A few weeks ago I did a post on The Great Khali, an Indian WWE wrestler, who has recently risen to stardom of a sort on American TV.
Last week he visited India, and generated a fair amount of excitement and interest from Indian fans. No one seemed to be bothered by the way the WWE exploits orientalist mythology to cast The Great Khali as the bad guy. No one seemed to mind the bowdlerization of Hinduism represented by his name, “Khali,” which is a kind of tweak on the feminine “Kali,” or the anomaly of a male wrestler naming himself after a female deity.
No one, as far as I can tell, used the words “anomaly” or “orientalism” at all.
Mostly, they just cheered on the 400 pound behemoth who eats five full chickens a day (how many calories is that?). In Himachal Pradesh, where Dalip Singh Rana is from, they honored him. In Bombay, he met with underprivileged school children. T-shirts with his face on them have been selling wildly. Even the great cricketer Sachin Tendulkar found himself taking his family to pay homage to Khali at the wrestler’s hotel room. Finally, a visit to his former employers, the Punjab police. I was surprised to learn from some of the coverage that Rana, when he left India in 2006 to join the WWE, did not quit his day job. In fact, though he is surely making much, much more money now than he ever did before, he is technically only on “sick leave” from his job as a policeman in India.
Of course, the most intriguing article on The Great Khali’s Return I’ve come across is this one, on CNN-IBN: “Is it sport? Is it fake? What is WWE?” The journalist seems to be under some confusion as to whether the fighting in WWE is real or not:
But every wrestler in the business has to be classified under two categories. He is either a babyface or “good guy” for whom the crowd cheers â€” like Hulk Hogan â€” or he’s the bad guy or a heel as per wrestling terminology â€” someone like our very own Khali â€” whom the crowd loves to hate.
And just like in the movies when a babyface is pitted against a heel, the fight is on.
But what makes pro-wrestling really interesting is that with time, the characters keep evolving â€” good guys turn bad and vice versa. Interesting storylines, heated rivalries and unexpected twists in the show keep the viewer hooked.
A character’s popularity is determined by the amount of POP â€” a wrestling term for the reaction that a wrestler gets on his entrance â€” he gets.
And no, most of the fighting is not fake. (link)
Not fake, huh. You could have fooled me.