A Cathartic Fake-ness and The Void of Meaningful Roles

VIEWPOINT
We are closer to a catharsis of fake-ness. What roles are these models really playing for us other than obscuring the crystal clear truth that we are too blinded by the glitz of glamour to see our real role models?
Dev Nath Pathak

VIEWPOINT


We are closer to a catharsis of fake-ness. What roles are these models really playing for us other than obscuring the crystal clear truth that we are too blinded by the glitz of glamour to see our real role models?

Dev Nath Pathak teaches sociology at South Asian University and has been working on the dramatic performance of cultural politics in South Asia, New Delhi.


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No, this is not to imitate the elitist reviews of popular melodramatic cinema that appears in newspapers and periodicals upon every Friday-release. We have already had overfed ourselves to the extent of suffering a bout of indigestion on the recent blockbuster Sanju.

 While many said that it was a whitewashed version of biopic on the life of the actor Sanjay Dutt, many more of us also enjoyed watching yet another cinematic treat from the master of melodrama in contemporary Hindi cinema, Rajkumar Hirani. Rejecting or glorifying the film is not the intent behind the souring exposition, models without roles! Anybody can think that Sunil Dutt, an actor taking a plunge into political and social life headlong, was much better suitable as a model with explicit roles, and subject to a fair biopic, than the junior Dutt. Hence, needless to vilify Sanju on that count.

Image from Sanju movie 2018

Instead, it is to pose a question about our unrequited hunger for the role models despite too many from the twitterati-sphere posing to be one. The hunger shall remain despite platters in front of us full of bizarre food items, since we also seem to be terribly confused about the idea of a role-model today. We are closer to a catharsis of fake-ness, whereby, it should not be a surprise if one day the whole nation becomes a crazy follower of a fake account of a fictional model with a dense corpus of sinister roles to play.

In between fake and fictional, we have also an array of overly dramatized constructs passing off as role models, or better to say, models without roles!

Perhaps the idea of role models underwent some Kafkaesque transformation post liberalization. Children in schools, neophytes in colleges, semi-skilled professionals in the liberal market of employment zeroed in on names which were far from a logical justification. While some of the oldies, or teacher-type, emphasised on one category, the dreamers of a new-Indian-order of socio-political reality had something else in mind.

The new gods emerged while the old ones were either refashioned or cast away altogether. The journey is very aptly summed up in the transformation of a Mahatma into a mere glitzy brand, a Babasaheb into a mere weapon of militant identity politics. The journey of unbecoming also witnessed some of the old ones taking a new avatar and getting diminished into yet another stakeholder in power politics; some of the well-known diplomats, public intellectuals and social activists joined the list. No need to waste time in merely naming and shaming them all. But, let’s take two of the well-known stalwarts.

Our national media hesitates to report about them, our visual culture including popular cinemas fail to see them, our popular novelists are deaf to them, and of course we have little interest to be even curious about them. A glamour industry constructs, new and old media circulates, and wannabe citizens actively consume and reproduce- variety of models without roles.

Ever since an Amitabh Bachchan went berserk about his political affiliation and lustful encashment of his accomplishment, there has been a reason for many of the Bachchan fans to be sceptical about the Bachchan like model masquerading with dubious roles.

An actor who triggered enormous interest among his admirers turned politically stupid (more than twice!) and appears to be the saviour of anything under the sun. An actor who hobnobbed with the accused of financial fraudulence, Sahara Shri Subrat Roy, or swung along with the Yadavas for over a decade in Uttar Pradesh, and there came a dramatic moment when he declared himself a ‘farmer’ in possession of a vast tract of the agricultural land. Give it a break! He circulates videos of himself being hailed by fans with such pride! And, gosh, just in case one does a random content analysis of what he vomits from his Twitter handle, one gets nauseated at the thought of Bachchan being any inch taller than his actor’s stardom.

What roles are these models really playing for us other than obscuring the crystal clear truth that we are too blinded by the blitz of glamour to see our real role models? Look at the ridicule of the drama: a Sachin Tendulkar turned hostile to the very basic principle of parliamentary democracy, by being a conspicuously absent member of the Parliament, and then he expected a patient audience for his vacuous self-defence, and then spoke of returning (at least this what we heard last) the honorarium that he withdrew as the member of the house! And then, he goes around convincing everyone that BMW is the best car! And then he appears to be a champion of (this or that) social cause! Won’t it cause severe diarrhoea for the anatomy of a nation called India?

[irp]

And as if this is any less, we begin to crave for a biopic on a Priyanka Chopra or a Chetan Bhagat or a Virat Kohli. Numbers of teachers, sportspersons and cultural performers, and many others do not even figure in the larger pool of models with significant roles.

Isn’t it a high of abuse that Priyanka Chopra is deemed an epitome of women’s empowerment in India? It is just like saying that women are best placed in India since Pratibha Patil was the President in recent times.

Driven by a disgusting churn in the stomach one turns over the pages of newspapers every morning to see numerous women struggling to find basic minimum safety and respect that is due to them.

If at all, such struggling women shall be made the subject of biopics. If at all, one shall develop a list of many such unsung folks who have been in the socio-cultural battlefield marked by violence against them.

Our national media hesitates to report about them, our visual culture including popular cinemas fail to see them, our popular novelists are deaf to them, and of course we have little interest to be even curious about them. A glamour industry constructs, new and old media circulates, and wannabe citizens actively consume and reproduce- variety of models without roles.

And millions of models playing significant roles in society and polity stay at large, un/under reported, far away from the glitz and blitz, silently working and struggling with the rationale worth human pursuit. The real role models don’t sell; whereas the glamorous models without any roles whatsoever, do.  

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8 Comments

  1. These cinema actors has destroyed last two genrations. They have injected fakeness in society. Individual identity has been challenged.

    1. A bit yes, but not really to that extent. we have had more glorious examples for cine-actor turning to be role models. can’t put them all in one bin.

  2. There could be a similar kind of content reflecting the way actors endorse and promote industrial products. They should be responsible that what they are showing.

  3. This was more elitist than the elitist reviews of popular melodramatic cinema that appears in newspapers and periodicals.

  4. I think this is the most simple fluent way of conveying something this complex. Can’t agree anymore. Well glamour has taken over Parliament, it has reached the potholes of slums too, we have criminalization of politics and glamourization of criminals and then everything is one big salad. And social scientists are left on Twitter without the blue tick.

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