Close on the heels of Television actor Kuljeet Randhawa ending her life by hanging herself with her dupatta tied to a ceiling, comes the shocking news of 21-year-old Telugu superstar Aarti Agarwal suffering a near fatal accident when she fell off the staircase of her home in Hyderabad.
There is something intensely macabre about the episode. It's unacceptable that any adult, even when in the most inebriated state, can actually roll over a staircase without intervention from family members who admit to being on the spot when the accident occurred. The police are not ruling out the possibility that she could have been pushed down the staircase. Insiders reveal that Aarti had a serious argument with her father just before the fall.
What is further mysterious is that the family preferred to treat her at home rather than admit her to the hospital even though she was seriously injured and semi-conscious. The doctors were outraged at her condition and had to carry out an immediate surgery to extract a severe blood clot from her brain.
At the moment recuperating in the city's Apollo Hospital, nobody from the film fraternity has visited the actress despite television channels describing her condition critical.
Clearly there is more to the story than meets the eye. It's obvious that the family is hushing up a bitter scandal to save their reputation. The Telugu film industry is full of horror stories about the violent behavior of Aarti's father. His clinging obsession to his daughter and his drunken brawls on her sets. Some even say that Aarti was repeatedly abused at home and her sudden unnatural gain in weight is a result of her acute depression. It may be recalled that earlier too Aarti had attempted suicide by drinking toilet detergent. This was in the wake of her alleged romance with actor Tarun.
Aarti's devastation is yet another reflection of the grime and sorrow behind the sparkle of show business. It's the story of yet another celebrity perceived as powerful by the world outside but oppressed and exploited by her dear ones. A story of turbulence and rejection from the very system that created her identity, the box-office.
A dwindling career has caused anguish to many actors of all generations. Some, better equipped to cope with the aching silence after the deafening applause than the others. But the desolation in some degree persists in all. The lowly phase further becomes insurmountable when combined with a personal calamity. But a few years and a few heartburns later they learn to adapt to a revised lifestyle. Their insecurities are understandable for the ways of show business are peculiar. They enjoy a shorter span of career compared to most other professions. The female actor even lesser years of limelight than her male counterpart.
Of course all this is rapidly changing now that Indian cinema is evolving. Today, Hindi cinema is negotiating a new space for the older woman but down South, mainstream cinema is still chauvinistic. Even though Tamil and Malayalam films are perceived as more challenging than Kannada and Telugu films, their heroines are equally insecure. The leading ladies live in constant fear of losing their position on top. It's because Telugu cinema particularly has a tradition of rotating new faces every few years. Consequently, the biggest and the best are considered redundant once they have been paired with the current superstars. This usually happens to an actress by the time she turns 22 since most of them make their debut in their teens.
Perhaps, that is what is happening to Aarti Agarwal as well. Her career in doldrums and no love life to escape, Aarti sought the easy way out. And her family is doing nothing to provide her solace. Instead, in the true feudal tradition, they have demoted her to signing B-grade films opposite lesser-known heroes to now concentrate on their younger daughter, Aditi Agarwal's budding career.
Three years down the line, there will be another story of devastation. But does anybody care?