By Lata Jha:
As we all know, talk at Indian social gatherings revolves around these half a dozen topics. Food, cricket, politics, films, celebrities, but more importantly, the lives, scandals and exploits of those celebrities. So after a five minute discussion on a latest film release at a party, I wasn’t really surprised when my friend cut short my gush about the lead actor saying, “But you know he’s gay, right? My uncle’s colleague’s sister saw him make out with that other guy at a pub once”.
No, I don’t know if he’s gay. I prefer to not know. How do any of us ‘know’ anyway?
We, in India, and I suspect, pretty much around the world, consider it our birthright to discuss the private lives of public figures, and dish out opinions or judgment, regardless of how little we may know of them personally. Not that this judgment does not transcend to other ordinary non-celebrity mortals of the world as well, but celebrities seem to occupy that extra-special corner in our hearts, homes and conversations. It’s like they’ve asked for their lives to be discussed and judged. It’s outrageous when they ask for a certain amount of privacy.
Life in the public domain does not mean you submit to leading every aspect of your life for the eyes of the world. As the masses, you can judge their work, their policies, their speech, their gait, maybe even their clothes. But not their personal choices. That, if one goes by the definition of news, is of absolutely no consequence to the nation and in no way, in the interest of the public.
Why should people like Rahul Gandhi or Karan Johar answer questions about who they’re going out with? Who are you to judge whether they need to or should “come out of the closet”? How does their sexuality affect their work or how they interact with their respective audiences?Â I have no idea what people are talking about when they say they shouldn’t “hide it” and that we, as a world “can deal with it”? I’m sorry, but how is any of this your business?
Let’s not talk about rights here, skewed as the entire concept is, in our country. I mean, how was I to know your nose would come in the way when I decided to take my umbrella out, right? But do we, as sane individuals ourselves, not realize lifestyle choices are something one is entitled to? And if as the broad-minded nation we claim to be, we can accept and even appreciate trash like the Dostanas of the world, we should give people the space to be who they are in life as a whole also.
You wouldn’t want this done to yourself, would you? You probably couldn’t imagine it.
I’m no Aishwarya Rai fan. But I abhorred what the media did to her in the pre-pregnancy days. It was like she owed the nation an answer as to when, where and how she would conceive, if at all, as some people, maliciously added.
Now before you accuse me of being unfairly and irrationally biased towards what you may think, are a manipulative lot themselves, let me add that I agree celebrities and the media share a symbiotic relationship. You thrust the microphone into their faces for your TRPs, and they smile to end up winning a million hearts. But that happens with mutual consent, doesn’t it? They don’t force themselves on you on an off day, do they? They don’t come prying into your house when you’ve fought with your wife or if your kid’s been thrown out of school, do they? There’s a reason why the private is what it is.
Trust me, I don’t overlook the many attention seekers of the world. There are too many people out there only for cheap publicity. And as the media, we cater to them as well. Why else would Poonam Pandey be a name that we even know of today? I feel ridiculous myself, even admitting that I know of her existence. But yeah, she exists to make a huge enough splash on the front pages of our colourful supplements.
Why can’t we exercise a little restraint? Not just as the media, but audiences, in general. In saying no to both cheap thrills and the temptation to invade and intrude? While the former seeks attention from us, the latter ladles on our plates quite a bit of it at someone else’s expense. We have to realize we aren’t a retarded society.
At the end of the day, I think it boils down to the proverbial do to others as you’d like done to you. Give the celebrities the amount of love and joy that you expect from their work for yourself. They are entertainers and public figures and they need to answer your questions. But they aren’t accountable to you about what they do at home, neither are they here to satiate the voyeur in you.
As masses, we should stand up for these issues. The next time that relative tries making a joke out of a celebrity’s personal life, stand up and tell him you couldn’t care less if he were gay or bisexual or asexual. It matters nowhere in your scheme of things.