Look around, and you’d see how anything said by a celebrity is worthy only if it is met with an extreme reaction. A few days ago, Kangana Ranaut’s comments that India attained “real freedom” in 2014 caused uproar and invited much criticism and censure from most quarters. Looking at how easily certain statements generate controversy, one thing is for sure: The world we live in isn’t for moderation anymore.
Irrespective of how one views this issue, some people such as Kangana Ranaut seem to epitomise this with nearly every statement they make almost every time they appear in public. A quintessential risk-taker, the National-award winning Ranaut is undoubtedly one of the finest of her generation and doesn’t seem to mince her words.
Up until a few years ago, she was considered the go-to person when it came to expressing opinions on gender disparity in the film industry and her words held sway. Her comments on the rampant nepotism in the Hindi film industry brought to light the business’ inner workings, and this isn’t something that the trade is comfortable discussing. For many years, the Hindi film industry claimed to be one big happy family. In the gab of ‘ghar ki baat’, they would brush issues such as exploitation and sexual and physical harassment of women under the carpet.
Without taking any sides, it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to say that Kangana was also targeted by the powers be for speaking openly. It was also around this time that she appeared to have taken a clear stance on political issues.
Kangana’s open support of the Prime Minister didn’t seem to have gone down well and combined with her calling out of a sect of the industry that was okay with how things stood, she soon found herself pushed to a corner. She reportedly lost out on film offers and endorsement of certain brands with which she was in talks due to her posturing.
No doubt, certain statements — the kinds that Kangana say, or Vir Das make — appear loaded enough to extract a strong response. It would be naïve to think that the world wouldn’t respond to someone saying that it’s only in 2014 that India became free or generalising the crimes of a few individuals and attributing (in the manner of speaking) to an entire nation. At the same time, this writer believes that it would be wrong to think that we possess the understanding to tell others how to behave or respond to a situation.
Some years ago, Shah Rukh Khan mentioned that he’d often wake up in the morning wondering if anything that he said or did offend anyone in any part of the world. For some, Ranaut might be expressing what they have felt for a long time. For some, she might be an attention-seeking actor. Some would think of Vir Das as a great social commentator using satire and comedy to make us notice what is wrong with us. Some wouldn’t care about Vir Das’ beliefs.
This writer is reminded of something that the American author and social commentator Chuck Klosterman expressed: “Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.”
Society, whether we’d like to believe it or not, has its own way of reacting, and those who take umbrage to what a Ranaut or a Das say must remember that their freedom to express cannot be directed at taking away someone else’s rights to speak their mind.
The writer is a film historian and author of the bestselling ‘Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna’, ‘The Film That Revived Hindi Cinema’ and ‘Pink: The Inside Story’. His latest book is ‘The Midway Battle: Modi’s Roller-Coaster Second Term’. Views expressed are personal.