The love-hate relationship between film stars and media is no big deal. The two are inseparable and are known to use each other to their advantage. But whenever one crosses the line, the other reacts by boycotting it and sometimes by attacking it.
Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone's angry riposte to a newspaper for posting a picture of her cleavage on its Twitter handle has made the entire film fraternity go overboard and slam media for resorting to cheap yellow journalism.
Frankly speaking, I don't really know if the controversy over Padukone's cleavage was timed with the release of her latest movie - Finding Fanny - but it has certainly created a buzz around the actress and the film's makers may have reasons to be happy as enough attention is being given to the film.
For a film starring someone like Deepika Padukone - a successful model and presently one of Bollywood's highest paid actresses - there is no reason to believe that its promoters would have fixed a deal with the daily to stir a controversy to ensure the success of the movie, which is not a typical Bollywood potboiler, although it's said to be making money at the Box Office.
But one can't also deny that these days filmmakers and A-list stars go to any length to promote their upcoming releases, as survival in the tinsel town has become tough due to cut throat competition and stakes are too high for everyone to take things for granted.
Coming back to the actress, she hit back at the newspaper by saying, “I am a woman, have breasts and a cleavage. You got a problem?” But Deepika should have taken the issue lightly, and asked the newspaper to focus on matters of paramount importance than her cleavage.
She chose to react and unfortunately triggered an intense debate over what is wrong and what is right, the breach of privacy by the media and the need for drawing a Lakshman Rekha for newspersons. Greater irony of the whole story is that the “cleavage episode” is now being looked from a prism of women’s respect, their dignity and their status in the society.
Though I am no referee to the debate over what is right or wrong and know that I will be ridiculed for writing this, I still wish to say that my personal opinion is that the actress should also take the blame for attending an event by not covering herself properly.
Was she not aware of her star status and the attention she will get from the lens-men who would spare no opportunity to click whenever they get a chance to do so? There is no one denying that the paparazzi today has gained notoriety world over for chasing celebrities and clicking their most intimate moments, but to some extent, the celebrities are responsible too for inviting the media to take a sneak peek into their private lives.
Many international celebrities like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Madona, Rihanna etc. have created headlines through their bizarre and often-criticised style of dressing. Celebrities attending red carpet events of the international award functions often steal the limelight from the actual winners mainly due to their outrageous and skimpy outfits. In a bid to garner more attention from their rivals, the celebs pose in highly provocative see-through dresses, thigh high and backless gowns which end just inches above their beautifully toned butts - leaving little for their fans' imagination.
In Bollywood, not just our favourite dare-to-bare hotties like Poonam Pandey, Rakhi Sawant, Yana Gupta, Sherlyn Chopra but even the A-list actor and actresses have taken great pleasure in flaunting their slender bodies. Many noted films stars, models and TV actors have appeared in raunchy photo shoots to give a boost to their declining career graphs and have even benefited from their bold acts.
And why forget, the “panty-less” brigade, which taking cue from Hollywood, set a new trend among the publicity-hungry starlets to appear in public without covering their private parts. I am yet to understand how one can forget to wear an underwear! And, when they were clicked most of them, barring a few, took it sportingly. For sure, Bollywood has matured in the recent years too as on-screen kissing scenes are no longer considered vulgar acts and there is a growing comfort among heroines in shooting intimate scenes. Even before making a debut, the heroines give statements that they are not averse to wearing bikinis.
Had Ms Padukone forgotten that as a role model for millions of young women, she has an equal responsibility to conduct herself in a dignified manner when in the public eye. Does she need to be reminded of her modelling days when she used to pose for photographers in skimpy outfits for Kingfisher calendars, which are considered a prized possession among the Indian youth?
So, is she over-reacting on an otherwise non-issue? Does she not know that the lens-men will try to capture the most saleable and explosive images whenever an opportunity comes and that's what they are paid for? Deepika, who is a hugely talented and versatile performer, has also appeared in bold avatars in many of her highly successful previous films and item songs - Sanjay Lila Bhansali's Ram Leela being one of them.
So, why has she all of a sudden become so conscious of her image now? In my view, more than the picture of her cleavage, it is the sheer lack of respect shown to her by the newspaper, which has offended her the most. To top it all, the newspaper did not even bother to tender an apology over the same and responded with a suggestion that Deepika should take it as a compliment.
What has also baffled me is the haste shown by the Bollywood bandwagon in slamming the media for resorting to cheap journalism, which otherwise stayed mum when actress Preity Zinta made serious allegations against her former boyfriend and powerful business tycoon Ness Wadia.
It was indeed shocking that no one dared to utter a single word against the Bombay Dyeing heir or supported Zinta, who was once a top star. And more recently, the film fraternity chose to stay quiet when national award winning actress Shweta Basu Prasad was arrested by Hyderabad Police on prostitution charges. No one from the film industry ridiculed the police for not revealing the identity of Prasad's high profile businessmen clients. Film makers too have exploited their leading ladies, served vulgarity and often clashed with the censor board whenever it tried to chop off objectionable scenes arguing on the basis of the script and commercial compulsions.
Media has been attacked since it is an easy target and vulnerable! Here, I am not trying to justify what the reputed newspaper did with the actress or find faults with her, but want to emphasise that the habit of jumping the gun is in our DNA and we need to change it. We need to carefully weigh the situation and the circumstances before giving our responses. Media has also crossed the line in umpteen number of cases, so the responsibility also lies with it.
For Deepika Padukone, who has the courage to take on a powerful media house and speak against something for which she feels strongly; and thus my admiration for her has only gone up. Not only Deepika Padukone, every single woman has the right to defend herself and stand up against any injustice, any ill-treatment meted out to her and she should be respected for that. And no one can snatch this right from them.