Versatile Wordsmith: Prasoon Joshi
FHM: If you were asked to create a TV show what would it be about?
Prasoon Joshi: As we speak, I’m in the middle of writing a big TV show. I can’t talk much about it but it should redefine the way we do television. I think television is a very powerful medium and the way the Western world has dealt with it is really great. I’ve watched tonnes of television – Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and many other series. I’m currently watching Outlander. I think we can also do amazing television here. We have fantastic stories in this country to tell.
You discover a beautiful island where you can be king. What’s the first rule you’ll put into place?
I won’t try to plant outlandish rules. I’ll take a consensus, find out about the inhabitants’ likes and dislikes, and make a rule book accordingly.
If you could be a superhero which one would you be and why?
I’d love to be Hanumanji. He’s a god but I also consider him a superhero. What I find fascinating about him is that he’s not aware of his powers all the time. As a child, he’d swallowed up the sun thinking it’s a fruit, plunging the whole world into darkness. The gods went into a tizzy and he was given a curse that he will not remember how powerful he is unless someone reminds him. Now cut to the time when the Sanjeevani booti was required to revive Lakshman. Hanumanji was feeling helpless about the situation like the others till Jambavan reminded him, ‘Do you know who you are and what you are capable of’? Then he remembered and went and got the whole mountain. I like the innocence of a character not knowing how powerful he is. It makes you live a normal life because you do not know, but you are able to perform superhuman deeds when it’s really required. There’s a sense of humility and use to it. Yet, you’re not always burdened with altruism, which you would be if you were conscious all the time of how powerful you are.
You can flip a switch that will wipe off any band or musical artist from the face of the earth. Your pick...
I won’t wipe out artists. I think they are human beings and they do evolve. But I would definitely like to wipe out some work that, in the name of creativity, has compromised people. For instance, lyrics that talk about something as sensitive as rape. I want to say to all those people who say that the artist should be free, whenever I talk about where you should draw a line, that I myself have created all kinds of work so I’m not talking through my hat. I’m all for freedom of art and expression. Having said that, whenever we talk about respect, the so-called hyper artists believe that it is kind of conservative to think of anybody else and that art should be completely done in suspension with no reference to context. I’d say that is insensitive. If intentionally or unintentionally, you have caused pain to a person or a community, you can’t say that I’m insular to that pain, that I don’t take responsibility, and I don’t care if my work had this impact. It’s not about responsibility but sensitivity. To me, sensitivity is a prerequisite of an artist. You may venture into something once and you don’t know the effect your work would have, but artists who do so repeatedly make me angry.
A song you can’t believe was a hit given the lyrics…
Being in advertising, I know the consumer very well and I do understand why people are liking a particular song. What I don’t understand is when people do criticise bad lyrics in the afternoon, but dance to it in the evening. I’d like to point out that underground work is not about being obscene. It is about a revolutionary thought that challenges the norm. If you need an underground movement to abuse your mother or insult women, it is pathetic. One song which I found particularly atrocious features in a mainstream Bollywood film. It goes like Kaddu katega to sab main batega. It is basically a rape song that talks about how we will catch hold of her on a deserted street, assault her, and share her.
Who would you really like to just punch in the face?
I do feel like it at times, I have not conquered the desire of not punching. But I’m not going to name anyone.
One recent ad that you saw that was just plain ridiculous...
A bikini-clad girl coming out of the sea to sell J K Cement.
What is your favourite expletive?
Sometimes I give in to it, but I don’t feel great abusing. I believe one should constantly work towards chiselling language. My request to anyone inclined to use bad language is to be innovative. There has to be some class and calibre to your expression. I’m against people using four-letter words to prove that they are brave. There was a poet called Chirkeen who wrote only about shit. He made an art form out of it. Be a Chirkeen at least. If you must do filth then do it in a way that one sees art there. You can take up any subject that fascinates you, but if you are really honest about it, if you are really nuanced and granular about it, you will reach an art form. I have a problem with gaalis as mostly they are targeted at the female anatomy and subconsciously project a certain psyche. If you look at the gaalis in India, they are usually about ‘I will do something to your mother or to your sister’. People may say yeh to baal ki khaal utaar raha hai (he is nit-picking) but nothing is just a gaali. It’s not about the intention, but your choice of an expletive is reflective of a culture that reeks of a certain exploitative social hierarchy. You can get angry without insulting someone or reinforcing that hierarchy. I don’t see the fun in compromising people.
If you could choose to be born in any period of history you like, what would it be?
The 1920s as shown in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. An era where artists and creative people would be at the helm and where poetry would rule. I’m specifically talking about poetry and not music. Music can comfort you, whereas poetry is there to shake your conscience. I would like to be born in a time where there is some sanctity given to poetry. Unfortunately, poetry has taken a huge backseat in our country today.
If you could come back from the dead and haunt someone, who would it be?
The many horrible people in our time today who are completely selfish, insensitive and insular
Any two people from history you would’ve liked to have known...
I would love to have known Shakespeare. Also Surpanakha. I want to know ki uski naak kati thhee ke nahi (whether her nose was cut off or not), or was it just symbolic, and if it was indeed cut off, how was she able to breathe without it.
What is something that you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?
Free falling, so you can say sky diving.