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Virushka’s celebrity vigilantism: Is fame a double edged sword for stars?

Celebrity vigilantism isn’t something new.Celeb couple Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s video reprimanding a guy for littering on the road has led to a debate, after they received backlash from people for exposing the identity of the person.

bollywood Updated: Jun 19, 2018 17:46 IST
Rishabh Suri
Rishabh Suri
Hindustan Times
Virat Kohli,Anushka Sharma,Bollywood
A grab from the video where actor Anushka Sharma asked Arhhan Singh why he littered the road.

The Virushka vs guy-throwing-garbage debate has been picking up pace on social media for the past few days. Arhhan Singh (once a child actor in TV show Dekh Bhai Dekh and Shah Rukh Khan-starrer English Babu Desi Mem; 1996), was reprimanded by Anushka Sharma for allegedly throwing a piece of plastic on the road, while husband Virat Kohli shot the video and posted it on his Instagram account. While people have been appreciative of them being morally responsible citizens, some have commented saying the celebrity couple could have dealt with Arhhan politely.

This raises a question about where celebrity vigilantism stands in our country and whether fame is a double-edged sword. Vigilantism, according to Oxford dictionary, is law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a self-appointed group of people. Union Minister of State Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju supported the Anushka and Virat’s stand by tweeting “C’mon, Virat & Anushka need publicity!! They would rather crave for privacy!! Our conduct reflects our mentality. Civic sense is social ethics and ethical behaviour doesn’t come with wealth & education.” Producer Pritish Nandy says, “I really don’t know. I feel she (Anushka) saw something wrong happening, and this was her instinctive reaction, with Virat also there. I think the chapter was over after that, but then the other man tweeted ‘There was more garbage coming out of her mouth’. I think it was an irritated response, and not meant to be taken seriously. Sometimes, we take things a bit seriously.”

Social media, being true to its character, was quick to make memes and call out the couple for bullying. While one user .varun.skywalker commented on Virat’s Instagram video “So both of you do this??right to expose a person in front of social media...???you know what both of you have h millions of followers”, another user, kashyworld wrote, “@anushkasharma @virat.kohli.. this could have been done in a decent way. There was no need to publicly shame someone like this.” Arhaan and his mother, too, blasted Virushka on Instagram.

Many celebrities have tried their hand at this on-ground moral policing before. Last year, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar asked a person driving alongside his car to make his pillion rider wear a helmet, and the response was positive, considering that he politely requested the people. One incident which caused a big uproar was Preity Zinta tweeting in 2014 that she had to throw a man out a theatre because he refused to stand up for the national anthem , which is played before every film.

Director Onir feels, “There are two sides to every story. I feel it [celebrity vigilantism] works positively because people get inspired and the message goes across to many more. Also, this country is so mad and crazy about cricket and Bollywood. This (also) shows it is dangerous to have a kind of cinema which promotes eve teasing, because people follow it. I think somewhere, when people see good acts, it hits the right spot. It’s a good gesture at the end of the day, not meant for anything negative.”

Actor Richa Chadha, who has always spoken her mind, and faced trolling for it too, says, “It’s a catch-22 situation. Everyone laments that film stars don’t take a stand, and when they do, they get abused and trolled. I think actors tend to censor themselves for this very reason.I also feel had it been her husband reprimanding the littering men, the reaction and the trolling wouldn’t be to this degree.”

As for the trolling that Virushka have had to face, ad guru Prahlad Kakkar says, “It doesn’t matter whether the whistle-blower is a celebrity or a responsible citizen, they just want to do something good for the country. The backlash can be anything, but for me, the trolls are worse than scum, because they do it anonymously.”

We reached out to Anushka for a comment, but she didn’t want to comment.

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First Published: Jun 19, 2018 17:45 IST