Actor Sidharth Shukla’s death is a massive shock to the television industry and fans. But, the way media treated his family, friends, and their overall right to privacy, did not serve as a shock for me, personally.
We have seen it before with other major actors, sports people, politicians, etc. and it makes me question: don’t they deserve the right to privacy?
In the world of technology, the Internet, and social media, privacy seems to be a major price a lot of people pay. Figuratively, celebrities are expected to compromise their privacy when they sign up for a job that expects them to stand in front of the cameras.
Still, they are also people. They have families and friends, some of whom are not used to the paparazzi.
Recently, his funeral was held in Mumbai. His colleagues from the TV and film industry came to pay their last respects. I shook my head when a couple of them spoke to the media about Shukla’s family status.
In an angering moment, one of them mentioned how heartbroken and inconsolable Shehnaaz Gill was.
Now, Shehnaaz Gill and Sidharth Shukla developed a deep friendship during their stint on the reality show “Bigg Boss” (season 13). They earned the popular nickname “SidNaaz” on social media.
They remained close even after they came out of the house. After his death, Twitter was bombarded with concerns about Gill how his death will affect her.
Now, I made a conscious decision not to open any links or tabs that featured images from the funeral because I knew that it was in a way, a violation of their privacy.
Still, I came across this one viral video on several Twitter handles that bothered me to the extent that I decided to write this piece.
In that video, the media gathered around Gill who is in her car with a male companion. Men and women carrying microphones and cameras were heard shouting and commenting: “Shehnaaz is in the car!”, “She has reached the ground.”
They even called out to her, asking for a soundbite.
Then I saw Gill throwing her head back, against the seat, and crying inconsolably under her mask. I think she cried at that moment not because she misses him, but due to the way the media was hounding her.
Her helplessness and vulnerability can be felt at that moment.
Her male companion turned to the cameras and joined his hands. I seemed as though he requested the media to step away.
In another viral photo, she looked shocked and nervous to be around so many cameras as she stepped out. Cameras were shoved in front of her face as she tried to walk. This served as a huge déjà vu moment because we saw how Rhea Chakraborty was treated last year.
The same lack of respect and compassion, was seen with Shukla’s mother and other friends of his from the industry.
Someone’s death has become a show. The reason why the cameras are so confident about hounding the grieving ones is because people will be tuning in to watch it.
Several celebrities including Gauahar Khan, Anushka Sharma, Monika Rawal, Kiran Manral and Zakir Khan condemned this monstrous level of insensitivity displayed by major channels.
Zakir Khan took to Instagram to share a poem, when translated to English, says:
“They don’t think of you as a human being. Not because there aren’t any lines or boundaries. Your corpse is not a body without a soul, but an opportunity to click pictures. As many as they can click. It’s similar to how people try to steal crockery from houses burning in a riot. Because after that, what use will you be? At most, 10 pictures, five news pieces, three videos, two stories, one post. That’s it.”
Why can’t people celebrate a person’s life and achievements, instead of trying to find elation in their loved ones’ tears?
I don’t expect the day’s heartbreaking visuals and resulting anger to serve as a watershed moment when it comes to media, ethics, and privacy concerns.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Shukla’s death is turned into a bigger and uglier controversy, like what happened with Sushant Singh Rajput, where his near and dears ones were vilified. His private life was painfully exposed, dividing the industry itself.
His death was used as a distraction against the ongoing social issues, including the pandemic and economic repercussions. We saw how his death was used as an opportunity by many.
When Anushka Sharma slammed the paparazzi for taking pictures of herself and her husband Virat Kohli at their residence, I saw many insensitive comments online where folks “reminded” her of her status.
Plenty of women and men have had their privacy being ousted like that. The ones who raise their voice against this are vilified.
Shukla’s PR requested the media to draw a line and give his loved ones some space. That is what needs to be done. Still, nothing could stop the flock from hitting the road. Death is a trauma for the family and friends.
They need the time to heal. Facing the cameras during her grief was the lowest point for Gill.
Hopefully, there will come a time when privacy and boundaries are respected. There will come a time when someone is not denied dignity in their death… Hopefully!