The backlast against Deepika Padukone has thrown up a paradox. On the one hand we expect our stars to look impossibly perfect, inhabit a world and lifestyle that we don’t, and, on the other, we crucify them should they not talk about ‘real issues.’
Why is it so? Are our stars easy targets? Will attacking them make for greater hits on Twitter, Facebook and the like? Or do the reasons go deeper than the obvious? All of the above questions can be answered with a ‘yes’. Stars are easy targets; and, yes, we hope to earn our five seconds of fame through the online world, by attacking them through tweets or posts. But the last question is also valid, we Indians suffer from ‘schizophrenia’ when it comes to our bold and the beautiful.
Unlike earlier days when the Rajesh Khannas and the Amitabh Bachchans lived as demigods, answerable to no one, today’s stars are held accountable for issues in a way as had never been the case. Indeed, the question against Deepika is comparable to the language we would use to a politician: “Why have you trivialised the issue of women’s safety?” Isn’t this the question we would have posed to a CM if a similar video were made by his/her government?
What does this attitude say about us as a society? Does it suggest that we have given up on our politicians? Or that we viciously want to pull our stars down to earth? Or does it simply suggest that both we and our celebrities have simply grown up?
The answer to all this will require much soul searching but one thing is clear – stars are slowly and gradually accepting their role as ‘politicians’. The omnipresent traditional media, along with new media, means this desire to shape opinion on serious issues will grow. Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate was the beginning of this trend and Deepika’s video shows that there is much more to come.
The effects of this are both pleasing and disturbing. Pleasing, because we finally have people of influence taking up the mantle to fight for issues that could sway the common man and the politician alike. The danger though is we are tending to see starspeak as the beginning and the end. Why didn’t Aamir take on the khaps?
Why didn’t Deepika address all women’s issues? In short, we want them to speak and thus solve all our problems with a magic wand. Why? So that we can deny there was a problem in the first place. In other words can remain like the proverbial ostrich, its head buried deep in the sand.
The problem is something that India – especially urban India – needs to address. Yes it’s true that across metro cities, people are coming out to protest atrocities like the Nirbhaya gang rape and other issues. But what we are forgetting is that just protests aren’t enough.
Yes, there is pressure on the government to act; yes, much debate pours forth across the television channels and print media, but there is much work to be done once the cameras turn off.
We have RTI, the courts, social welfare organisations, etcetera. India needs to use all of this, especially on not easy-to-fix issues like farmer suicides and the ban on tobacco. We cannot depend on politicians, star videos or incessant tweets to do this for us. It’s high time that we took our heads out of the sand.
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