Over the last few days Rahul Gandhi and Salman Khan, often mentioned as the two most eligible Indian bachelors, though in their 40s, have been in the news.

Gandhi featured in his first face-to-face one-on-one interview on TV during which he mostly looked away from Arnab Goswami, the Badshah of Indian news channels. I have watched bits of the conversation that turned systematically boring. I have no plans to update myself about the repetitive parts I missed.

Who would? I was surprised that Arnab let Rahul speak as much as he did. Usually it is Arnab who does most of the talking, like King Khan. Clearly, there was some backroom prompting and arrangements at play, with reports that Rahul’s support staff included prompters such as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

This only happens in school plays I believed, until now. Unlike the Gandhi interview, I have not watched Khan’s latest Jai Ho. Not even the promos or songs though I have checked out Daisy Shah, Salman’s latest muse. He usually likes them very young, pretty and just starting out on their career paths.

Then they find their feet in big Bollywood and move on. Katrina and Aishwarya did. During such process of separation Salman usually loses his temper at the media, some poor TV cameraman doing his job. Not when his movie flops.

I have watched many Salman films, Maine Pyar Kya, Andaz Apna Apna, No Entry, among others. His later action, comedy capers Dabangg (1 & 2), Ready, Bodyguard. Jai Ho is not doing good business by Salman standards.

Word of mouth and feedback from those who have watched the film has not been great. I don’t rely on critics ratings that can be widely off the mark. Salman can be forgiven for repeating a formula that has worked. But, diehard fans can perhaps no longer digest any more of his nonsensical abrupt shirt less cinema.

There needs to be change of script, which will likely happen. No doubt, Khan has had a tremendous run in Bollywood and will always find a place in any treatise on masala Hindi movies. I disagree with those who believe Gandhi made a fool of himself in the interview with Arnab or was being disingenuous.

The Congress party strategy has been etched over the past few years – engineer a regime of entitlements and subsidies aimed at the poor who are the biggest electoral base in India, rather than focusing on the difficult to please, high on aspiration, Arnab followers the middle classes. When Gandhi spoke to Arnab he knew the constituency wooed by the Congress would not be watching.

They do not understand English, would not have heard of Arnab, despite his frequent exhortations that his pointed queries reverberate in the mind of every Indian  — the nation wants to know. Perhaps they do, but only English speaking ones in a minority.

Congress strategy and thinking might have worked, but for Narendra Modi, who has made a habit of talking about his 56 inch chest. Busts were supposed to be selling points of female movie stars such as Sunny Leone.

Yet, Modi is trying to sell a bigger dream to the poor than the Congress – a permanent upgrade in their lives via growth and development. If he can effectively deliver this message in UP and Bihar, to add to BJP’s expected victories in northern states such as Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the party could head the government post general elections few months from now.

Many in the middle classes, especially the youth, are also willing to buy Modi’s dream, given his record in Gujarat. Congress party would have been better placed if the Gandhi’s allowed Manmohan Singh a free hand to push India’s economic reforms and crack down on corruption over the past five years. This would not have alienated India’s talking classes and youth. Would anyone have bothered about Arvind Kejriwal’s noisy Aam Admi Party?

Yet, nothing is permanent in politics and Bollywood. Salman could be back with a bang in 2014, Gandhi in 2019, by which time the duo will not be tagged “most eligible bachelors.’’ Maybe they do marry a lucky girl, with some prompting.

(Buy my book An Offbeat Story here. Read extracts here)

Advertisements