By Sonali Kokra May. 21, 2019
Thanks to Vivek Oberoi and his distasteful meme, plebeians like me know what it feels like to be Aishwarya Rai, if only for a few brief seconds. You know, the ex who lurks around your Facebook and Instagram profiles, passive-aggressively liking your photos from 10 years ago at 3 am? Vivek O reminds me of that guy.
It sucks to be Vivek Oberoi, right about now. Not that there was ever a good time to be him — save that brief window between Saathiya and Yuva, when he was maybe, kinda, sorta cute and vaguely relevant. You know? This was the time before our collective senses had been assaulted with the travesty that would spawn the Masti film franchise. But at least he had youth and her best friend, stupidity, to blame for his fall from grace, back then.
Come on ya, if Sanju can be baba and Sallu can be bhai after having roamed the earth for well over half a century, surely we can look the other way when a lovestruck lad of 26 leaps at the opportunity to defend the honour of his horrified lady love (who refused to even acknowledge their relationship, FYI) by calling a press conference. Oberoi, one can argue, might just have been patient zero of the naming-and-shaming epidemic we’re all in the throes of. He just didn’t have Twitter to launch his 240-character missiles from, back in the day.
And look the other way we did, mostly because said lady love swiftly dumped his sorry ass after the very public and unauthorised spectacle of her private life. I’ll admit, between munching on popcorn and tut-tutting at the vagaries of celebrity love, I felt a bit sorry for Vivek Oberoi, back in 2003.
But it’s 2019, and Oberoi is a salt-and-pepper 42. And at that age, you really, really ought to know better than to act like a bitter teen ex-boyfriend with pretty serious relationship issues. I mean, there is an outer limit on the amount of time you’re allowed to bitch about the ex who, in the process of dumping you, stomps all over your heart, and someone needs to tell Vivek that 16 years is not it. If anything, 16 years is roughly 15 years and 6 months too many for aforementioned category of grumbling to be acceptable, or tolerable. Beyond the six-month-mark, even your closest, most understanding mates will agree that whinging and whining about an ex makes you, not them, seem pathetic and pitiful. Vivek Oberoi, unfortunately, seems to have missed this very important growing-up memo: if your heart is filled with venom for your ex for putting you through the wringer and hanging you out to dry, at least have the decency to sweep your murderous thoughts under the rug of indifference in public, like the rest of us well-adjusted members of civilised society do.
Yesterday, in a grand show of maturity and age-appropriate attempt at humour, Oberoi took a swipe at Aishwarya Rai Bachchan by alluding to their fleeting relationship from 2003, while making a pretty feeble joke about opinion polls, exit polls, and election results. He also brought up Aishwarya’s troubled relationship with Salman Khan and her marriage to Abhishek Bachchan. The only thing to be learned from seeing the terrible meme is that Aishwarya, at least, wisened up with age and learned to make better romantic decisions in the 15-odd years since she stopped dating man-babies. But never mind that.
Beyond the six-month-mark, even your closest, most understanding mates will agree that whinging and whining about an ex makes you, not them, seem pathetic and pitiful.
Twitter, the National Commission for Women, and a slew of celebrities quickly took umbrage. Notices were issued (NCW). Counter memes mocking Oberoi’s more questionable life choices were unleashed (Twitterati). And furious interviews were given (Bollywood celebrities with more time than work). There must be something about Aishwarya that makes people think they need to immediately jump in the fray to do their bit to protect her threatened honour. While social media warriors battled it out on Twitter, the Rai and Bachchan families treated the “issue” with the distaste reserved for an annoying fly buzzing under the nose, desperate to make its presence known. Which is to say that they’ve (so far) collectively ignored Oberoi’s attention-seeking behaviour. Good for them.
Ultimately, though, Oberoi deleted his tweets and apologised to womankind, but not before invoking the look-I’ve-done-so-many-awesome-things-why-you-make-a-noise-about-one-stupid-tweet clause. Oberoi wants us to know that he can’t imagine being disrespectful to women, given as how he’s empowered 2000 underprivileged women in the last decade. Cool beans, bro.
It was all vastly entertaining and touchingly sentimental. After all, how often can you say same pinch to the most beautiful woman in the world, and mean it?
Thanks to Vivek Oberoi and his memorable performance as that ex, plebeians like me know what it feels like to be Aishwarya, if only for a few brief seconds. You know, the ex who lurks around your Facebook and Instagram profiles, passive-aggressively liking your photos from 10 years ago at 3 am. The ex who shows up at your book launch and lurks around the sandwich table creeping out other guests. The one whose Gmail password is still your name and your birthday his ATM pin. You know the kind I’m talking about, don’t you?
It truly sucks to be Vivek Oberoi!
Sonali Kokra is a journalist, writer, editor and media consultant from Mumbai. She writes on feminism, gender rights, sexuality, relationships, and lifestyle. In her 12-year-long career, she has written for national and international magazines, newspapers and websites. She was last seen as the lifestyle editor of NDTV, and HuffPost.com, and has published a coffee table book on Shah Rukh Khan.