The July issues of two film glossies had Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif on the cover. Both had solos of the two merged together since neither had got the two stars to pose together. Both also had desk pieces passed off as cover stories, that is, without an interview with Salman Khan or Katrina Kaif. But there ended the similarity. While one cover story said that Salman had verbally abused Katrina and reduced her to tears, thereby starting a cold war between them, the other magazine claimed that Salman Khan was battling for his life with Katrina staunchly by his side. So, according to one story, they were not on talking terms; the other said they were comrades-in-arms facing a serious crisis together. Which one would you like to believe?
That’s how little credibility most “inside” stories carry today. With the competition hotting up, the desperation to catch eyeballs is having a direct impact on the believability of a report. Recently, when Salman Khan decided to tread the Aamir Khan path and go after a cause like offering full support to Sarabjit Singh who languishes in a Pak jail, he got all the attention that any move of his garners today. Several television channel reporters landed up even at my doorstep for a byte on why Salman was chasing a cause today. But by the time one could explain that the Khans were finally growing up and yearning to be taken seriously as socially conscious citizens who go beyond nautanki and brawls, the spy story had taken a twist.
The very next day, the same news channels wanted a byte on whether Salman Khan’s support to Sarabjit Singh was part of a well-drawn promotional campaign for his next film Ek Tha Tiger in which he plays a RAW agent. Once again, by the time one could tell the cameras that this was far-fetched and that, contrarily, all these years, we’d been pulling up Salman for being impulsive and operating without giving consequences a deep thought, the focus had shifted. Before one could drive home the point that conniving and plotting was just not the impulsive Salman we’d known for years, the channels were stationed outside Bandra police station in large numbers because a driver employed by the Khan family had mowed down a destitute old woman.
And so, Sarabjit Singh’s travails were dumped as last season and the Khan family driver took the alleged Indian spy’s place in the headlines.
We often charge celebrities with espousing a cause for temporary headlines. It’s a charge that Aamir Khan too faces today. Fair enough. But aren’t we all equally fickle in the manner we pick up the scent of a story and get sidetracked before we reach the end of a trail?
To return to an earlier point, Aamir Khan’s television crusade Satyamev Jayate is a sure sign that the Khans are finally growing up. After reaching a stage where they have an abundance of fame and fortune and can command any fancy fee they desire for an appearance in public, they do seem to have come to the point where, instead of ennui, they seek a mature social status beyond that of an actor.
When a TV channel wanted a byte on Aamir and charged that he was not genuinely interested in any cause but was merely building an image for himself perhaps to go into public life at a later stage, my reaction was — does it really matter what motivates his programme or how fat his fee per episode works out to? If Aamir uses his celebrity status to create awareness (for example, generic medicines are actually being discussed today as a viable alternative), I’d rather accept his substantial contribution than doubt his integrity. After all, it would have been so much easier for Aamir to pocket an equally fat fee and do a mass appealing but senseless show like Bigg Boss or Dus Ka Dum. But Aamir is a risk taker in the films he makes and the same streak of adventure is seen in Satyamev Jayate which does not fall into popular, easy viewing.
Talking of substantial alternatives, Tabu who has exiled herself to rare cinema, will be seen this November in Life Of Pi, the Booker Prize bestseller that Ang Lee has turned into a film. “I read the book ages ago, much before the film was offered to me,” said Tabu while she waited in the foyer for her car after Esha Deol’s wedding reception. She plays Pi’s mother in the film.
A complete Hema Malini admirer who closely watched Esha’s mom play cheerful host single-handedly, Tabu had a major regret that evening. She rued that she hadn’t taken a picture of herself with Hema Malini “for my BB status today!”
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal