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Dec 23, 2022

A Glaring Omission in Empire's List of '50 Greatest Actors of All Time'

From the Vishwaguru Archives: The Saheb Projection Group has failed to see that our Saheb is a historic figure in the annals of public stage and popular entertainment. Thus, an authoritative list has been published without his name in it.
'What is worse, that Shahrukh Khan figures in the list is like rubbing a kilo of Baba Ramdev’s shuddh organic salt in Saheb’s wound. Simply unacceptable.' Photos: Reuters and PTI

This is a work of fiction. Although it may appear closer to reality than fiction.

The Saheb Projection Group (SPG) was seething with frustration and incomprehension. The Big Saheb was reported to be very, very angry and the SPG was being given a tongue-lashing. Though this was not the first time the Saheb Projection Group has been ticked off for taking its eye off the ball, it has, nonetheless, strived hard, 24×7, to give satisfaction to its most demanding boss – whose appetite for “image” remains insatiable. 

The latest salvo was a bit too much, and the group has been berated, virtually roughed up, for not seeing to it that Saheb figured in the prestigious Empire List of 50 Greatest Actors of All Time. The magazine, Empire, is highly respected as an authoritative movie publication.

What is worse, that Shahrukh Khan figures in the list is like rubbing a kilo of Baba Ramdev’s shuddh organic salt in Saheb’s wound. Simply unacceptable. 

The SPG was summoned to the presence of Saheb’s consigliere. He was just not prepared to consider that the Empire list was about film actors, not about public or political leaders. The consigliere gave a mouthful to the assembled worthies:

“Our Saheb is a historic figure in the annals of public stage and popular entertainment. What is a political arena? It is nothing but a stage for a great leader to perform. At the end of the day, a leader is nothing but an actor who can communicate with a much bigger audience, well beyond the theater-hall. 

“And, our Saheb, is the first, the very first leader – and I want to you all to understand this clearly – in the history of 2,000 years of organised political society – who has put himself out to learn the art of acting. 

“Unlike these arrogant Nehrus and Gandhis who think that just because they are born in a certain family they get endowed with acting ability – such aristocratic conceit – our Saheb has submitted himself to the spirit of democratic humbleness. He worked hard to learn the rules of entire stagecraft. How to talk to the camera, how to strike a chord with the audience beyond the camera. Like a true professional, he is always, always, on stage. Performing, gesturing, gesticulating, always in control of his body language.

“So, gentlemen, I do not want to hear anyone suggest that our Saheb was not entitled to be considered in this list of the Greatest Actors of All Time.

“And, do I need to remind you that the list got compiled by some kind of online voting? You people were sleeping at the wheel. Here we have the all the technical savvy and knowledge and know-how on how to influence opinion-polls, manipulate headlines, and if necessary ‘correct’ a few results here and there; and, you guys are telling me that we could not get into the Empire game?”

The SPG stood properly chastised. But one member did dare to point out our embassies and high commissions were not pulling their weight behind this Projecting the Ultimate Leader Project, or PULP.

“In this case, those Foreign Service guys posted in London could have alerted us that something like the Empire list was coming out. After all, we come from provincial backgrounds and are focused on the domestic audience, relatively unaware of the uses these foreign platforms can be put to. If we had an inkling of such a poll in advance, we could have ensured that Saheb got the highest vote. After all, we are not without our assets in London and other European markets.” 

The consigliere was not buying any of these explanations. With his trade-mark smirk of confidence, he told the SPG that he has taken the matter in his own hands. Corporate friends from Ahmedabad have been asked to open a line to Empire magazine and its publishing house.

“Everything is for sale in London, just as it is in India. As a global power we should flex our muscle outside the country. This implied insult to our Saheb will not go unnoticed.”

Atmanirbhar is the pen-name of an aspiring satirist, who irregularly contributes a column, From the Vishwavguru Archives, and believes that ridicule and humour are central to freedom to speech and expression.

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