Ash, Shilpa, SRK; Stardust anyone? | india | Hindustan Times
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Ash, Shilpa, SRK; Stardust anyone?

Our collective, voracious public appetite for the goings-on of actors remains an ongoing fascination, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 11:49 IST

Actors — they should be just another facet of cultural reality — and yet our collective, voracious public appetite for their goings-on remains an ongoing fascination that is fuelled further by every successive media reportage, indeed, such as this one.

This year has brought Indians, including Indian-Americans a bonanza; three big stories have been doing the rounds lately and each one merits, for reasons right or wrong, more screen-time than 'equally relevant' poignant social issues, of which there never is dearth in a country like ours, regrettably.

By now, the TV junta's fascination with Big Brother is synonymous with its fascination with Shilpa Shetty. Let me not unwind here the arguments put forth variously, correctly by different sections of the media and zealous bloggers; suffice it to say that it is bad form for a TV channel to allow any amount of gibberish for eyeballs, but then that's their job. And then, why should a nation be up in arms over silly if snide references spewed by a bunch of mentally emaciated could-have-beens? Even Shilpa did not take that stuff to heart though she could well be laughing all her way to the bank. Oh Goody!

Shilpa stays on. And the celebrations don't end there. The second story seems to be a fairytale tapestry. Bollywood's golden couple is engaged. As if we hadn't had enough of the Ash-Abhishek razzmatazz, beginning with their flailing on-screen chemistry and flaring off-screen romance, now, we can't seem to get enough dope on the whole family affair, what with pictures of Ash's parents surfacing in some media reports.

Dud-to-dude, Abhishek is being universally acknowledged as the promising actor who will become his father's son even as a superstar…and Ash? The media's universal target who has been repudiated endlessly for her lackadaisical acting (even if the best filmmakers cast her repeatedly), gauche fashion sense (even if she upstages many of her peers at Cannes), and infamous lip-lock (even if many before her have been there, done that, including her beau, and many will do so hereafter) continues to get brickbats.

Typically, we are bombarded with trade news that catapults Guru; Abhishek's latest cinematic outing in the top rung and him as the next big thing. And typically, are comments galore on the actress' past alliances, her present discomfiture and her future, well, per se. Wah guru!

The third big story as it were, is the Shah Rukh Khan-KBC uproar. So, the star who has managed to warm into many hearts will now be entering many hearths weekly. Those who still can't get over his hamming, and there are many, will try and figure this one out too, without much success if reports are to be believed. For, SRK's Kaun Banega Crorepati promises to be quite the successor to Amitabh Bachchans'. But whose story is this really? Not Shah Rukh's, not Bacchchan's, not KBC's but the winner's, the Kelly Clarkson's. Can't we just wait to see what Prasenjit Sarkar does and then go to town with the story? Lock, stock and barrel?

The point here: Shipa's story is Channel Four's 'business', Ash-Abhi saga is strictly their business, and KBC, well, can't we let it get into business first?

It isn't as though we Indians are the only ones enamored by 'the scenes of reel life'. We need only to see the paparazzi circus surrounding major entertainers here in the West to gauge the full-on extent with which this fascination-repulsion dance plays on between stars and fans.

Reasonable it may be to expect the general public to keep their distance, but it is equally pertinent here, even if it is for positive Press, for stars to give back to society as best they can. Ah, the adoption sagas, NBA cares and such TV spots, the generic charities to Africa, routine breast cancer cure support walks, even donation galas that sparkle with designer gowns and trendy dos may raise quite a few eyebrows for being perceived as publicity stunts, but at least, they do somebody some good!  

Maybe that should be a parallel too. India is yet to battle much malaise and need one add what better way to create the right kind of buzz than by roping in public figures. Let them speak for a cause, any cause and then we can legitimately carry on writing and chatting about the stars themselves.

As such, one can only hope that they lend their names to causes that can actually benefit from their celebrity bling and raise awareness if not conscience, at the very least. Or else, the story will remain forever prosaic- real heroes are hardly spoken of and we make heroes of stars who are tired of being spoken of.