Social media has given people a strange kind of proximity with film stars and other celebrities. To keep in touch with their fans, stars post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram not just things about their private lives but also their half-baked opinions on social or political issue. They moan about lack of privacy when the media chases them into private parties or keeps track of their affairs and break-ups, but merrily make fools of themselves on social media. The result is invariably savage trolling because it is fun to attack a celebrity under cover of anonymity.
It’s really funny when members of the audience that flocked to see Salman Khan’s latest film, also battered him on Twitter when he tweeted against the death penalty for Yakub Memon. There were protests outside his house and all those media-gathering shenanigans. If these people are asked to congregate for a genuine cause—like saving the mangroves or preventing noise pollution—they will say they have no time. But taking a procession and shouting slogans outside a star’s house is useful work?
The question here is why we even expect leadership roles from stars, who are often clueless about what is going on in the city, leave aside country or world. Maybe it is the job of their PR managers or spokespersons to brief them or even write their comments and speeches; this the mindless consumers of starspeak probably receive as gospel.
Why are our people so star struck, that they need celebrities to help them form their opinions? The educated ones can read papers, or watch TV or scan the net to get facts on the basis of which they can draw their own conclusions for or against something. Has Bollywood made people so lazy that they can’t even think for themselves? Sometimes, a completely frivolous or trivial piece of information about a star (what was Shahid Kapoor’s bride wearing?) capture more mindspace than news that affects the way we live? Or impacts our future?
We are putting a burden of responsibility not on our elected representatives whose job it is to fight for our rights, but on actors whose job is to entertain. Occasionally, if they feel strongly about some issue they have the right to air their opinion, like everybody else – the net is a fabulously democratic space—but they need not be taken so seriously.
If they use their celebrity status to help a genuine cause, there is no harm in it, but if they goof up, they also have to be prepared for a backlash.