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All in the name of the ‘common man’

Last Updated: Monday, July 26, 2010 - 18:53

The war of tweets between Amitabh Bachchan and a prominent journalist has sparked a new debate and raised a few serious questions regarding media, celebrities and the entity around which purportedly these two’s lives revolve around - the Common Man:

1. Are stars going out of the way to promote their films these days?
2. Does media go overboard in celeb reporting?

Sometime back, Akshay Kumar visited the legendary cartoonist RK Laxman, who is known for his ‘Common Man’ viewpoint, at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai.

While the act itself seems harmless, it came at a time when Akki is promoting his new film 'Khatta Meetha' in which he is playing a character inspired by Laxman’s ‘Common Man’.

It all started when the journalist (a famous movie critic) tweeted, “Need innovative ideas to promote films in competitive times. But Akshay Kumar grinning like a jackass at RK Laxman's hospital bed is a new low.”

The strong use of words here against the Khiladi Kumar was not taken lightly and immediately Sr Bachchan came out in support of Akki and tweeted, “Would your fraternity have spared Akshay, if he were to address you as one ..?? Never expected this language from you !!”

Let’s ignore the words used here for a while and concentrate on what Akshay did. There was nothing innovative in it, as it shows how insensitive Bollywood stars can be when it comes to the promotion of their films.

There are photos of Akshay grinning and shabbily posing for photographs in his trademark style. He seems to be forcibly holding an extremely frail Laxman’s hand, who is literally fighting for life.

To be fair to the actor though, Akshay later claimed that it was the cartoonist’s family that had invited him in the first place. He added that he visited the cartoonist because he wanted to meet him and not to promote his film.

But this is not the first controversy of the kind.

Desperate for a hit, Shah Rukh Khan almost started a racial/communal war when he claimed he was detained at the airport because his “name was Khan”. The incident came just before his film ‘My Name is Khan’, which revolved around the subject of racial prejudice.

It is understandable that promoting a film is important and stars do promote their films either by cutting hair on streets (the perfect Aamir Khan did it), personally selling tickets, doing cameo episodes on television, appearing on reality shows etc – which is all absolutely fine, even if sometimes a little stretched. But callous acts like Akshay’s and playing with the emotions of the people in the name of religion or nation is not a healthy trend.

The second part of the issue deals with the use of word ‘jackass’ by the scribe and the general attitude of the media which seems to be surviving on celeb bytes and wardrobe malfunctions.

If we analyze the situation and go by the rules, then nothing can be done about the journalist’s comment as whatever he said was purely his personal opinion and even though the choice of words was harsh and a tad too rude, it was his take on the whole issue. He, after all, did not use his news channel to describe Akshay in the way that he chose to.

This, however, does not mean that the media is angelic. Most of the times, it is seen going beyond its duty of reporting.

There have been cases like: the obsession with Salman Khan’s marriage and the ever popular use of the words ’bad boy’ for him. The job of the media is to present facts and allow readers/viewers/listeners to make up their own mind. No one enjoys being an ape in an open cage, where passers-by are always making rude remarks.

There have been on and off reports about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan being in the family way and about why she is not getting pregnant. The whole Bachchan parivar were justifiably angry when media crossed the limits.

This tendency to target stars is of course to increase the TRPs and readership. To be fair to the media though, the fact is that the celebrities are mostly not accessible. They just surface when their movies are releasing and try to make use of the media to their own ends.

This relationship is mutually fruitful as well as harmful, to say the least. But the question is, can audiences cry foul? To put things in perspective, the very fact that TRPs of controversial news are high, indicates a demand for such content.

In the end, it’s just a vicious circle. This is how good and bad news spreads and Bollywood likes to function. The movie industry is dependent on journalists for film promotions, and news channels need stars to add dazzle to their content. And all this, of course, is for the ‘Common Man’.

First Published: Monday, July 26, 2010 - 18:53

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