileged country in the world, and an upbringing by educated, if not sensible, parents as well as a host of educated nannies.
It is not Meera’s circumstances, as the Meera-bachao brigade have put forward, but a politically incorrect ‘lack of intelligence.’ And hence, everything.
This is not a rant against Meera. It is about accepting that she, like Hilton, is missing a couple of million grey cells. More importantly, this is about accepting that when her next big scandal explodes, We, the people, will watch it again in all its trashy glory. It’s also about accepting that a lot of people will laugh. She’s a celebrity for goodness sake. And celebrities who put themselves out there do so knowing that people can and do laugh. Even Meera, as she stumbles over all English in the YouTube clip, has the foresight to remark that ‘mera record lagay ga.’
Hilton, Raakhi Sawant, and Malika Sherawat. Since the world turned into a global village, around the world, pop culture’s been cultivating celebrities to fulfill the role traditionally played by the courtjester.
For all her ‘lacks,’ Meera is an adult who has had the exposure reserved for the top one percent of this country. She scores extra points on exposure, because she has actually risen from nothing. It’s not her deprivations which have made her stupid. It’s her wickedly brilliant luck and drive that have made her famous. And still the learning curve flatlines. Does she love the attention? Doesn’t Paris Hilton?
So please don’t cry for ‘poor little Meera.’ She’s not a babe in the wild, wild woods. She’s certainly not the proverbial deer in the headlights (even though she looks as pretty as one sometimes). She’s not a bechari. To think that makes us patronising and sorely lacking in humour.
She is, on the other hand, our Paris Hilton. Our Malika Sherawat. Our very own village idiot. Which brings us back to the original question, how do you solve a problem like Meera? And the answer to that is a firm: ‘You don’t.’
Shahrezad Samiuddin is a freelance writer who doesn’t think enough attention is paid to the frivolous, even though it is all around us.