BY VINOD MIRANI
India as a country has been making definitive changes in the way it works. Drastic laws are being planned and huge protests are being launched. As it seems, some vital and long overdue changes are being put in place. There are those who approve and there are the ones who don’t.
Earlier, as it happens in most democracies, these debates and oppositions were limited to Parliament. Yes, some protests did come out in the streets, but then the reasons were often justified.
Now, all sorts of opinions, accusations and oppositions, have started coming up on the outlets of social media, especially Twitter. And most vocal on social media seem to be some film personalities. It is not as if they take a stand against all the wrongdoings that happens around us or in India in general. None of the things they opine affects them directly or indirectly. In fact, when a matter affects the film industry, or one of them personally, they have nothing to say, for or against. A recent example is that of actor Payal Rohtagi. She was arrested and put in jail for nine days because she posted something against erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. There was no protest from the social media coterie against this. Nobody raised the intolerance issue!
They are too busy worrying about national issues to spare time for fellow actors. In my column last week, I wrote about filmstars endorsing brands, and the idea was to convey that they don’t really help sell a product. Same is the case on social media. At times, it is also television where these film people get to air their views. But, television does not care to indulge smalltimers who raise issues, while the print media gives them space as and when. What happens is that, two sides take positions and that finally leads to mudslinging and name-calling.
Protesting is a way of life in a democratic country. However, this is about the film folk airing their opinions they can well avoid.
Suddenly, they become experts on just about everything that happens in the country, though what they demonstrate through their arguments is a total lack of knowledge as well as low IQ level. They always seem to be in a great hurry to react to everything that happens around them, especially what governments do. Never care to verify the details.
What has been observed from the posts of the self-styled experts on all the issues is that, their careers in filmdom are in the doldrums or are limited to an insignificant level. Only social media keeps them in the public eye — not that it amounts to much. Because, whatever little following they enjoy on Twitter never reflects on their box-office draw. Twitter following does not materialise in ticket sales at a cinema.
Talking of ‘following’ on social media, it does not actually reflect popularity. People follow to check on you, to counter you, abuse you or just as a pastime. Talking of ‘following’, can any of these create a following in real life and lead a crusade? The other day, Farhan Akhtar went and joined a protest meet at Mumbai’s August Kranti ground. Now, that is like boarding a running train, a photo-op.
Looks like Twitter has become the hotbed for venting frustrations as well as drawing attention. The print and the electronic media being what they are now, amplify the views posted on social media and takes them further to a larger audience. They plan their evening debates on Twitter posts! The problem with TV and print media is that they have slots to fill and, for that, anything goes.
There were occasions like demonetisation, GST, Article 370 and, now the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). And, soon as the Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament, the coterie got busy on Twitter. No matter what it was, no matter the details. They had to oppose it! The only place where their posts were acknowledged was on TV debates.
Major stars who matter — like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone — are among the most followed twitterati in the country from the film field. Why are none of these crusaders rated among the top? And, the most followed don’t get involved in petty social media posts. They know they can’t indulge in arguments with nonentities who seek attention. They also know there is nothing to defend from these crusaders.
However, there is one person, Kangana Ranaut, who always takes up the cudgels on social media for issues against the biggest of bosses of the film world. According to her, those who don’t react are cowards. That is not really true, every dignified and successful film personality cannot get into an argument with somebody on the basis of his or her posts on social media.
There have been a few dissenting voices from some actors like Aamir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. Not on Twitter but in public. Shah, who played a man blowing up terrorists in “A Wednesday” in 2008, thought his family was not safe in India. If you read his biography, he is not even a first-generation Indian! Then there was Aamir Khan whose wife feared for her family in India! He lost some ad-assignments as a result. Earlier, he had joined forces with social activist Medha Patkar, suggesting the blocking of Sardar Sarovar Dam. His film, “Fanaa”, and the film’s producer (YRF) paid the price, since the film could not be released in Gujarat. I’m not sure if Aamir even knew the background of the project!
Eventually, he ended up making a fool of himself. He was anchoring a TV serial, “Satyamev Jayate”, based on social issues or injustice done to a common man. May be, he expected his standing up against Sardar Sarovar would further his image as a crusader for the deprived! At times, stars use such public platforms to promote their films. At most times, such ideas backfire.
Amitabh Bachchan was among the first to take to the Internet when he started writing a blog which he still continues. Writing a blog needs content and a valid topic. Not many who do the rabble-rousing on Twitter will do so because that would need elaborating on what they want to convey. On Twitter, it is easy because there is a limit on characters one needs to use, so no need to use brains.
The irony is those who cry about democracy being in danger and complain about freedom of expression enjoy all the benefits of both — democracy as well as freedom of all kinds. Save for a few, no wonder, filmstars turned crusaders are not taken seriously. (IANS)