Gauhar Khan shot to instant fame when her name hit Media headlines a few days ago. A little-known small-time Bollywood actor and a lesser-known fashion model, Gauhar would have liked the Media to scream out her name for bagging an Oscar or, at least a Filmfare award. Sadly for her, it was not to be. Her name hit the headlines because she had been hit earlier in the day by a faceless fan, whose status had metamorphed into that of a self-appointed guardian of morality, following the incident. The guy slapped the girl for wearing, as a Muslim, a short dress. The ugly incident left the actor shaken and the organizers and onlookers shocked. The Media wasted no time in pouncing on the issue and going to town with comments from fellow Bollywood actors and sundry women’s rights activists.
The Media went ballistic over the escapade and fretted and fumed over a social non- entity’s temerity to don the mantle of a guardian of morality and tell a darling member of the glitterati what kind of clothes she should wear. This was not admissible, it said. This kind of vigilantism could not be allowed to go on unchecked, it warned. Short of saying that the end of the world was around the corner, it bemoaned the frighteningly awful times the society had fallen in.
While practically everyone condemned the reprehensible nature of the incident and elaborated on why vigilantism was not to be tolerated, one was bemused to note that religious bigotism or a religion’s unbridled encroachment in an individual’s freedom of expression or personal liberty had not been taken up for discussion either by the Media or by the intelligentsia. It was not very amusing either to remind oneself that these same people would have come down like a ton of bricks if only the sacrilege had been committed in the name of the religion of the majority community. The religion of the minority community is, apparently, the Holy Cow beyond reproach, although nobody with the exception of pious Hindus finds anything holy or sacred about a cow!
The saving grace of the sordid story is that the sod who had enacted the sorry spectacle did not claim to represent any religious organisation or authority. Nor was he openly supported by anyone in the name of a religion. This leaves the murky waters less murky than it would otherwise have been!
From the statement of the villain of the piece that he had slapped the actor for wearing, as a ‘Muslim’, a short dress, it stands out to reason that if the actor had been a non-Muslim and worn a short dress, he would have hardly been bothered. A Rakhi Sawant or a Poonam Pandey would have fit the role nicely in a short dress. In fact, a shorter dress might have been a much better idea. For it would have accentuated and highlighted the decadence in the culture of non-Muslims; the Muslim actors would have, in that case, stood out as shining examples of self-restraint and self-respect and not stuck out like shameless cases of moral degradation! So, it was all a case of casting a good actor in a bad role! Gauhar has, therefore, no one else to blame than herself for choosing a bad role and the consequent mess she has landed in!
Gauhar must, as an actor that she is, move on undeterred and play all shades of human foibles and be prepared to win bouquets and brickbats with equal elan. While performance is the core of her projection, the packaging and presentation can’t be dismissed as a matter not worth a picayune. There must be any number of fans who love Gauhar, warts and all. There must also be any number of narrow-minded and rabid religious bigots among her fans who take upon themselves the task of trenching into a female actor’s prerogative of choosing her habiliment. Show me a garden which is not a potential hiding place for a viper and I’ll show a crowd of audience sans a madcap or a crackpot. That’s what stardom is all about. Remaining conscious of and being ever alive to the reality of competing in a world of make believe and surreality, is the price of a piece of the show business pie. You could neither afford the luxury of being carried away by the adulation of your fans nor be put down for long by the below-the-belt criticism or derision of personal lives by the peeping tom paparazzi or possessive and jealous fans. Fame fraught with flaws is the name of the game!
I personally feel it could all be a matter of overlooking the obvious and overplaying a freak incident of a silly hobbledehoy’s obsession for a starlet.
Gauhar Khan is a starlet whose claim to fame is not her stellar performances in a variety of challenging roles in Bollywood films. She is eminently known for blink-and-you-miss-her kind of roles, and cutie-pie looks. Besides, she was the winner of the much hyped TV show ‘Big Boss,’ a couple of years ago. There is nothing wrong about that either. There is a place for everyone in Bollywood and she has hers. Her diehard fans are not from the same category as a Meena Kumari’s or a Waheeda Rahman’s. They are obviously the starry-eyed kind of fans who are in love with starlets, the aspiring and struggling ones who have not reached dizzying heights and are like low-hanging fruits. They are the kind of possessive young men who frequent the shooting sets of the starlets, yearning all the time for a winsome smile or an imagined secretive and encouraging gesture or signal from their dream girl.
The misguided youth charged with assaulting the starlet is quite likely a possessive and starry-eyed fan of Gauhar’s, secretly in ‘love’ with her and could not stand the idea of sharing her charm and affection for him with multitudes of unwashed humanity. She was someone special for him and hence his joining his hand with her cheek to warn the villains not to come between them!
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