Fast-Fawading Through 2016’s Celebrity Moments


Fast-Fawading Through 2016’s Celebrity Moments

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

As we bid a happy goodbye to what is being tossed around as the “worst year evaaah!” we look back at the celebrities who made this year, a bit more tolerable. Except Fawad Khan, who was shown his place with some characteristic Indian intolerance. Still, Kanye West and Beyoncé dropped this year’s anthems while Priyanka Chopruh showed Jimmy Fallon who’s boss by winning a hot-wings eating contest on his show. She will soon be in Baywatch, that will make our hearts burst with pride – but there still won’t be place for a Pakistani star.

Go to Pakistan, Fawad
When Karan Johar decided to make a movie last year, he didn’t think he would be setting a precedent. He could also scarcely have imagined that he would run into any trouble. This man, upholder of familial and cultural values – what could he do wrong? Never say never. The Maharashtra Navnirman Seva threatened to stall Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s release to capitalise on the “anti-Pakistan” wave that had taken over the country after the Uri attack. Their reason was astonishingly simple: Because the film featured an actor of Pakistani origin and have you thought about how it will hurt the sentiments of the soldiers at the border? Of course you haven’t – you’ve been too busy gawking at Fawad Khan.

Khan seemed like the complete package: He started out as a (good) musician, he is a good actor, and he made thousands of women across the country swoon. In fact he’s perfect save for the fact that he was born in the wrong country. Rather than defend the actor, Karan Johar went on to release a video apology promising he would never use another Pakistani actor in his movies again. Khan was forced to go back home and soon, all Pakistani artists were banned across the board.

Bhakts were happy, the MNS was happy; this was a real victory. Everyone except those wanted an eyeful of Fawad Khan was happy. We had after all set at least two precedents we can be proud of: That politics can insert itself into the arts whenever it chooses, and that it is OK to extort filmmakers if your surname is Thackeray.

Sagar S

Priyanka Chopruh Wins Hollywood
We don’t take kindly to stars from other countries making inroads into Bollywood, but nothing makes us happier than having one of our own in Hollywood. This year, one actor crossed all hurdles to reach peak global celebrity status. Yass kween, Priyanka Chopruh who put India back on the map of the world [remember to roll your r’s] with her exceptional talent of perfecting the American accent. But that’s not the only reason she was awesome.

Priyanka Chopruh battled many odds to show the world what “hawt” really meant for Indians by winning a hot-wing eating contest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Like she literally landed from Miami that morrrrning and the firrrrst thing she did was have a hot dog at a hot dog stand on the street, ermegerd! After braving that storm, she told Jimmy how Atamic Wings, like Nuclearrr was her jam. (All Nucleya fans back home have since been tripping over “Bass Rani”.) In her own words, she’s Indian and it’s all about the spices.

No one heard Jimmy saying, he was “vindaloo” all the way and even when he asked everyone to hashtag #FallonInIndia, no fucks were given. Because back here we were all like “Yeah, you know what guys, we are in New Yorrk. Let’s do this.” We didn’t quite have the same reaction to her two-second appearance in the Baywatch trailer. We’re pinning our hopes on the movie. If that doesn’t live up to its promise, there’s always XXX.

– Prachee Narkar

Anti-social Media Star
In a year when social media has had a field day watching celebrities air their dirty laundry on Snapchat videos and Instagram comments, the most compelling personal narrative comes from a star who has never betrayed her private life in as much as an interview. Beyoncé sneaked up on an unsuspecting audience and belted out what will go down in history as the rawest, most powerful self-confessional ever drafted. In an hour-long visual album, she charts the fragile nature of monogamy and the consequences of its breakdown. It is the penultimate act of catharsis in what was clearly a very emotionally fraught journey. Of course it has a happy ending, but her point is made in the process. And through her marketing decisions.

Released exclusively on Tidal, the streaming service owned by the man who scorned her, “Lemonade” immediately became the most talked about album of the year, when most of the world didn’t even sample the songs it was made of. All aspects were analysed, written about, meme-ified. Most touchingly, it ignited a series of personal stories where people spoke about infidelity and forgiveness.

But the most powerful statement she made was on her own status as a celebrity. No other personality in the world could collaborate with Led Zeppelin, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, get the world’s biggest woman tennis player to twerk as she sings, steal the thunder from every other performer at the Superbowl in a Black Panther-inspired performance, and live to tell the tale. Yet, there she stands, a southern black woman with an opinion on everything from police brutality, feminism, and the Black Lives Matter movement on an album about a cheating husband. Decidedly anti-social media and pointedly confrontational, Beyoncé’s redefined what it means to be a celebrity with gravity in the age of smartphones and selfies.

– Nimisha Misra

Kanye’s Klairvoyance
On the year’s most snappy song, “Famous”, Kanye West rapped about how he literally fucked Taylor Swift to fame. Kanye is not the world’s best rapper, but the track is the perfect distillation of his record Life of Pablo. The up-and-down song acted as a precursor to the year Kanye would go on to have: Ask Mark Zuckerburg for $1 billion on Twitter, star in the biggest celebrity scandal of 2016, befriend Donald Trump and alter fan-artist engagement on tour.

The album, btw, was released unfinished in February at Madison Square Garden accompanied by a fashion show, 20,000 screaming fans, and celebrities from all over the world. It wasn’t even a physical release as everyone had to go home and download it from Tidal, but Kanye being Planet Earth’s foremost hype man, still got the party started.

At a time when pop acts are struggling to come to terms with the constituents of an album, Life of Pablo’s theatre of anticipation, eventually exhilarating sloppiness, and the fact that it has remained unfinished to this day ten months after its release, has forever changed the way we consume and interact with an album. The Life of Pablo experience is the perfect summation of 2016: A mostly messy affair riddled with genius here and there, all only accessible by a third-party app. We might not have been prepared for the wreckage called 2016, but Kanye saw it coming a mile ago.

– Parthshri Arora