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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Cricket and Bollywood: Reform or Die


ADITI PRASAD | New Delhi, May 21, 2012 17:34
Tags : ipl | ipl molestation | mamata banerjee | rave party |

If the Wankhede security bore the brunt of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan missing out on his anger management tutorials – IPL team owner and business prodigy Siddhartha Mallya has decided that every woman seeking his BBM pin is fair game. Even Mamata Bannerjee continued her histrionics recently when she angrily stalked out of a TV talk show after students (in the audience) asked her questions about controversial incidents during her first year of rule. Worse, every 'rowdy' second of these acts was recorded, and replayed again and again on TV channels, YouTube and dozens of social network sites. Of course, the twitterati typically went into a spin debating and discussing the ignominies.

Indian celebritydom is getting the walloping of a lifetime. Fights, drugs, drunken brawls, bad language, loud statements, undesirable sexual advances, are just the tip of an iceberg that is so frozen down the middle that it's tough to imagine what television news channels would telecast if celebs did not create a ruckus every other day. My definition of a celeb here is by no means limited to film stars and cricketers, although they do seem to be ruling the rooster of misbehavior nowadays.

Thanks to the deluge of 24x7 news, anyone with a major or minor claim to fame rakes in the TRPs, critics, fans and the twitterati in astounding numbers. In fact, the fastest way to celeb-hood is to create a storm by an outspoken comment or for that matter an indecent act (according to the moral police) and you have a sure shot formula for elevating your celeb-o-meter overnight. Take model Poonam Pandey. Last year, she announced to the world that she wanted to strip after India's World Cup glory. A year later, the lady in question has landed a film and feels that it is a slap on the face of her detractors. Poonam Pandey's method is no fluke. Others like Rakhi Sawant and Veena Mallik had already run positive tests on this route to success and Pandey only walked the oft-beaten path.

Problem is that while hardly anybody looks up to a struggling starlet, sportsman or politician – when you reach the haloed status of having become a national celebrity – there are strings attached. These are strings that bind these celebs to the common man – especially the youth who idolise them and are itching to ape them in public and private life. And although the strings are invisible – they need to be respected.

Sure, many would be sniggering at the suggestion that any youngster in their right mind would wish to imitate a politician – or aspire for a career in politics. But that is exactly my point. The corruption allegations, scandals, bad-mouthing and sleaze that have dominated Indian politics over the last two decades have totally robbed politics of any credibility as a profession today. In the days when celebrities were few and 24X7 coverage had not brought out their living room linen to be washed in public– political personalities of impeccable integrity dominated public discourse– and a host of youngsters did get inspired by Pandit Nehru, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and others to confidently wade in to the political arena to 'make a difference.' That of course is a complete antithesis of how things stand today – both in public perception as well as career choices. A series of surveys conducted by a host of media and social organisations have time and again shown how the average youth of today is repulsed by even the thought of pursuing politics as a career.

If rumours of the casting couch (and Bollywood's mafia connections) had not already put paid to the dreams of a Bollywood career for an entire generation of middle class Indians – the skin, sleaze, and loose tongues of today's up and coming starlets is making it lose its sheen faster than you can say Rakhi Sawant. Adding to the notoriety of Bollywood was the revelation early this year that bookies use starlets as a conduit to cricketers for match fixing. Forget starlets, virtually every name in the industry from SRK to Salman, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar and even second graders like Shiney Ahuja and Vivek Oberoi have landed in trouble at one time or the other. While most of the biggies have got off with a mild pat on the knuckles, some like Sanjay Dutt and Shiney Ahuja have even enjoyed jail terms – Shiney for raping his domestic servant and Dutt for possessing illegal firearms.

Sure – given the inherent glamour of the profession – it is difficult to believe that the charm of Bollywood as a potential career will ever fade away for youngsters. But the speed with which the industry is gaining notoriety is likely to coerce aspiring youngsters – especially those from morality-obsessed middle class families– into the arms of other hot careers options such as IT, computer science, medicine, bio-technology, management and media. Well, no loss to the industry there – as there are enough Bollywood families now which between them and their off-springs can keep the creative torch aglow till kingdom comes. Ask Sonakshi Sinha...

But here's my big fear. If things continue as they are – match fixing, players being bribed, molestations, rave parties, drugs, drinks and the rest - soon a career in cricket will become just as tainted as politics already is or as Bollywood is becoming. And unlike Bollywood– there is no family tree in cricket that can keep the game alive.

There was a time when India's list of celebs in cricket was pretty tame– you had Nawab Pataudi, Farokh Engineer, Bishen Singh Bedi and a few more. Today, the list of cricketing sensations reads somewhat like the number of runs scored at the 2009 India-Sri Lanka ODI at Rajkot. The Indian Premier League (IPL) has only managed to queer the pitch even more throwing in more stars (and consequently more dirty linen to wash) for the cricket crazy Indian fans. So great is the adulation of cricketers in this nation that even a humbug Aussie player Luke Pomersbach – who has a history of brawls in his own country – warrants mammoth national attention by the media.

If status quo remains – the dreams and ambitions of many young would-be cricketers may well be on the line. It may not happen tomorrow. After all, it took decades of systemic downgrading by selfish politicians to erode politics as a career choice into oblivion. But it will eventually happen if stakeholders don't speak up and take charge of the situation which is fast spiraling out of control.

Those who don't buy this argument – on the pretext that cricket and Bollywood are multi-billion dollar businesses in the country and that the money power itself will keep attracting fans and newbies alike– need to take a closer look at Indian politics. It was– and still is – a multi-trillion dollar business. That has certainly not deterred India to look the other way when politicians start speaking, has it?

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017