Recently when Shah Rukh Khan’s son was arrested by the NCB, the entire country erupted – some in favour of the arrest and others against. It was as if every other news had disappeared from the media and social media. Every minute of his day in jail was chronicled, glowing editorials written and interviews of anyone remotely connected to him were taken. Overnight, a celebrity had been created to be deified by the adoring fans of his father. A year or so back another actor Sushant Singh Rajput had died under mysterious circumstances, provoking global outrage and anguish. That both persons are connected through drugs is significant, but is not relevant to this post. What I am trying to drive at is the fact that glamour and celebrity status are the opiate of the masses and those who possess them are nothing short of demigods or even gods themselves!
No other country – except perhaps the neighbouring ones in the Indian subcontinent – is as celebrity-struck as India. It makes me wonder sometimes if we have nothing better to do than follow every small and big move of these celebrities? Be it sports or films, they are literally deified and worshipped. Oh yes, there are temples for actors, actresses and political figures in the country, where the sacred rituals followed for our Deities in our temples are replicated!
When a celebrity cricketer and his actress girlfriend marry, the social media and media goes into a tizzy tracking their every move and telecasting the minutest detail of their wedding/reception as if the future of the country depended on it. The first birthday of another star couple’s child sets the studios abuzz and sends the fans into paroxysms of delirium, not to speak of the media following every little change in the actress’ anatomy through her pregnancy. And when a small-time actress winks, she turns into an overnight internet celebrity!
To this list of celebrities add high-profile journos, ‘climate activists’ of all kind, and small and big politicians – and you have the sum of all ‘idols’ in the country. Bah!
Does anyone know who Subhasini Mistry is? She is one of the Padma Shri winners this year. A poor vegetable seller from West Bengal, she has built a hospital for the poor with her meagre earnings, with her children helping her in the efforts. How did she do it?
“I used to earn about five paise. Two paise was for rent, two paise was for eating and I used to save one paise.”
Read about her here.
How many channels interviewed her? How many magazines ran her story? Did she trend on Twitter? Did any of the other unknown heroes and heroines of this year’s Padma Awards merit a prime time slot? A cover story? Nah! Who wants to read about their lives? So boring!
Now, if Sachin Tendulkar donated his RS salary to the PM Relief Fund, it is prime time news. But of course! His exploits on the cricket pitch and his international fame make him worthy of that, don’t they?
This one really got my goat. What is so noble about a multi-millionaire cricketer donating his salary, which is a pittance compared to his endorsements? And especially since he reportedly just attended 22 sessions of the Upper House during his entire tenure as MP? But who cares? He is a superstar, so what he does has to be highlighted!
Clearly glamour, money and power hold the collective psyche of our youngsters and oldsters too in their thrall. Why, I remember a time when the crook Vijay Mallya was looked upon as a role model of success and good life! Incidentally, I am not too sure that he is not still one, what with his lavish lifestyle in London.
The hold these celebrities have over the minds and imagination of youngsters, especially those from the economically weaker sections of society in urban areas, has to be seen to be believed. If the middle-class students still dream of getting a professional degree and get into a high-profile job to live in comfort and luxury, these children are not willing to look beyond the glamour that they see all around them, especially on the small screen that beams these images into their homes.
They are also directly exposed to the big city life with all its glamour and glitz – in the malls, the movie halls and other places. And they begin aspiring to become part of that life.
Recently four boys of the 11th standard from one of the nearly hutment colony, who came for their Accountancy classes in our house, disappeared without notice to their teacher. Turned out they had gone to attend the funeral of Sridevi! They had their priorities all set. To hell with the exams that were fast approaching. Or perhaps they were banking upon the quota system to see them through. I asked them if they were such great fans of Sridevi, and they replied that they had gone to see the other stars who would be there for the funeral! ‘Sometimes we can get close to them too,’ they replied dreamily. Another day, when she got them talking about careers, the only course they wanted to know about was Mass Communication, specifically careers connected to TV reporting, anchoring and of course acting in serials!
Is it naivete that makes them believe that holding a mike in front of the camera is the be-all-end-all of a career choice? Or is the perceived and presumed glamour associated with that image so persuasive as to draw them irresistibly towards it?
Younger children from this section go one step further. For them show-biz is the ultimate goal in life. Ask Every other 10-year-old wants to become either an actor or model. Slightly older girls dream of becoming fashion designers to hobnob with the glamour girls and boys of show-biz. You should see their eyes sparkle with stardust as they speak animatedly. They think that all they must do is to dress well, style their hair fashionably and look pretty. After all they have the recent example of the bit actress Priya Prakash’s wink, which made her a celebrity, to give credence to their belief, don’t they?
Those who are willing to work hard at some glamourous career would say that they wanted to become a cricketer like Sachin, forgetting his years of gruelling practice before he reached the top. And of course, they haven’t heard of a P.V. Sindhu, Babita Phogat or Saina Nehwal, leave alone lesser known players from other sports.
But can we blame them entirely? Starting with easily available smartphones with their selfie cameras, they feel it is the easiest thing in the world to appear on the small screen and from there, on to the big screen. A plethora of reality shows targeting even the very young makes it all seem so easy. TV shows profile the stories of those who have made it big in the world of glamour or have made pots of money in sports. Why would anyone in their right mind want to slog at studies and try to become a scientist or an entrepreneur? Isn’t it infinitely more glamorous to become an actor/artist/cricketer/TV star?
I am oh, so tempted to shake them vigorously and make them see sense. And then I despair the very next moment, for I know that no amount of shaking is going to wipe off that dreamy look from their eyes.
Come to think of it, I am darned sight happier that they are not enamoured as much by the politicians, for in addition to the high life that they seem to lead, they also have real power – whether it is money power or muscle power. Which is why the heirs of the political dynasties of various states of the country are celebrities, never mind that all they can boast of is their privilege and entitlement. Not to speak of other small, big and very big politicians, some of whom run their empires even from behind bars!
If the children began holding them as role models, imagine their plight! They’d either be following them on their rallies and protests or turning leaders themselves, much as so many of our campus heroes and heroines who are fast gaining popularity, power and glamour. It is so easy to follow or emulate someone who rouses rabble, isn’t it? Instant celebrity status!
The celebrity status that power brings, gives these politicians the liberty to shoot their mouth off and get away with it, sometimes even getting accolades! Remember the ‘cattle-class’ remark by Shashi Tharoor? I bet most people have not only forgotten it, but are chuckling instead indulgently at his farrago vocabulary, admiring the poster boy for his highfalutin language delivered in a clipped British accent.
Makes one wonder if we have such a dearth of role models in this vast country. We do have many scientists, innovators, inventors, explorers – to emulate and follow, surely?
I am not against high-profile superstars from any field. But making them the sole idols and ideals of an entire generation, is something that sticks in my craw. Aren’t we are perpetuating the premise that it is material success coupled with glamour that is the ultimate goal to aspire for, no matter the route taken to reach the top?
Images: Homepage- NDTV Sports Sushant Singh Rajput/Sachin Tendulkar : https://indianexpress.com/ Fashion show: https://www.peepingmoon.com/ Cartoon: https://teluguone.com/ Subhasini Mistry : Be An Inspire