Just when we were busy patting ourselves on the back that a fatwa against a woman minister of culture could happen only on that side of the border, Richard Gere swept Shilpa Shetty off her feet in Delhi. And our version of the fatwa — gheraos and filibuster during the shooting of Metro in Navi Mumbai and indignant court cases filed by the moral police —was soon issued. It’s time once again to ask, why do our courts even allow such frivolous cases to be filed when the halls of justice are already bloated with genuinely serious cases that must be dispensed with, with speed'
As a working woman who has to handle all forms of male attention, one is sure that Richard Gere’s persistent pecking that ended with the classic R.K. banner pose could be offensive only to the lady in question. And if Shilpa Shetty didn’t mind it, was perhaps even flattered to be flattened by Gere, how does anybody else fit into this ‘pecking order’' To be fair to Shilpa, she handles that 5ft 9inch frame with a large amount of dignity and plays public celebrity with panache. It’s so Taliban-ish to be hounding her with charges of obscenity.
If that bit of moral policing made us squirm, the media circus outside Prateeksha and Jalsa (two bungalows in Juhu that have become almost as famous as their inmates) made one want to distance oneself from one’s own tribe. No, let’s not give the sycophantic spiel about the Bachchans and Rais deserving their moment of privacy. Project Wedding, as conducted by the Bachchans, didn’t rate or ask for privacy. In fact, they would’ve been mighty disappointed, and the commercial ratings of Brand Bachchan-Rai would’ve plummeted, if the roads outside their bungalows had remained deserted. So it’s not the privacy clause that I invoke but one where we need to question our own dignity. If you’re not invited to a function, if the hosts make it abundantly clear that you don’t count, they won’t even deign to officially confirm the wedding date with anybody from your tribe because, frankly guys, you suck, and we care a fig for you, shouldn’t you maintain a dignified distance from the venue instead of hanging around waiting for crumbs'
More than the print medium it was the relentless focus of the television crews that made it so déclassé. Imagine, one senior journalist from a television channel actually followed a ghodi around and gave you the scoop that Chandni (the mare) would soon be decked up because Prince Abhishek would be atop her at 5 pm. In his enthusiasm to turn Chandni into a celebrity, the reporter even went on to tell you that Hrithik Roshan had also ridden the same mare to Sussanne’s place when he got married six years ago. Give a horse laugh to that. Have we forgotten that Hrithik Roshan did not wed Sussanne in Mumbai in the first place' Those were the days when the Roshans were facing a serious threat from the underworld and so the wedding took place in Sanjay Khan’s swank ‘Golden Palms’ spa in Bangalore. Where did Chandni from Pappu Varma’s Film City stable fit into this'
As for the pathetic starlet who slashed her wrist outside Prateeksha alleging that Abhishek had reneged on his promise of marriage to her, did Boney Kapoor squirm like we did' He had reason to, since this young woman with several names chose Boney and Sridevi’s daughter Jahnvi’s name for this occasion and turned up calling herself Jahnvi Kapoor!
The headline-starved media might’ve once again gone into overdrive with the Jahnvi story which didn’t rate even five minutes of the spotlight. But knowing the Bachchans, the whole episode (apart from adding the much-needed drama to the event) would’ve left the family unfazed. After all, attention of this colour has visited the Bachchans before.
Years ago, when Amitabh Bachchan had banned the press (he didn’t speak to us for 15 long years but that was more the fault of the media than of the star), an attractive Iranian called Nelly had given a taped interview to a film monthly about her affair with the superstar and how he’d dumped her after the fun--games. AB had wanted to have the story killed but since he was not on talking terms with the press he couldn’t pick up the phone and talk to the editor. So he asked close friends like the late Amjad Khan to try and nix it. They didn’t succeed and the interview was carried by the monthly. If a story like this had to affect anyone, it was Jaya Bachchan alone and she, who had encountered more persistent threats to her marriage, didn’t turn a hair. When a more renowned name like Parveen Babi had also tried to malign him for lovin’--leavin’ her, AB had said, off the record, the lady’s sick, let’s leave her alone, and didn’t dignify her charges with a reply.
So inured is the first family of filmdom to charges of a clandestine dalliance that a Jahnvi Kapoor isn’t going to create even a ripple in the barricaded Bachchan parivar.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International