A few days back Salman Khan landed in yet another controversy for tweeting his opinion on Yakub Memon, the 1993 Mumbai blast convict who was hanged on Thursday morning. In a series of tweets — which he had to later retract and apologise for, after facing ferocious backlash — the ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ had merely said that Yakub should not be hanged for the acts of his brother Tiger Memon, who masterminded the dastardly attack with Dawood Ibrahim. “Get Tiger hang him. Parade him not his brother” was the infamous tweet. Amidst all the frenzied criticism that was directed at Salman, a lot of it smacked of a certain kind of snobbery that follows a Bollywood star who dares to share an opinion on matters unrelated to films.
Not too long ago, Bollywood was in a perpetual gag order zone. This was when the Underworld began to shadow the Hindi film industry. The industry, which prides itself on being a “fraternity”, largely shied away from publicly standing up for matters political and social. Actors were ridiculed for not having any political stance. The rare ones who spoke out were labelled as “publicity seekers.” From then to now. With the advent of social media, nowadays having an opinion is a national pastime. So why do we get all hyper when a Bollywood star expresses his/her opinion? Sure, aware as we are of the narrative of Salman’s life, when he tweets about stuff like justice, most of us will roll our eyes and dismiss it, but does that mean he can’t have an opinion? Whether his opinion is right or wrong is another debate, but just like you and I, Salman too is entitled to have an opinion.
The communication model for the digital world is increasingly becoming more person-specific. ‘Source’ is becoming more important than ‘message’. ‘Who said it’ has greater currency than ‘What was said’. Internet is being run by the trolls — the nameless, faceless trolls who sit behind computer screens and spend their day waiting for a celebrity to slip a bit, make a faux pas so that they can tear into them with nauseating relish. A spelling mistake is usually not a big deal but when a Bollywood star does that, it becomes a national issue. Just ask Anushka Sharma who got trolled on twitter for misspelling former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s name in her condolence tweet.
And then there is Rishi Kapoor who had to retract a birthday greeting to Huma Qureshi because the over sensitive denizens of twitter could not handle a personal joke the senior actor shared with his D Day colleague. Rishi had tweeted an image to wish Huma, which read, “The more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap.. Stay safe.. Eat cake!” While Huma took the joke in the right spirit, their followers did not.
Bollywood stars better be taking notes. They better buckle up and be perfect or else they will only be in retraction mode. This week’s learning is as follows: They can’t make spelling mistakes, share an opinion on controversial matters or joke around with colleagues. The list will be regularly updated unless it’s retracted.