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The pathetic myth of the Indian celebrity

It was no great surprise when former Rajya Sabha MP Sachin Tendulkar railed against 'external forces' and Akshay Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar tweeted identical messages with MEA hashtags.

Published: 14th February 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th February 2021 12:26 PM   |  A+A-

(From left) Kangana Ranaut, Sachin Tendulkar and Rihanna

(From left) Kangana Ranaut, Sachin Tendulkar and Rihanna (File photos)

There are two kinds of celebrities. One, famous for being famous - nobody somebodies who preen on Page 3 with Botox grins and in Brioni tuxes, lit up by paparazzi flashbulbs. Then there are the celebrities you wouldn't see in Hello! magazine, the Clooneys and the Lady Gagas who are written about because they stand for something - the wellbeing of mankind. 

This article may seem anti-national since it does not praise Indian celebs. Singers Bono and Taylor Swift, actors Michael J Fox and Angelina Jolie, Oprah, the Obamas, JK Rowling and the Kellermans use their star power to make the world a better place. Indian celebs don’t have the time to do stuff for mankind. They represent nothing but themselves.

You would never hear of a Mika concert in interior Chhattisgarh to bring attention to exploited tribals. You will never see Kangana Ranaut championing the ecological degradation of Himachal Pradesh, where politicians are in lockstep with private contractors.

The global relevance of Indian celebrities is restricted to dancing at NRI functions in the US and Dubai for money. At best, they dine out on a small Hollywood role for years, or bitch out Priyanka Chopra. Their future is the government - Rajya Sabha nominations, election tickets, plum sinecures in committees and sports bodies.

It was no great surprise when former Rajya Sabha MP Sachin Tendulkar railed against "external forces" and Akshay Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar tweeted identical messages with MEA hashtags. Tweet-bashing Greta Thunberg was silly - her climate activism gives governments the jitters, and she was a finalist for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Many global celebrities with private jets, island villas and multimillion-dollar paychecks venture into disease-affected African villages and Civil War spots in Bosnia to bring global attention to the sufferers. Rihanna forced world leaders to help the victims of Hurricane Maria along the lines she had suggested.

Beyoncé has partnered with UNICEF to deliver clean water to half a million people in Burundi. NBA sportstar Stephen Curry is working with the UN to protect families from malaria. They do not use sarkari Twitter hashtags to trash agitating farmers.

Indian stars should be educating the farmers on the merits of the bill. Instead of Rihanna, they should be taking on the US State Department's support for India's peasant agitation by lambasting the American government for giving billions of dollars in grants to mega agri-corporations, which run small farmers out of business or force them to sell produce at unprofitable prices. Indians believe in charity to garner good karma, not in philanthropy to bring good kismet to others.

India's real global celebrities are people working in Presidential Cabinets, economists at the World Bank and IMF, scientists and doctors in international research institutes, politicians in foreign parliaments, writers and poets and Nobel winners like Kailash Satyarthi.

A little greasepaint and a turn of the wrist at the crease mean nothing in the larger scheme of things. Make the world proud of India and India proud of itself. That is what aatmanirbhar is about. Not a Rajya Sabha seat or a tax-free film certificate.

(The writer can be reached at ravi@newindianexpress.com)



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