Monday, February 9, 2009

Are we over-sensitive?

We Indians are a vey touchy lot. And we tend to take objections to seemingly innocious things in life. A bunch of barbers got up and objected to the name of the forthcoming Shah Rukh Khan film, called Billo Barber. Newspaper reports said that SRK has willingly obliged and not wanting to court any unnecessary controversy, immediately removed the 'Barber' from the movie's name. The movie will now be called 'Billoo'. Good for him or bad for him? I'm not sure. Incidentally, as per this newsreport on TOI website, apparently barbers did not have a objection with the film being called Billoo Hairdresser. But SRK said enough is enough, no hairdresser or barber for him, it's only Billoo for him from now. I am feeling sorry for SRK; just 'Billoo' doesn't work, there was something tangy about 'Billo Barber'. For SRK this may have been in the past now, but for the film industry, these sort of controversies are very much present and if they do not take steps, will soon become a very big reality tomorrow. 

These controversies keep appearing with regular frequency. The latest in this was 'Slumdog Millionaire' when some people objected to the word 'dog' in the movie's name and and demandedit be modified / removed. They felt the movie's name belittled slum dwellers. Whilst 'Slumdog' released in India under its original name, Billoo Barber compromised. I wonder what would have happened had SRK ha stuck to his guns. But the reality is that moral/culture police and various self-interest groups are running as parallel censors to the film industry. Despite Billoo Barber having passed the censor board, a group of barbers still managed to get their way. 

It appears that they found the term 'barber' offending. Let's see how genuine their complaint is. According to Webster's dictionary, a 'barber' is 'one who cuts hair and shaves or trims beards as an occupation'. A 'Hair-dresser' is 'one who cuts or arranges hair'. According to wikipedia - an online encyclopedia, a 'barber' is 'someone whose occupation is to cut any type of hair, give shaves and trim beards'. On the other hand, according to wikipedia, a 'hair-dresser is a universal term referring to someone whose occupation is to cut to style hair in order to change or maintain a person's image...this is achieved using a combination of hair colouring, haircutting and hair texture techniques...'

While there's scant difference between the actual meanings of barbers and hair-dressers as stated in the Webster's dictionary (an old school dictionary), a Wikipedia (a more modern-day dictionary) definition of a hair-dresser certainly sounds more sohistocated. This, in a way, also I think reflects the change society has made over the years. No longer is a barber only that who goes around from house to house, in villages, with an aluminium peti (suitcase) in tow, complete with paraphernalia such as an istira, blade, small napkin, etc., and who cuts your hair on your verandeh for all dry and sundry to look at whilst passing your house by. A barber today also styles hair and works in a 5-star salon. Their standards have gone up, women too have entered this field, their clientele can be as ordinary as you and me, or as high society as say SRK himself. I bet if you ask SRK who cuts his hair, he wouldn't tell you he goes to a barber. He would tell you he goes to a hair-dresser (Nalini & Yasmin, perhaps, who knows???), even though he would go to only simply have a hair-cut. There are professional courses that offer tutelage on not just hair-cutting, but how to perm, curl, colour and do what not to your hair today. This is a field that has broken barriers, much like cooking, oops, food & beverage, did years back. So after all the hoopla, if a movie comes along and takes these 'professionals' back by decades, it's natural for them to stand up and protest, right? After all, how dare can SRK call a person who cuts the hair, a barber, that too, in 2009. It's not 1939 for God's sake. He has arrived, they have arrived. It could be so demeaning, right?

WRONG. Pathetic. And very shameful. We Indians have become very touchy. And all this eight percent growth bull-shit talk has gone to our heads. When Indian director Madhur Bhadarkar makes 'Traffic Signal' showing beggar mafia we applaud and call that realistic cinema. When the gora Danny Boyle makes 'Slumdog Millionaire', we cry pots that this is how westerners think of India. Why such different reactions? Because we cannot accept the truth? We cannot take humour? Or perhaps, above all, we just love to take life too seriously. And ruin all the fun in the process? Before even seeing 'Billoo Barber' and giving it a chance, people protest. Just because the film's title has the word 'barber' in it? Will they now take their protest to UK and protest outside the doors of Oxford and Cambridge university and put pressure on them to remove the word 'barber' from their dictionaries? A term that is not even an Indian or a Hindi word, a term that came from the Latin word 'Barba' meaning 'beard'. 

I have not seen 'Billo Barber' myself as yet (the movie is yet to release), but from the posters and whatever reports on the Internet we read, the main protagonist Irfan Khan - a barber, sorry a hair-stylist, resembles more the gaon-ka-barber, rather than, say a, Taj Hotel's Luxury salon's hair-stylist (executive???). Then, why all this fuss? 

The sad part is such behavior is encouraged. Who knows today's peaceful protest might turn ugly tomorrow? I am not saying anything, I am merely passing a general comment here. Look I just feel we need to let our hair down, every once in a while. Let us enjoy the movie, and above all, let us respect somebody's freedom of speech. There are ways and means to protest. Like not watching the movie at all? how about that? Or approaching the court and let the law take its own course rather than going to film-makers independently and making unreasonable demands? 

I have nothing against barbers or hairstylists; infact I have my own favourite barber at the salon I go to. And he's the best at the job; I am sort of addicted to him. And because of how good a human being my barber is and how talented he is, I have the highest respect for him. I really, really feel sad when, at time, I go to the salon and he is absent that day and I have to settle for someone else. But silly protests, such as the latest one, pours water over their hard work and the dignity they have earned over the years. Band karo yeh tamasha, and focus on your work. We need you, we love you and we respect you and just because we call you barbers doesn't take away an ounce of respect we have for you. Too bad, you still want proof by making film-makers change names. Too much insanity around. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi friend, I saw your blog and surely agree with you. Our indian mentality is being stretched to far.
    Billu Barber is a very very nice movie. I saw it and I have written a small movie review of Billu Barber the movie with some effort. You can read it on


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