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Private issues, public sensation

  • Published at 07:58 pm April 16th, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:09 pm April 16th, 2017
Private issues, public sensation

Celebrities are of a different breed; they are not like most of us. When I use the word celebrity, I mean renowned people from all social spheres: Actors, musicians, sports persons etc.

Fame does strange things to humans; those under the spotlight become more conscious about what they do and where they are seen.

For instance, I can easily walk into a bar and come out without worrying about who has or hasn’t seen me. It’s my life and I have the right to choose my drink.

However, the moment a socially accomplished person is seen near the bar, eyes will roll and the tabloids may relish the idea of a salacious story: Actor X spends his evening with the bottle! In reality, that person may have gone just to meet someone at a bar or perhaps for a few drinks, but the clever use of certain words or hyperboles in the headline of a report may paint him as a drunkard or a jilted lover in search of swift solace.

Or let’s look at it from another angle: Two well-known singers, both married, are seen together at a coffee shop. They may just be having a caffeine chat but the world may want to look at it as a prelude to something raunchy. “Is it only coffee?” A headline like this may start the rumour mill.

Some may even go further: “Aaj coffee, kaal lunch, porshu ki?” (Coffee today, lunch tomorrow, tryst the day after?)

The bottom line is: A celebrity has to be careful. That’s the price of being at the heart of public adulation.

Recently, family theatrics of rather epic proportions were played out before the entire nation, both in print and broadcast media, when a well-loved film actress came out from hibernation, dropping a bomb about her being married to another male film star and having a child together.

As soon as the revelations came, social media became abuzz with activity. The male film actor, who made the blunder of slamming the wife when questioned by the media, turned into the national villain overnight. No one was interested to listen to his rationale that keeping the marriage secret was for the benefit of his acting career.

Simply put, in our society where family values still reign supreme, this deceit was deemed reprehensible.

I won’t be wrong to state that the “King” epithet enjoyed by the male actor turned to “crass” that evening when he exploded at the revelation made by his actress wife.

But conspiracy aficionados are of the opinion that this was a carefully crafted, brilliantly performed publicity stunt.

Look at it this way: Both the actors found the most prominent spot on the cover page of the top national Bengali daily with the picture of the cricket captain and the prime minister pushed to the sidelines.

Come to think of it, would these actors, no matter how famous, ever be featured on the front page of a national daily in such an eye-catching position?

Well, no other actor in Bangladesh has ever had such media treatment.

Even if we set aside the fact that the news was more of a family tribulation type, the publicity value cannot be overlooked.

By the way, what started out as a tragedy actually seems to have had a happy ending now.

A celebrity has to be careful. That’s the price of being at the heart of public adulation

So, just think about it: Mass coverage everywhere, a tear-jerking sequence in the beginning followed by the typical deus ex machina ending of the Dhaliwood plot. Let’s forget all the rancour and pose for the camera.

We are family!

But, what if there was real suffering behind this whole episode? In that case, we need to first underscore the role of the media in bringing out the tale of woe of a woman who was being forced to conceal her marriage and her baby.

The male actor, on the first day, took a belligerent stance, on which he swiftly turned around to take a conciliatory tone when his hero status was being shredded by the masses.

A celluloid king retains the throne as long as his subjects, the audience, look up to him as just that, a hero who does the right thing.

He may be delivering clichéd lines on screen and dancing in brassy outfits, but the audience loves him because he does what is morally correct.

Henceforth, the celluloid heartthrob had no other option but to quickly apologise and deliver the message that we all wanted to hear. In the end, if we look at the event, there’s no denying it, the eventual beneficiaries are the actors.

For four days they were the cynosure of attention. In a world where shelf life of news is about half a day, that’s indeed an achievement.

I bet the next movie featuring our king will be a super-hit. He needn’t worry about his marital status: The world has moved way ahead now. A fictional hero’s real life issues hardly bother the audience.

And women are rarely bothered if their favourite actor is married or not.

To end with Oscar Wilde: The only worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist working in the development sector.