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Sushant-Parineeti remark row: Are celebs meant to know it all, on every topic?

Actors Sushant Singh Rajput and Parineeti Chopra refused to comment on the Kulbhushan Jhadav case. Is it fair to expect public figures to have a view on all burning topics? We find out.

bollywood Updated: May 14, 2017 11:32 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Hindustan Times
Sushant Singh Rajput,Parineeti Chopra,Kulbhushan Jhadav
At a promotional event for his film, actor Sushant Singh Rajput asked why it’s important for an actor to know about every issue. (Hindustan Times)

Actors Sushant Singh Rajput and Parineeti Chopra were recently asked to comment on the case of Indian national Kulbhushan Jhadav, on death row in Pakistan. The case has become a major bilateral issue. The actors refused to comment, saying they weren’t in a position to talk about it. Their refusal spiralled into a debate over why film actors should even be asked to comment on current affairs when they’re promoting their films.

“We can’t be opinionated about everything under the sun. That’s like expecting us to have a parallel job of an opinionator,” says actor Taapsee Pannu. “Half knowledge is very harmful and as a celebrity, we should be very responsible in terms of what we say.”

On Jadhav, Parineeti’s reply was, “I’m the least important and least worthy [person] to comment on this. Our government is on it and I don’t think my opinion matters. Just because our voice reaches the whole country, one can’t force me to have an opinion on something that doesn’t concern me .”

Sushant made a point on the larger issue of celebs being randomly asked questions about current affairs, saying, “One can condemn or not, if one knows the issue inside out. Why is it important for a public figure to know [about] every issue?”

In the past, too, there were incidents when celebrities dodged or refused to give an opinion on sensitive issues such as terrorism, rape or a historic judgment.

At a promotional event for her film, Parineeti Chopra said that one can’t force her to have an opinion on something that doesn’t concern her. ( Hindustan Times )

Actor Ali Fazal points out that it’s unfair to blindside public figures with issues that they might not know much about or be qualified enough to comment on. “A case as sensitive as Kulbhushan Jhadav — it involves a person’s life, and we have to be more caring. I agree as public figures, we’re expected to have and share an opinion, but it doesn’t mean we must have an opinion on anything we’re asked. At times, actors comment on things without thinking of the consequences and then they [Bollywood actors] are labelled ‘dumb people’, which isn’t true.”

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt says that celebrities are used to add some sheen to news products and their silence is also a response. “But since you can’t market their silence, they’re coerced into saying something. I feel that one has the right to speak, and one also has the right to be silent. But a ‘no comment’ response is bad business in this ‘sound-bite’ age,” he quips, adding, “Why does it hurt our vanity to say, ‘I don’t know’? In any case, what do you truly know? You merely echo what you’ve heard or read.”

In such situation, is it better to stay quiet? Actor Nimrat Kaur says it’s wise not to give out half-baked information. “As a public figure,” she says, “it’s our responsibility to express [our views] in a balanced way whenever we’re vocal or are asked about an issue. And if we don’t know about something, why open up our mouth? Also, why isolate public figures and put them under the spotlight for being a know-it-all on everything? ”

Some celebrities blame their “lack of information” on their hectic lifestyles. “Most of the times, we’re travelling, we’re in different time zones and continents. It’s a bit unfair to expect us to know everything that’s going on,” says actor Richa Chadha “I’d like to take the time to become informed on an issue before reacting to it, because we live in a world that now lives on reactions — whether it’s on Twitter or the real world. I’ve even been quizzed about the budget before the budget actually came out.”

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First Published: Apr 25, 2017 16:52 IST