Celebrity culture in India is toxic. There are no qualms about that. We have a tendency to peer with utmost voyeurism into the lives of the popular. Most of us might not realize it, because it’s been normalized by the media and the entertainment industry in general.
We look at them with such an awe that is almost intrusive, forgetting that at the end of the day, once they’ve shed the layers of their on-screen character, they’re still ordinary human beings. Ordinary enough to feel, hurt and even die the same way we do.
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But somehow, we never afford them the dignity they deserve, not even in death. Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic demise last year brought out the worst in a lot of people. Accusations flew, left, right and center. Without an iota of concern or decency for the death of a human being, and the people close to them.
In light of Sidharth Shukla’s untimely demise a few days back, there are similar patterns that can be seen emerging. His mother and sisters were troubled by the insensitive press, close friend Shehnaaz Gill was hounded for reactions to earn clicks. Their grief was turned into pantomime for TRPs.
Commenting on the tamasha that surrounds a celebrity’s demise, comedian Zakir Khan’s Instagram post has found resonance with several other celebrities. His poems express his disdain towards this entire culture we’re living in.
Translated to English, the poem highlights the apathy with which a celebrity’s death is treated,“They don’t think of you as a human being. That’s why there aren’t any lines or boundaries. Your corpse is not a body without a soul, but an opportunity to click pictures. As many as they can click. They’re like the people who try to steal crockery from houses burning in a riot. Because after that, what use will you be to them? At most, 10 pictures, five news pieces, three videos, two stories, one post. That’s it.”
He continued, “That’s why your death will only be a spectacle for them. Your crying mother is a show, your father, broken by the pain, is a show, your depressed sister, your brother who has lost all hope, anyone who loves you, is a show. It would have been another thing had you been alive. After you, your crying loved ones will satisfy their glutton. I’m just saying that this is the life you and I have chosen. Maybe you will regret it a little less if you remember this while you are alive. That’s why you should stay happy with your friends, love your people. Learn new things, make new relationships. Just don’t live for them. Whatever time you have left, live for yourself. Because for them, you aren’t even human.”
Prominent actor Anushka Sharma was one of the earliest to share this heartbreaking dirge on her social media.
Composer Vishal Dadlani, cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal and actor Gauhar Khan are among a few of the celebrities who left messages of agreement and grief on Zakir’s post.
In fact, Gauhar Khan had criticized the insensitivity with which our nation’s media houses approached this sombre situation, “This is shameful! The media houses all alike should be ashamed of this kind of coverage! Hang your heads if this is what you do to someone who has lost a loved one! Be ashamed, very ashamed. All media houses, you are only about sensationalizing even tragedy.”
Sidharth Shukla is survived by his mother and sisters. His memory lives on through millions of his fans as well. But let’s take this moment to introspect the lack of dignity shown to him since his untimely passing on Thursday, aged 40.