Salman Khan is a celebrity who has a fan following in millions. No matter how awful the acting in his movies and no semblance of a plot, people turn up in droves to watch him. There are many among the youth who copy his style and swagger, believing he is a role model for ages. This is despite his conviction in the black buck poaching case as well as his involvement in the infamous hit-and-run case. While many cite the ‘Being Human’ foundation as an example of his benevolence, skeptics treat it as a long-running PR exercise intended to cultivate a positive image in the minds of the public.
This brings us to a bigger question – is hero worshipping a disease prevalent among Indians? Why do we take celebrities like Amitabh Bachhan or the Khan clan or for that matter Katrina Kaif or Kareena Kapoor as our idols? Why do we seek to emulate them? There are so many scientists, doctors, sportspersons and other people who can inspire us. Let’s deconstruct this mentality through an English conversation:
Piyush: Hi Shefali! How are you?
Shefali: Hey Piyush. I am doing good. Hope you are well.
Piyush: Did you read about the latest on the Panama papers? Looks like Amitabh Bachchan and his family are not such saints as they project themselves to be!
Shefali: Yes, in fact, I am sure most of these high-profile celebrities are alike. They were dancing away like there was no tomorrow at the Ambani wedding. It clearly indicates that money is all that they care for!
Piyush: In my opinion, making money is not an issue. They have to maintain a high-end lifestyle so have to do whatever possible for that. But here arises the problem. They also resort to illegal means and fraudulent practices to do the same.
Shefali: Money is one issue. There are several moral shortcomings among others as well. They don’t respect the sanctity of marriage, infidelity is rampant, indulge in high-handed behavior, and then you have criminals like Salman Khan and Sooraj Pancholi at the extreme end of the spectrum.
Piyush: The most incredulous thing is that the youth take them literally to be heroes in real-life. I haven’t seen such ardent devotion as people have towards movie stars. I can understand why people are fans of Sachin Tendulkar, Mary Kom, or PV Sindhu as they have brought laurels to the country but such insanity for movie stars makes no sense.
Shefali: That is mainly because they see these stars as on-screen heroes saving lives, making sacrifices and taking decisions that make our country seem among the best in the world. Also, they have a lot of coverage from the media which believes that every little aspect of celebrities should be covered because this is what the public wants. Unfortunately, these onscreen values and morals do not necessarily translate into real-life. And this is what the public is unaware of.
Piyush: Well, I am pretty sure many are aware of the same. The news of Panama papers or Salman’s conviction have received good coverage. However, the intriguing part is that they are willing to defend their idols DESPITE knowing the facts.
Shefali: I think this holds true for most politicians also. No matter how bigoted or hate-mongering they are, people seem to love them exactly for that.
Piyush: The sad truth is that a culture of hero worship prevails in India and is extremely detrimental to rational thinking and growth of the nation. It is like talking to a wall when you point out the flaws in a certain celebrity to a fan. Some even become aggressive to the point of violence.
Shefali: What do you think is the solution to this? There are crusaders for social justice like Kailash Satyarthi whom we don’t see getting such adulation and adoration from the masses like the movie stars.
Piyush: I believe the media plays a critical role in all this.It is up to them whether they chose to focus on issues like poverty, malnutrition, female infanticide, and child abuse, instead of the latest pic or video of Taimur Ali Khan! Therein lies the problem.
Shefali: Haha! I agree. It is both sad and hilarious. They cater to the lowest common denominator and brainwash them to think in a certain manner. The more people remain stupid, the easier it will be for politicians and industrialists to fool them!
Piyush: Yes indeed. What’s the solution? I have no idea. Social media was touted to be a trigger for change and enlightenment, but it has fallen prey to fake news and people have become more gullible than ever. Any piece of fiction cleverly disguised as a news item can be used to fool people.
Shefali: I wish we focused more on education. At least people will realize to a certain extent that they are being taken for a ride. That will make them capable of critical thinking and discard this mindset of hero worship and recognize what most celebrities are like actually.
Piyush: I wish the same. Fingers crossed. Let’s see what the future holds!
In droves: A very large number (usually for people)
Benevolence: The quality of being well meaning; kindness.
Emulate: Match or surpass (a person or achievement), typically by imitation.
Incredulous: (Of a person or their manner) unwilling or unable to believe something.
Ardent: Very enthusiastic or passionate.
Laurels: Honors that you receive for something you have achieved
Detrimental: Tending to cause harm
Adulation: Excessive admiration or praise
Lowest common denominator: The portion of society that is the least sophisticated or has the lowest level of taste.