By Shivansh Mishra:
Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Madhya Pradesh. There’s a ‘leading national Hindi daily’ that most of the households subscribe to, which like any other ‘national daily’, carries a ‘City Page’. This particular city page used to run a column by a Hindi film critic who would express his views in the most eloquent manner and usually be spot-on with regards to the quality, or lack of the same, in Hindi cinema. He also never said a word against the Salman Khan clan. So much so, that when Salman Khan and the self-proclaimed ‘King’ Khan allegedly went to war against each other, this esteemed and eloquent film critic, who, mind you, is pushing 65 years of age, would trounce the ‘King’ at any opportunity he got. While Salman’s films, even those like London Dreams (remember that?) and Veer (this one?) would get rave reviews. Even Salman Khan’s trysts with the judiciary would be heralded as a ‘crusade’. I was confused as to why anybody would do such a thing. Ah! Such is the bliss of naivety!
Why I just introduced you to this piece of my past is because I wanted to bring to your notice one little thing. It is not about Salman Khan, or any other celebrity. It is about us. We as a people are obsessed with these celebrities. And we do not need to look any further than the cult of Salman Khan to prove this to ourselves.
We proudly call him, along with several cronies in the media, the ‘bad boy of Bollywood’. We flock to watch his ape-like antics in movie theatres. With great gusto, we proclaim that “Bajrangi Bhaijaan ne naa, 300 crore kamaya.” And we get teary-eyed when he flaunts his pectoral muscles in a tight ‘Being Human’ tee-shirt.
We conveniently forget that he is known for his misogyny, for being violent and disrespectful to women in general, barring those belonging to his family. He wears the law on the sleeve of his ‘Being Human’ shirt and flouts it at his pleasure. His coterie is known for intimidating young artists, most recent case being that of a prominent singer. We forget that he has been, like most of the ‘filmwalas’, accused of having relations with the mafia. Yes, the same ‘goonda log’ who bomb us time and again. But who cares, right? Because “Bhai!” His clan went on to insult Shri Milkha Singh when he questioned the actor’s credentials to be appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador for the Indian contingent at the upcoming Olympics. Nobody is a saint but was this necessary?
So, why is there such an uproar over his remarks about feeling like a ‘raped woman’ after his obviously excruciating film shoot? He was simply making a comparison with regards to the physical rigour and stress that he had to undergo, right? Right? Wrong!
Just take a look at the twitter feed of Ms. Sona Mohapatra and countless others, gender no bar, who dared to voice their opinions against the star. Inundated with insults from his fans and supporters, these feeds and timelines will tell you what’s precisely wrong with us. We are the faith militants who do not simply need a reason to cross someone out anymore. We relish hero-worship and if someone dares to go against our notion of right, he/she is wrong without a doubt.
The real question that needs to be asked now is ‘What must we do?’
The answer is simpler. Take a stand. We are the ones that made Salman Khan what he is. In fact, all celebrities are the products of our labour, our investment. Why must I stand in line to watch a movie whose star is fundamentally and morally so corrupt that he has no qualms comparing his physical stress, while shooting a movie (off which he will make a billion rupees), to the agony of a raped woman? Why should I listen to media reports that claim that he admitted making a blunder as soon as he uttered these lines? And why should I follow him on social media and give importance to any charitable institution he runs when the judiciary itself has declared him a tainted man?
As I said, it is not about Salman Khan, or for that matter, anybody else like him. It is about us.
I am not imploring you to be human. You can do that by buying a branded shirt for 3000 bucks. I am imploring you to act like one.