On the day Indian newspapers were carrying a chilling image of Iraqi soldiers lined up and shot dead by ISIS, actor Priety Zinta’s case of alleged molestation against former boyfriend Ness Wadia was trending on Twitter. It was the top talking point on all news channels. War and strife, the terrifying reality of young girls brutalised and hung on a tree are hard to shake off but these were tossed aside, our collective interest leaning entirely towards the entertaining hashtag #prietynessmess. This is nothing new. Information on famous or infamous people involved in crime and scandal has always had news value. As far back as the 19th century, sexual misdemeanours of the aristocracy in England were brought out in the penny press. Most recently, the world has been been riveted by the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa, in which the Olympic champion is accused of murdering his girlfriend.
After the preitynessmess story broke I conducted a quick quiz with the people around me. It turns out almost nobody I know hasn’t, at one time or another, wanted to kill their partners. Many of us may have fantasised about getting ex-partners jailed but unlike Zinta we either chickened out or weren’t entirely convinced of the merit of our claims. Anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship knows about blinding rage where accusations (or abuses) are hurled, and sometimes things get out of hand. I have personally got into a scuffle with my husband over a TV remote and while I did consider calling the cops, I didn’t since they have bigger problems than me not getting to watch Sherlock. My best friend has thrown several plates at her spouse while someone I know has packed a suitcase full of her husband’s clothes and thrown them down the staircase. He responded by yelling that he was going to run her over and, no, she did not file a case of domestic abuse against him. If you look hard enough, we can all come up with reasons to involve the National Commission for Women. Not to trivialise Zinta’s issue, but for those of us living in the real world we know the best option is to calm down and sort it out, preferably without outside intervention.
The glowering armchair feminists screeching on Twitter are only too happy to pounce on and support that all too rare phenonemon, a celebrity filing a case against an industrialist. In a country where violence against women is endemic, it’s a little pathetic that this is the case a social movement is holding forth on. It’s comforting to know there are safeguards in place for women, educated and otherwise to report violence but when a regular, random fight between people turns into a police case, it’s only fair that it be analysed keeping their history in mind. Our age is dominated by celebrity and there’s nothing more morbidly fascinating than their unravelling. It makes for a far more riveting copy than “Minor Dalit girl raped and killed”.
Zinta’s had a great career, owns an IPL team, fraternises with Aishwarya Rai and will always be famous for being famous. She’s one of the lucky ones, the jet setting, Cannes-attending crowd who sit in VIP boxes and have access to anything they want, even breathless support from the bindi-brandishing feminists. This will turn out to be a minor cringeworthy diversion in her otherwise blessed existence but now that it’s out there, it will never, “disappear”.