Sridevi’s Death And Media’s Insatiable Frenzy Over Celebrities

Posted by Ranjeet Menon in Culture-Vulture
February 28, 2018

Three days ago, I started the day with the big breaking news that Sridevi had passed away. Initially, I thought it was a hoax, as such rumors are spread quite often. It was first reported that she died of a cardiac arrest but the entire narration took an abrupt turn.

Autopsy reports confirmed that she had died of ‘accidental drowning’. Since then, news channels have become propaganda machines. Nirav Modi has been buried and forgotten and they do not even seem to care what else is happening in India and the world.

Sridevi was a commercially successful actor. She started acting at an early age in south Indian movies and moved to Bollywood as her stature grew. She was popular at the time when serious actors like Shabana Azmi and Smitha Patil were doing wonders in the parallel world of art cinema, and in my opinion, Sridevi was no match to their acting abilities. She had three distinct looks across her career. The purely south Indian look she had when she started off was significantly altered to fit into the glamorous Bollywood roles she used to revel in. In her most recent avatar, her face looks drawn and haggard, a la Michael Jackson in his last times.

Movies can be categorised broadly into entertainers, ones that highlight social issues and ones that create social impact. Then there was another divide – the urban and the rural class. Movies were made either for the urban or the rural class. Each movie style had it’s own staple menu as well. Into all of this, came the movie “Dil Chahta Hai” in 2001 in which all these three categories were so skillfully interwoven by Farhan Akhtar. The after effects of the movie has not only persisted in Bollywood, but has permeated across all regional movie industries and transformed movie making as a whole in India.

Movies make revenue in millions and billions of dollars these days. People spend so much money watching movies and what do they get in return?

“Secret Superstar”, a recently released movie was made at a budget of ₹15 crore and reportedly earned ₹900 crore at the box offices across the world. No movie has ever been made with an ROI of 6,000%. It tells the story of a 15-year-old girl born into an extremely orthodox Muslim family, who aspires to be a singer. The film was interwoven exquisitely with domestic abuse. Now what is the marker of it’s unprecedented success? In China, cases reported of domestic abuse dramatically increased after the movie was released. This is how movies should connect with people and this is the essence of movie making.

I believe Sridevi was never really a part of meaningful or socially relevant movies. I felt that neither her movies nor her style of acting would have been successful at any other times. “Himmatwala”, one of her successful movies from 1983 was remade in 2013 with different actors and it was a commercial disaster. I think her face has looked gaunt and haggard in the last few years, probably because of all the chemicals she had to use to look glamorous for so many years and maybe because of her luxurious lifestyle.

There is a reason why the mainstream media is glorifying her in spite of all this. For a day, they bombarded the people’s psyche with information about cardiac arrest and hospitals because rumours abounded that she had died of a heart failure. A day later, their narration quickly switched because autopsy reports revealed that she had died of drowning. I don’t understand why they cannot wait for the facts to come out before they report incidents. People love speculations and gossips and news channels thrive on these to improve their TRPs. People are mesmerized by all the glitz and glamour of celebrities, and the media uses this to report about them to the people which satisfies everyone. The celebrities get to remain in the limelight and attract people to them so that people spend more money to watch their movies. People get to be entertained with celebrity lives and gossips. Media gets everything else. No wonder people have become media’s best commodity and their money making machine.