There was a time superstars stayed together just for us—whatever the rumours and Page 3 gossip, they always addressed us directly and reassuringly that all was fine. Our own marriage can be a mess, but not theirs. In the south, more than the north, this held true. When actors married it was happily ever after. Which is why Dileep and Manju Warrier, Mukesh and Saritha, Manoj and Urvashi, Naga Chaitanya and Samantha Ruth Prabhu calling it quits in coupledom had us rush to our therapist. How can they do this to us?
When our neighbours or relatives divorce, it is just some dinner table ha-ha; we had seen this coming, had predicted it, didn’t we bet at the wedding reception itself that this day would come, and who cares? If we see them approach, we change streets, fearing first-hand postmortems of a soured marriage. These are boring everyday people who have left their boring everyday spouses. They could be you or me. Nothing to see here.
But a celebrity separation shakes us to the core. What? Not them! We wail and beat our chests. We develop multiple personalities: we are Dhanush, we are Aishwaryaa. We read their statements, pore over their pictures. Here they are hand in hand, there they are grinning with their kids. What went wrong? Won’t they tell us? Right now all we have is Dhanush’s father’s words about this being a ‘family quarrel’.
Hollywood-style PR announcements that trickled down to Bollywood are now making their way into Kollywood lingo. Carefully worded decouplings seem to be the new norm. Here where the stars are deities with their own temples, eternal marriages are part of the lore. After hiding their romances and making us guess about ‘will they won’t they’ till the last moment, like Katrina Kaif did when she wed Vicky Kaushal, suddenly they are very articulate and upfront about leaving each other. Hrithik, Farhan, Aamir—this is the era of lip-syncing pre-prepared statements.
They say they are no longer together, these couples, but they are saying the same thing together in one voice. Bland, dull, opaque posts on their social media. Worded smartly by professional wordsmiths to give away nothing, leave no word porous. We, their audiences, can only clutch our hearts and gasp weakly for details. Where is the dirty linen?
Celebs are in a gilded cage, accountable to their audience. If they keep us guessing on their romance, they should keep us guessing on breakups. Give vague statements to the press full of probably, maybe, perhaps, allegedly. Don’t put it in black and white, don’t sign documents without consulting us first. Just hint at a discord so we have time to mull this over...
Who will get custody of us, their fans?