I had a whole back and forth in my head about whether or not to talk about this story, but then Rishi came out with a statement, so now it feels like fair game.
First, a story! I went down to the Indian neighborhood near me a couple days ago to see if Dishoom was out yet, and I was walking along between movie store A and movie store B, when this little old woman in a Salwar came speeding across the street, glaring at all cars that dared to confront her, including some poor guy in an SUV who ended up frozen halfway across the intersection because she dived right in front of him. And then she dived into a storefront a few doors down, so naturally when I came closer I had to take a look and see what was so urgent. It was a Ganpati statue! One of the jewelry stores had installed one, and made it open to the public, there were shoes all over the sidewalk out front and some people sitting along the wall inside.
Why am I telling this story? Well, that similar attitude of “get out of my way I don’t care who you are!” related to Ganesh comes up in this story about Rishi and the other Kapoors! And I feel like there is some really clever and wise thing I could say here about how Ganesh is the god of removing obstacles, but I can’t quite come up with it.
Right, the “news” story! The Kapoors always have a really big Ganpati at the RK studios, and then of course they have to take it down to be immersed. And of course there is a massive crowd, because there always is. And this year, some enterprising person managed to take a video of the Kapoors forcing their way through the crowd, and the media surrounding them, including Randhir slapping someone and Rishi gesturing as though to slap as they tried to get out of a media scrum.
This is not the kind of story I usually like, because it’s more about trying to get people to choose sides (“Are the Kapoors out of control or are the media?!?!?!?! Click here to read more!”) than actually thinking things through in a productive manner. But now Rishi has given an interview giving some background, and with that additional perspective, now I am interested:
“Because Ranbir was also there everybody got so excited. I don’t blame them, but they misbehaved with me. If I have indeed slapped them why don’t you show the clip of me slapping? I was behaving like the Mumbai police, trying to monitor the situation. They have misinterpreted it that I misbehaved with the media! You come because you know we are important and you are giving me bull** saying that I have hit you?”
“I feel it is very unfair, what the news channels have shared everywhere. First of all we have no PR. We never invite anybody. You yourself come to my Ganpati. However, we give ample time to the press to do all what you have to do, in front of the Ganpati murthy. We do this Ganpati not for publicity but have been doing it for the past 64 years. My grandfather started this tradition. There have always been thousands and thousands of people coming to see this Ganpati of RK. They came to see Ganpati, not us. Over 64 years they have been coming to see the immersion. When the Ganpati leaves RK studio, everybody is excited.”
“However, this evening there was heavy rainfall. There were so many people and so much media. We have not called them…. It is impossible when there is so much rain and public (to not lose your temper). When we are respecting God, these small time journalists poke the damn camera on your face.”
And the same report (in The Indian Express), also gave some background on what exactly happened and how it happened. Randhir, Ranbir, and Rishi got out of the car to walk a few kilometers with Ganesh. The crowd immediately swarmed, both media and public, and they had to fight their way through. And then Ranbir grabbed some cymbals and started playing, and “all hell broke loose”. And in the middle of all this, a media person approached them asking for a sound byte and Randhir shoved/slapped him, and then Rishi started gesturing with the back of his hand and shoving through the crowd as well.
So, what I find interesting about this is how the public and personal and family all get mixed together in this story. Rishi is arguing that this was a private family moment, the media was interfering, and they had a right to defend themselves however they wanted. Further, if you look at how he describes it, there is a sense of a father defending his son, Ranbir was the one being swarmed and attacked most of all, he couldn’t defend himself, it was up to Rishi to step in. And Randhir, the oldest of them all, is the one being given the majority of the responsibility, he is the one that everyone agrees actually slapped someone, and made the first aggressive move. If this was just a regular father, son, and older uncle trying to make their way through the crowd, you would expect it to play out like this, right? With the father and uncle being the aggressors and trying to protect the son?
And then there’s the personal argument, that the media has no right to interfere with a religious event. But, is it personal? This all started at RK studios, which has had a public Ganpati on display, just like that jewelry store in my neighborhood. They invite the media to visit it, along with friends and other celebrities. It isn’t exactly hidden away in their living room. And this walk wasn’t through their living room either, it was right in the middle of a massive crowd, and they chose to come out and greet the crowd. And really, Ranbir must have known when he started playing the cymbals and acting out that it would get everyone riled up.
And it’s the Kapoors. Do they even have a line between private and public anymore? Can anyone remember a time when the family tradition wasn’t to host religious events at the studio? Can they remember a time when a family outing wasn’t also a photo/business opportunity?
I think that’s where it lands on the “they’re both right!” side of things. The Indian Express also published an “open letter” from one of their journalists pointing out that the Kapoors themselves seem to be inviting this kind of attention, by joining the crowd, by playing to the cameras a little. And now they are complaining about it? I can see his point, if the Kapoors don’t want media attention, than don’t step out of your car, you should have known what would happen.
But then, I can also see Rishi’s point. If the media attention is just part of their life now, than can you blame them for trying to control it the only way they can? It’s not like they can go back in time 60 years and stop Raj Kapoor from setting up a public Ganpati celebration. At this point, they can only deal with the here and now in which cameras are being shoved in their faces and the only recourse is to shove back.