It’s uncool for Tamil actor Vijay to stay silent as his fans abuse journalist | opinion | Hindustan Times
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It’s uncool for Tamil actor Vijay to stay silent as his fans abuse journalist

The responsibility of the celebrities is tremendous. Unless they denounce, in unequivocal terms, the trolling by their fans, their silence would be seen as condoning the unacceptable

opinion Updated: Aug 09, 2017 15:15 IST
Sonal Kalra
One key person has stayed silent on the ugly matter. Vijay, the star in question
One key person has stayed silent on the ugly matter. Vijay, the star in question

With big stardom comes big responsibility. A fact clearly lost on Tamil actor Vijay, whose fans have abused and trolled a woman journalist, Dhanya Rajendran, for four days now. Rajendran’s crime, in their eyes, was worse than the worst when she tweeted that she disliked the recently released Bollywood flick, Jab Harry Met Sejal, even more than she hated Vijay’s seven–year-old film, Sura.

All hell broke loose as more than 30,000 abusive tweets, a hashtag #PublicityBeepDhanya (that turned out to have been organised by the star’s fan club), and threats, including those of rape, came the journo’s way. She made several formal complaints to Twitter and the hashtag was eventually taken down. But the abuse continues. Amid the reality that fans of cinema stars, especially those who rule the filmdom in the south, have always been overly sensitive and aggressive in defending their demi-gods, comes the not-so-shocking realisation that one key person has stayed silent on the ugly matter. Vijay, the star in question.

In this day and age when stars are given to exploiting social media to the hilt while promoting themselves or their films, turning mute when something so inappropriate is engineered in their name is unacceptable to say the least. It is no secret that film stars, especially those who claim to have chosen to stay away from Twitter, operate their PR machinery through ‘official fan clubs’, with the latter posting press releases, personal photographs, and material that simply can’t be accessible to a fan group in the absence of the star’s approval. And even if one were to believe that the hysteria caused by a tweet merely critical of a film is organic and driven on impulse by the devoted fans, the onus lies all the more on the star to send out the right signals by asking the protesting fans to stop trolling.

Although Bollywood can’t claim a higher moral ground on most counts, including keeping trolls in check, the stars of Hindi cinema seem to have displayed some semblance of responsibility by speaking up against online trolling, on occasions. Case in point, Shah Rukh Khan tweeting “On social media you do/say what you feel, free expression blah blah, but will request my people not to deride or abuse other films & colleagues. Not cool (sic),” when his fans had an ugly run-in with fellow actor Salman Khan’s fans. Salman, too, had earlier tweeted “Fan who is on a false identity using it to put another actor, friend, colleague down, is no fan of mine, don’t like… (sic).”

However, Salman, whose social media followers claim to be unconditional devotees of ‘Bhai’, was silent when his fans viciously trolled singer Sona Mohapatra, after she called him ‘a 50-year-old baby’ on Twitter.

This, and the nightmare now being faced by Rajendran, go to prove the vicious side of trolling when the victim happens to be a woman. Threats of rape, acid attack, and character assassination have become convenient tools of the rabid fans on social media. In this context, the responsibility of the celebrities concerned is tremendous. Unless they denounce, in unequivocal terms, the trolling by their fans, their silence would be seen as condoning the unacceptable.

It’s time Vijay, the hero, spoke up.

@sonalkalra