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The Celebrity Circus

‘CELEBRITY’ has to be one of the most overused words in the English language.

Written by Namrata Zakaria |
April 25, 2012 4:41:45 am

‘CELEBRITY’ has to be one of the most overused words in the English language. It used to denote a state of being,then it came to announce a person. Eventually,it has become a word that describes fame: pointless,unsupported,vulgar fame.

A celebrity is a tired,empty,mindless cliché. It is routine,when it was once meant to convey something far from it — it used to evince something extraordinary and glamourous. Its overuse has rendered it banal,a half-compliment,and the recipient of it is an apology for being recognised. So,who wants to be a celebrity now?

A rich suburban housewife with designer handbags,whose only accomplishment in life is to appear in society magazines. A struggling artiste (she could be an actor,dancer,model,anything so long as she’s famous) who lives in her parents’ one-bedroom house in Mulund. A hairdresser to the stars. A world-famous porn star aching to break into a Bollywood jig. An aging somebody trying to stay in focus by attending art show openings.

A recent eye-opening article on Poonam Pandey goes to show how the culture of making money works when your name appears in the news. Pandey,who sensationally stated she would streak the stadium if India won the cricket World Cup,had to keep her hat on and eat it. But now,every time India wins a match,her name and promise is recalled. Pandey has no real job or credentials,but she has spin doctors and a website. Her embarrassed parents blur into the background. And yes,while she does make some news,she cuts a sorry figure.

“Main bhi celebrity hoon,” hollered the now-forgotten Rakhi Sawant to anyone who listened. Her silliness-for-fame earned her a Jerry Springer-esque TV show that no one watches. It hasn’t made half the impact her Big Boss avatar did,when Rakhi didn’t have to (only) go potty mouth or slap her buttocks to earn eyeballs. Sunny Leone may cut ribbons for a few stores but let’s see her cut into a mainstream Bollywood heroine. Fat chance.

It was Andy Warhol who first put up distress signals over 40 years ago. A line in a catalogue from his 1968 exhibit,“Moderna Museet”,in Stockholm read: “In the future,everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”

It was unclear and yet ominous at the same time. When asked to elaborate,Warhol,a close pal of several famous artistes,offered different explanations. He probably didn’t know what he meant,but how right he was. Did he foresee Big Brother,Bigg Boss,or other vacuous reality shows? Did he imagine something like YouTube in his head? Or Twitter and its ‘followers’?

A non-performing Sachin Tendulkar,considered the greatest batsman alive,has been asked to retire more than once by more than one national daily’s front page. Second-generation actors and politicians are finding the rug snatched from beneath their feet.

For every opportunistic Lindsay Lohan,there is a brilliant James Franco — superb actor,written a book,working on a PhD. Even Lady Gaga hasn’t written a premature autobiography or put her name on a fashion line.

Our celebrity-worshipping culture was driven by money. We had to sell colourful news pages and peekaboo reality shows to make money. But if we need to achieve anything culturally,our respect for real talent has to return. In order to keep its glitter,fame must be untouchable,ethereal,elevated and mystical. We are reclaiming our relationship with celebrity. Only,can we call it something else please?

namratanow@gmail.com

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