All the money in the world cannot buy you peace. It is established.
To the fans of Sridevi, I empathise. To fans of Kangana Ranaut, I salute. And in these two eras of multi-faceted talented women of Bollywood, I see the generation gap that divides these two influential women. And thus the failure of deceased actor Sridevi – despite all of her glamour, stardom, box office hits, beauty, and money in the world – in NOT using her own celebrity voice and personal power to create social influence, over a mass of fans looking upto her. She failed to educate, to speak for, to use her star power to highlight and draw attention to any and many evils in society at large, and women in specific. Unable, and therefore, failing to contribute to the greater larger social good, and help right the wrongful evils of our society and gender. Yes, she was a great actress. But did Sridevi ever think of herself, over and above, as a worthy role model capable of influence? What a lost opportunity in creating lasting good.
BOLLYWOOD PERPETUATES CRIME IN REAL LIFE
I pondered deeply as I wrote this, and now ask you. Can you think of any celebrity who has genuinely stood up, without profit or publicity, to voice strongly against domestic violence on women, child abuse in the community, or, country at large, gave word and voice to distraught acid victims, who are silenced into shame and into the corners of their home, rape survivors who need a new lease of life, and a job to create their economic sustenance? I’m struggling. I know actors who have even raped their poor underprivileged maids!! What good then is the use of having won the world, and losing one’s own soul? What value is our adoration of celebrity who propagate abuse themselves on wife, children, maids, house helps, colleagues and mistresses. Who, we, the common man and women, help laugh them to the bank, driving their films to the box office, helping them create their own personal wealth on the backs and buck of our hard earned money, spent on every Friday releases. Do we matter to celebrity in flesh and blood, when injustice hits our homes? They can run over us on harmless footpaths, and still escape the law of the land. Kill endangered animals and lose not a hair on their heads. Salman Khan has notoriously abused all of his girlfriends, repeatedly, yet, he is The Man `with a golden heart!” Wasn’t Twinkle Khanna, wife of Akshay Kumar, quick to run down a woman comedienne, Mallika Dua, who spoke against an unfavourable sexual innuendo made by Kumar against her person?
I’m not star-struck. In fact, in my entire media career I continue to hob-nob with celebrity, interviewing or interacting with them for the media platforms I work with. Some show dignity, some are downright crass. Yet, in my professional reach out to celebrity to help support or influence attention to social causes, often it being women, children or exploitation of Nature, I have encountered rude, indifferent silence, or, their sudden non-availability for an appointment, alleged urgent trips out of the country, or, absolute non availability even by phone for an interview on said subject.
The Common Man’s issues are not common priorities for Indian Celebrity. Get it? Of course, only when it comes to endorsing gutka, gambling brands, banyan advertisements, pan masala, bedi and chaadis. Yup, make that Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Arjun Rampal, Gul Panag, Sonam Kapoor etc. Earning my brownie points is Sushmita Sen, who not only replies to her emails, but will genuinely be there in letter, spirit and person, to honor a commitment she makes for no profit, or, for a cause. Yes, we understand that hefty endorsement pay cheques are more attractive, than a dying baby who did not get blood in time to save a breath. Or, young girls who do not have access to hygienic sanitary napkins (have you seen Akshay Kumar going to town promoting Padman for a cause?! Didn’t see him earlier doing the same!!) Or, rape victims who die deaths of shame and honor killing, because, let’s get real, who really has the time to care for these downtrodden?!
Similarly, enlighten me please, what really is MARD if not a feel-good-ego-booster outfit for Farhan Akhtar, who till date has not influenced any policy, protested hardcore for any cause till its outcome, raised his voice against men who discriminate women (beyond poster competitions in urban colleges, indeed). Farhan has not stuck his head out, even in the #MeToo Bollywood debate. Yes, he did write an Open Letter in the media to Kangana asking her politely to shut up (when his buddy Hrithik came under fire). At a #MeToo conference in Mumbai, dear Farhan did not even show nerve when a journalist questioned him to come clean of sexual offenders in Bollywood, so as to protect women actors. He instead told the media to `Google’ for these offenders, as he found it “strange to take names,” at a public platform he had consented to sit on!! Blatant hypocrisy. What really then are these “influencers” hawking to us?
MEDIA PANDERS TO PRINT RUN AND NOT VALUES
In sharp contrast, I’ve also seen how the vultures in our Media houses feast on the scraps of skin, running down the very same celebrity in death, as they do in life. The hypocrisy Media exposes when they have us believe they stand for the rights of women, then troll Kangana Ranaut, Kalki Koechin, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chadha for speaking of their abuse, nepotism, unfair equality in opportunity and pay. Trolled for raising red flags against abuse of women rights in general, and, Bollywood in particular. What then of the Sridevis, Rekhas, Anushka Sharmas, Alia Bhatts of Bollywood unable to authentically, and with integrity, influence their generation to create empowered women, to stand up with them, and give their voice to unheard voices of the millions? What then is their role exactly in societ,y and in our lives? Remember when Amitabh Bachchan spoke against rape in a letter to his grand-daughters, only to know that it was a publicity stunt to promote his film Pink? The umpteen feel good celebrity bytes for television, using tragic incidences to promote their own clothing/makeup line/movie? Pay cheques that come with `endorsing’ social rights just to make them look good? Do you know that talent agencies representing celebrity have special requests from celebrity to `plug’ them at socially convenient platforms, so they can earn some brownie points in the eyes of the media and fans? Promptly followed with paid news inserts which reads,`See? I’ve contributed to a cause, therefore I’m a good person.’ I speak from experience, as I closely work with not-for-profit outfits to contribute their voice and work into mainstream media. Trust me, working in the media is quite the eye-opener in more ways than one!
BOLLYWOOD MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
I’m not a Bollywood fan, nor do I watch Bollywood movies. I’ve understood that Media and Celebrity make for strange bed fellows these days. Both feeding off each other at convenience, hawking `presstitution’ to stay relevant. How then does Media get away with the sheer new low in reportage, and utter disrespect in coverage reporting crimes against women ? Heart-breakingly, I’ve seen senior media `guardians’ haggle and bargain over inch print space, irrespective of `news worthiness,’ or, malignant information. This precisely explains the rise of`fake news,’ doesn’t it?
India Celebrity is equally guilty of grease pimping themselves for publicity. What then is the very relevance of this `for convenience’ nexus that makes donkeys of its audience, and lapdogs for assorted politicians and money launders, who buy media personalities junkets to phoren destinations, expensive watches, free clothes, free stay at five star hotels, luxury cars they otherwise cannot afford, and speed dial invites to orgies. Trust me, yes, it is the truth.
So, I don’t watch Bollywood movies. Because they don’t deserve a dime of my hard earned penny.
This article was published in GOMANTAK TIMES, March 5, 2018