'Unreal Elections' : An unnaturally incisive view of the 2014 polls (Book Review)
Posted on Apr 19 2014 | IANS
By Vikas Datta, Book: "Unreal Elections"; Authors: C.S. Krishna and Karthik Laxman; Publisher: Penguin India; Pages: 298; Price: Rs.250.
It is the season of elections - and of political exposes. But it is not only a candid view of the party influences on the head of a government or of coal allocations that has emerged but also a no-holds-barred account of the nearly unbelievable functioning of Indian politicians and parties - powerful stuff that will leave you reeling.
Here you can find how Narendra Modi emerged as the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial hopeful and who his heroes actually are and how Rahul Gandhi has played a stellar role in Indian politics since the 1970s.
You will also find what ensues when the Left (again) tries to cobble up a Third Front, why Arvind Kejriwal is forced to keep wearing winterwear as the weather hots up, why Mamata Banerjee cannot abide fast food, specially with mayonnaise, what Amit Shah accomplished on his appearance on "Koffee With Karan" and who the masked, Batman-like vigilante at the very pinnacle of power really is... And all in a manner that will leave you breathless - with waves of irresistible and uncontrollable laughter.
"Unreal Elections" is the brainchild of the unlikely pair of engineers-cum-MBAs-turned-superlatively and subversively funny bloggers, C.S. Krishna and Karthik Laxman, who run "The UnRealTimes.com'.
The duo can be pretty merciless on the proclivities and aspirations of our political leaders - or for that matter, various other facets of Indian society, as they draw in KBC-type game shows, IPL-like spectacles - with the cricket-inspired scheme of chapters - and parodies of all-known TV personalities to deliver the ultimate send-up of Indian politics as well as mass pop culture.
Political satire is not a development new to the subcontinent's ethos. Hari Shankar Parsai and Manohar Shyam Joshi, whose "Netaji Kahin" was also adapted to the small screen as "Kakkaji Kahin" are well-known, while authors like Namita Gokhale and Anuja Chauhan have also brushed by in "Priya: In Incredible Indyaa" and "The Battle for Bittora" respectively.
Also, there have been some TV shows using puppets or caricatures of various leaders but it is across the border in Pakistan that televised political satire has reached its acme - courtesy shows like "Hasb-e-Haal", "Hum Sab Umeed Se Hai" and the incomparable "Khabar Naak", which goes to heights rarely thought possible.
Hosted by columnist Aftaab Iqbal, its sees the gifted Mir Mohammad Ali make uncanny realistic - but comic - portrayals of leaders like Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, Asaf Ali Zardari, Imran Khan, Pervez Musharraf, Rehman Malik and even Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Adding to the mayhem are a pack of comedians like Hakimjee and Jedha Driver (before they disappeared) and Honey and Salim Albela with their irreverent, ego-busting comments.
It is this tradition that Krishna and Laxman carry on sportingly. But satire has a dark aftertaste. Once the laughter subsides, there is the troubling thought - exaggerated undoubtedly, but how close to reality is the depiction?
(19.04.2014 - Vikas Datta is a senior assistant editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)