An Actor and a CauseĀ  by M. H. Ahsan SignUp
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An Actor and a CauseĀ 
by M. H. Ahsan Bookmark and Share

Big moments it is said occur only in retrospect. When one is going through them, they are mere obstacles one is trying to overcome. This is true in the case of Aamir Khan. Two years ago the actor was introduced to the Narmada Bachao Andolan by his filmmaker cousin Mansoor Khan. Instinctively drawn but not in the mind-frame to commit himself, Aamir waited and watched the growing agitation from a distance. 

As seasons changed and a new order came into his personal life, Aamir was ready to make a commitment. He had become sensitized and stated that he would support Medha Patkar and the movement irrespective of the consequences.

The issue here is not whether celebrities help or hinder a cause but whether celebrities making a living out of a different profession have the right to jeopardize interests of those associated with them. That the pro-Narmada dam activists have pulled down posters and stalled the screening of Aamir's Rang De Basanti all over Gujarat and called for a boycott of products endorsed by him (Coca Cola, Innova Toyota cars) including freeze of advertisements featuring the actor on the big and the small screen is an alarming indicator. 

Like all budding activists Aamir today stands at a crucial junction of his life. On one side is his commitment to his profession. On the other, a new found ideology. The actor is at liberty to choose his path but not before he has revised his ground rules and clarified them to his investors (advertisement and filmmakers). 

Until then for the actor to throw caution to the wind and gamble with the business prospects of professionals who have trusted his brand image is both unethical and self indulgent.
Aamir Khan's support of the Narmada Bachchao Andolan and opposition to the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat triggered off violent protests across the state. The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee calling for a boycott of all brands endorsed by the filmstar including Innova Toyota cars and Coke, has requested dealers and the concerned companies to remove all posters featuring the star and freeze the products. 

In Ahmedabad, the Gujarat BJP's youth wing disrupted screenings of Aamir's latest filmRang De Basanti in several city multiplexes. Posters of the film were torched in Ahmedabad. Similar demonstrations staged by Youth Congress workers in Baroda and Surat where effigies of the star were burnt. In Baroda many theatre owners temporarily cancelled all shows of the film. Aamir's alliance with the anti-Narmada lobby has also cast a cloud over his next release Yashraj's Fanaa with angry protestors asserting that there is no place for Aamir in Gujarat till he issued a public apology. 

Clarifying his stand Aamir said that having lived in Kutch for more than six months he understood the water problem plaguing the district and he supported the Project that was seeking to make water available to four states. But first, he wanted the affected people rehabilitated.

The Aftermath

Crusades are usually championed after the victim suffers a trauma. This is true of Salman Khan. 

I'm not going to waste any further newsprint on the whys and what happened with Salman Khan. It is no more about dates ' 1998, 2000 or 2002. Nor about targets ' Chinkara, black buck or pavement dwellers is all a blur now. It is about the aftermath and about self-examination. I recommend it to his fans, family, lawyer, the police, hospital security and most important the media. 

In the olden days a hero was one who did heroic deeds. His followers revered him for his virtues. Today, a hero is one who is in the news and his distinction is in his charisma. Then the common man prided in remaining anonymous. Today he is desperate for that one glimpse in print or on camera. Be it a late legend funeral or a superstar home-coming, the fan is forever overstating his loyalty. On the other hand, the actor's family for some mysterious reason has begun to underplay their role and responsibility. Writer Salim Khan will agree with me that his son could have been more subdued in his home-bound journey. 

It's distressing that nobody any longer exercises any restraint. There is no pride or sanctity of profession. How else would you explain a responsible jail superintendent discuss the excitement amongst staff children at Jodhpur Jail to have a superstar amidst them? Why should a private conversation shared between two inmates be leaked out for a sensational story? Not just that, don't lawyers of Salman Khan understand that it is premature to make pompous statements like "we got justice" when the actor is only out on bail and the case hasn't closed? 

It's shallow of the hospital security hosting the actor's mother Salma Khan to complain about extra working hours due to celebrity guests. Shouldn't they be resolving these issues in-house? 

As for Salman, it's a positive sign that he intends to take constructive action like improving conditions of jail toilets and contributing money to decrease his inmate's term of imprisonment, but does he have to make such dramatic statements? Also granted that he was overwhelmed by cheering fans outside his balcony but does that justify him stripping his shirt and flinging it to the crowds like he is not out of jail but at a live concert? 

And finally, the media. It's embarrassing the way they get into details about the actor's clothes - vest, cap, shopping bag. His escorts - brother, sister, girlfriend, body guard and vehicles - Land Cruiser and later charter plane. They insensitively identify barrack no 210 occupied by the actor as a status symbol. Is this what we have reduced our front page headlines to? 

25 years ago when I became a film journalist, film glossies were chided for thriving on star trivialities. The mainstream coined our brand of journalism 'yellow'. Over the years while the mainstream in its greed to conquer greater readership has transformed to a blazing red while cinema journals have demurely paled in comparison.    

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30-Apr-2006
More by :  M. H. Ahsan
 
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