Of course I had a bhel poori (a cold mixture of poori, puffed rice, potatoes, red onions, green chillis, and a spiced sweet and sour sauce) with my salty lassi (a plain yoghurt drink), then an amazing spinach and paneer cheese dosa which I had never had before (rice pancakes filled with spinach, curd cheese and some grain I couldn't identify, accompanied by coconut chutney and a vegetable sambhar). Though I couldn't finish the dosa (they kindly packed it for me to take away) I couldn't resist ordering the creamy saffron shrikhand for dessert. I don't know why I eat there so infrequently.
I went to see the movie because we knew some of the people involved in its making. And it had its interesting moments: Fictional WTO spokesmen fly all over the world delivering lightly-disguised anti-free-trade lectures on such absurd topics as recycling post-consumer waste into fast food for the developing world and spying on your oppressed workers with the help of a gold lame codpiece with a two-way TV screen.
The latter lecture is delivered to a business audience whose passive acceptance of the message is disturbing, though one wonders whether any of them were actually listening -- too bored out of their minds to pay attention. The former lecture is presented to university students who are suitably outraged but take it so seriously they fail to work out its satirical subtext -- a failure that is just as disturbing.
Much of the film is spent following the incredibly geeky Yes Men around the world as they prepare for their stunts. There is so little context, comment or analysis that the movie ultimately underwhelms. In short, it bored me. Unlike Michael Moore's documentaries, there is little here to convince those who are not anti-globalisation activists that the WTO is fundamentally flawed.
The Yes Men lost my sympathy last year when it was revealed that they were behind the cruel hoax that led to thousands of Bhopal victims of the Union Carbide disaster of 1984 believing they were to be offered a $12 billion settlement. It was a prank that went too far and had more impact on the victims of the disaster than on the perpetrators.
I agree with The Guardian's assessment of the activist hoaxers: "The stunts were not so much self-defeating as self-cancelling, leaving the corporate structure undamaged in each case".
+ Bring back the awkward squad. The circus of celebrities and cheap stunts is a bastardisation of a crucial aspect of political culture, argues The Guardian:
"Dramatic stunts and well-orchestrated media coverage have ensured that a succession of modest minority interest groups has held the public interest to ransom - the petrol-pump protests, Fathers4Justice and the pro-hunt lobby have all shown that you don't need to mobilise the support of large numbers, and that you can bin the questions of legitimacy, the careful research, or the reasoned debate once regarded as essential to advance your cause. Now, the most useful prerequisites for campaigning are a taste for extreme sports, a talent for acting or a clever conman."