Film stars have begun to imagine that they are above the law of the land, and can get away with any misdemeanour.
Indian movie stars do not seem to hear their directors’ call to cut. Actors imagine that the street beyond the screen is yet another set where they act out as they please. And there are no helmers out there to shout cut!
Last week, Bollywood’s Saif Ali Khan – who can be an excellent actor as I have seen him, particularly in Omkara (Shakespeare’s Othello recreated in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh) — bashed up a South African businessman, Iqbal Sharma, and his aged father-in-law at a Taj restaurant in Mumbai.
Sharma and others were dining at a table next to where Saif and his friends, including the woman he is planning to wed, Kareena Kapoor, were. Something seems to have provoked Saif, when he got up and punched Sharma and his father-in-law. Sharma’s nose broke, and the older man lay writhing in pain.
Saif, who was later arrested and freed on bail, said that he had acted in self-defence after being attacked.
Saif seems to be on a sticky wicket. An employee of the restaurant where the brawl happened and 15 other diners there that night have said that Saif was the first to bash up Sharma and his father-in-law. The police added that there was no sign of injury on Saif. Medical reports confirmed this.
The Taj incident is part of a series of punches that Saif has delivered. Once, he walked into the house of journalist and gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi and slapped him, because he had criticised Sharmila Tagore’s accent.
(Saif is the son of Tagore and the late cricketer, Nawab of Pataudi. Both hail from distinguished families.)
Saif had also knocked down another journalist, who reportedly wrote about an “affair” that Saif’s former wife, Amrita Singh, was having. Later, Amrita and Saif divorced.
It was not just men who got it from Saif. Some years ago, he and his friends drove into a reserve forest in Rajasthan and killed an endangered blackbuck. The deer is held sacred by the local Bishnoi community.
One of Saif’s friends in the bloody wildlife adventure was Salman Khan, the other “bad boy of Bollywood”.
Above the law?
Film stars have begun to imagine that they are above the law of the land, and can get away with any misdemeanour. It really speaks poorly of Saif’s nawabi (royal) culture and heritage to have hit an elderly man. What kind of etiquette is this? Was he trying to impress Kareena? Or, the others around him?
In many ways, the media and the masses are responsible for such egocentrism and violence among actors.
Television especially is obsessed with celebrities, often with their lives outside the set. Nobody is bothered about performances or anything else that go to make good cinema.
On the other hand, fans are so smitten by the stars that they build temples for them and garland tall wooden cutouts of them, anointing them with milk and honey.
In South India, stars like Rajnikanth and Kamalahasan get unbelievable adulation from admirers.
Amitabh Bachchan has become a virtual king, and the people and the press have been talking and writing about him, his family and now his granddaughter, Beti B, as she is called, for months.
It is, therefore, not surprising that actors have begun to feel that they are demi-gods who can do no wrong.
Whether it is drunken driving or bringing into the country goods without declaring them at the Customs or beating up journalists or others, the stars seem to be adept at all these.
The swashbuckling stars and their cavalier ways are a worrying phenomenon, to say the least.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.