What Happened to the Guy From ‘How Can She Slap,’ One of India’s Most Viral Memes?

A viral moment from reality TV made Ravi Bhatia famous around the world – and almost ruined his life.
Shamani Joshi
Mumbai, IN
What Happened to the Guy From ‘How Can She Slap,’ One of India’s Most Viral Memes_ (1)
Collage: VICE / Images: Screenshot from viral video on YouTube (left) and courtesy of Ravi Bhatia (right)

This is Between You and Meme, a series where we talk to people whose most awkward, embarrassing or weird moments made them go viral, and try to understand the impact of internet fame.

“Why don’t you go and fuck off then?” screamed a woman after two men told her they didn’t want to talk to her. “You go,” one of the men she was feuding with cheekily responded, almost proud of his rebellious tone… until the woman responded to it with a thumping slap. Almost instinctively, he slapped her in return, coupled with a statement full of shock and confusion that would reverberate in desi households for years to come: “How can she slap?”


This isn’t foreplay to a bad BDSM-themed porno. This is a play-by-play description of one of India’s most viral internet moments from 2009 – a meme that millions around the world now simply remember as “How can she slap?” 

The exchange was from an Indian reality show called Dadagiri: Beat The Bullies – in which contestants had to withstand hazing and verbal abuse to win a cash prize of Rs 50,000 ($685). The producers called it “the meanest game show,” and compared it to the first-day-of-college experiences many students go through. In South Asian countries, “ragging,” as bullying of juniors is called, is almost treated like an initiation ritual. While it never aired, the scene was leaked by someone who might’ve been on the sets when it occurred. Millennials would remember how watching it then was akin to watching a car crash. You couldn’t look away, you couldn’t stop it, and you wondered what the damage could be.

In this case, that damage was most felt by the recipient of the first slap, the sender of the following one, and the guy who first stuttered the notorious question: Ravi Bhatia.

“I became one of India’s most viral memes, and it almost ruined my life,” Bhatia told VICE. 

Viewers have had polarising reactions to this video over the years. While some believe that the clip glorifies violence and physical assault and probably shouldn’t exist at all, others find it a hilariously slapstick meme-worthy moment. It also sparked a debate on whether it’s wrong for a man to slap a woman, or whether this was an act of self-defence since the woman slapped the man first. Following the incendiary incident from over a decade ago, Bhatia also faced the fury of the show’s 60-member crew, who had ganged up to beat him senseless. 


Had the video gone viral even a year or two before it did, it would have probably been confined to television screens or phone Bluetooth transfers. But because it blew up in 2009, just as Indians were finding their footing on YouTube and the world of internet at large, it emerged instead as a meme that went viral all over the world.

From a dedicated space on Prague’s Lennon Art Wall to a flurry of videos that featured YouTubers outside India reacting to the horrifying clip, to a dedicated techno remix, this scene has accumulated millions of views across various internet communities. It got so huge that someone even sold T-shirts cashing in on the hype. 

But when the clip went viral 12 years ago, it made Bhatia an instantly recognisable face across India. For all the wrong reasons. 

“People would see me on the streets and start laughing or point at me and say ‘how can she slap,’” he said over the phone from his house in Mumbai. “Some people even told me I did the right thing because I ‘put the woman in her place’, which I didn’t agree with as my reaction was more of instinctual self-defence. I just didn’t know what to do because the thing people were laughing and talking about was one of the most traumatic things to have happened to me.” 


According to Bhatia, the fact that this was a leaked clip may have given viewers more of a reason to lap it up. “They even called us for the re-shoot, but by then, someone had leaked the video on YouTube,” he said. “For me, it was such a horrible thing because I was also beaten up, and my body hurt for three days after.” 

Ravi Bhatia how can she slap viral meme

For Bhatia, a struggling actor, the viral clip threatened to ruin his chances of a professional career. Photo courtesy of Ravi Bhatia

For Bhatia, then a 19-year-old struggling actor who hailed from a remote village in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the viral clip threatened to upend all dreams of an acting career. “When it first went viral, people in the film industry avoided me because it gave them this impression that I was impatient or just an angry hothead,” he said. 

But today, Bhatia has managed to establish himself as an actor in India’s television industry. 

When Bhatia was a teenager, he witnessed his alcoholic uncle stabbing his father in the back. This, he says, pushed him into a youth filled with rage and resentment. “It sparked this vengeance inside me. I vandalised my uncle’s car and set things on fire. Things got so bad that I had to leave my village before I turned 18.” 

Running away from home exposed Bhatia to the world beyond his village. It eventually led him to India’s entertainment capital of Mumbai in 2007, where he first started working at a call centre. A year later, he got a job at a snack kiosk in a movie theatre, where he developed an interest in acting. 


It’s also where he met the producer who offered to feature him in the infamous reality show. 

“I was auditioning for roles and said yes to this show because I needed the money. If I could do it over again, I would have never taken part,” he said. 

When the viral clip leaked, an outraged Bhatia first wanted to sue the makers of the television show. But he then realised he didn’t have the money to pay for a lawyer and that slapping a case on the show makers would probably be futile for him because the scene was already watched by millions around the world. On one YouTube video alone, the short scene has raked in over eight million views. 

“I was banned from most film production houses, and could only take up small-time roles as an extra on TV shows like Crime Patrol and Savdhaan India,” he said.  

In 2016, after eight years of what the actor describes as “non-stop diligence and hard work,” Bhatia got the chance to star in an international television show in Indonesia called Roro Jonggrang, where his role as the lead superhero made him popular. 

This time, for better reasons. 

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Bhatia bagged a role in Indonesia and moved to the country to start afresh in 2016. Photo courtesy of Ravi Bhatia

Today, he is starring in and producing his own film called Shukla The Tiger on a streaming platform, and is no longer known for just being a viral meme. Though that hasn’t stopped people from poking fun at him, Bhatia feels he has now learnt to laugh at his expense. 

ravi bhatia how can she slap meme

Today, Bhatia feels the painful experience has made him a better person.

“Looking back, I wish I had stayed calm and just walked away,” he said. “But the humiliation and trolling I faced made me introspect. I think it’s made me a better person.” 

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