It was this tweet from Amitabh Bachchan aka God in Bollywood which first caught my attention “…And Oprah in sari .. looking lovely !!” Of course I promptly retweeted it first, then paused to check out the veracity of picture.
It really was her. The goddess of chat-shows looking slightly uncomfortable in her new designer Indian clothes no less. First Lady Gaga (who on the other h and wore the sari as if it had been made for her), now Oprah welcomed warmly into the bosom of Bollywood. What was the world coming to?
Here she was rushing to the home of Bollywood star Bachchan to bless his new born grandchild, being driven to a socialite’s Bollywood party, then walking through the slums near her hotel, gushing about the famous Indian tolerance credo.
And you could count on the Bombay politicians stepping in on cue, in the hope of some of the limelight rubbing off on them….what with a call from the socialite’s neighbour (who just happened to be a local legislator of course) complaining to the police about loud music being played after 10pm, and the cops stepping in to fine the organizer not once but thrice the same night!
Then in true Bollywood melodrama style, Oprah herself added to the fray with her personal bodyguards getting into a scuffle with the over-enthusiastic Indian press.
In India to film an episode of her new series, Oprah’s Next Chapter, she is expected to film at the Taj Mahal and interview that most famous of self-help guru’s Deepak Chopra.
The sentiment of the moment could perhaps be neatly summarised by this tongue in cheek tweet from Desijourno “Me: Did you hug Oprah last night? X: Yes. Me: How was it? X: It was like hugging the Amma of Hollywood.” (get it?)
As I spoke to my husband in Bombay attending the Jaipur literary festival where Oprah put in an appearance, he confirmed the news reports. Crowds whipped into a frenzy by the media exposure of her trip raised noise decibels to screaming levels welcoming her on stage as she was interviewed, jostling to be let in when the security guards shut the entrance gates.
All of this confounded me. While Oprah seems to be genuine in ‘getting India’ and making all the right noises, commenting accurately on the paradox of the chaos and the calm living side by side in the country , still I could not get rid of the cynicism which bubbled up everytime I viewed her progress across the country.
Wasn’t she just climbing onto the India/ Bollywood bandwagon to further her show? Perhaps she was going to interview Deepak Chopra on how meditation could help star couples get over the pain of their notoriously short marriages? Or it was simply to draw attention to her confidence in Barack Obama’s re-election in the upcoming elections. Somehow she just did not seem to belong in India and is largely irrelevant to most of the country.