For a while, Ranu Mondal (then known as the "woman singing at Bengal's Ranaghat Station") became everyone's favourite singer. She featured on everyone's WhatsApp and Instagram stories, videos of her were strewn all over Facebook and some even made her voice their ringtones (No, we're not exaggerating). Unlike other viral videos which usually have a shelf life of a few days, Mondal's fame was long-lasting. Her voice touched the hearts of millions, and everyone wanted to know who she was.
But the Internet is a cruel place. What started as stardom soon turned into trolling. Soon the wishes and love notes turned into memes that included often morphed and grossly distorted photos of hers on social media.
Revealing her identity was a game-changer, and probably the one move that even Mondal regrets now. But then again, she didn't really have a choice in the matter, did she?
When Atindra Chakraborty shared Mondal's video on social media and also disclosed her name to the world, we wonder if he'd prepared her for what was to come. Let's assume that Ranu Mondal, given her humble background, had little or no idea about how social media works and didn't really know that there's always a downside to fame.
Her personal life was completely torn apart and brought under public scrutiny. People took it upon themselves to dig out Ranu Mondal's estranged daughter and publicly shame her for abandoning her mother. Mr. Chakraborty, too, joined the bandwagon and further ignited the public against Mondal's family and painted them in an unfavourable light. As details of Ranu Mondal's past emerged, more and more people were lured in. Because greater misery breeds more fan following? Perhaps.
Her daughters were forced to offer clarification and explanations to strangers, who seemed more curious to ensure justice was served, even more than the "victim" herself.
The enthralling factor wore off soon enough, and by now, people were beginning to get tired of minute-by-minute updates of what Ranu Mondal was up to. From makeovers to opportunities to record with Himesh Reshammiya, Mondal's journey seemed to be just out a fairy tale. But whether these grand gestures were genuine or just another way for brands to cash in on someone's two minutes of fame, we'll never know.
Things escalated and took a turn for the worse when online trolls decided they didn't want to miss out on a golden opportunity either. Events were created which marked people safe from Ranu Mondal photos and videos. Memes were made and Mondal, who probably had no idea whatsoever, was brutally ridiculed on social media. It's quite easy to scoff at someone who doesn't really have the same platform to express how she felt about all of this.
Very recently, after the Supreme Court delivered the Ayodhya verdict, Ranu Mondal, like most internet celebrities, became the victim of fake news. After a parody website published a fake piece that Ranu Mondal had demanded land for a church where the Ram Mandir is supposed to be built, she was trolled mercilessly. While some called her ungrateful, others said that she needs to be "shown her place".
A few days ago, a video of Ranu Mondal yelling fans to not touch or come near her went viral. As the video was shared over and over again, the narrative was the same - "How dare Ranu Mondal treat her fans this way?" or "We made her who she is, how can she behave like this?"
Really sad we all twitterati supp her when her station vala video came see her behaviour after becoming celebrity
Such insult of any fan is pathetic #RanuMondal @singh_harmeet84 https://t.co/8rQHcEijau
— Nandini Idnani (@idnani_nandini) November 4, 2019
Ranu Mondal, who was singing in Railway Station says: * She's now a celebrity and others shouldn't touch her! This is what happens when people don't know to handle the instant name and fame they get! pic.twitter.com/7tRk1WHTsL — Mahesh Vikram Hegde (@mvmeet) November 4, 2019
So, if someone touches you inappropriately or without your consent, should you not speak up? But then again, Ranu Mondal owes her fans her life, doesn't she?
This, dear friends, is exactly where the problem lies. Every time a video like Mondal's goes viral, empathetic Indians rush to their rescue. After all, who doesn't like a filmy rags-to-riches story? But their sympathy comes with strings attached. Ranu Mondal, and people like her, are expected to be mere puppets in the hands of their fans and accept whatever comes their way with heads bowed down and folded hands. The moment you retaliate or take a step which fans don't approve of, you will be reminded of your place and where you belong and reduced to nothing but a joke.
This is quite evident in the latest trend of Ranu Mondal memes. Yes, that's a thing now. Mondal was recently called to an event, where she was dressed up by professionals. In bright makeup, an OTT hairdo and lehenga, Ranu Mondal looks nothing like she did in the first video that surfaced of her.
— Pavitra Behre (@_pavitra_af) November 17, 2019
#RanuMandal Pic 1: Clicked by iPhone 11 Pic 2: Clicked by Oppo/Vivo#ranumondal pic.twitter.com/oJeOytrN4m — A.v. Rajpurohit (@AvRajpurohit1) November 17, 2019
DEAR HOLLYWOOD , IF YOU HAVE THE
WE HAVE OUR RANU MONDAL . 🌚 pic.twitter.com/tYRz9hB4Fd
— A rY An (@aRyAn17469556) November 18, 2019
And as expected, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were soon bombarded with Photoshopped images of Ranu Mondal and memes which are meant to induce laughter. The notion of "humour" has become so contorted in the age of free internet, that laughter at someone else's cost is the only way we know.
What's worse is that those photos were allegedly fake. The make-up artist behind the extreme makeover, too, faced the brunt of social media users who felt that the former should have taken Mondal's age into consideration. Consequently, Sandhya's Makeover decided to come forth with the real photos of Ranu Mondal's makeover, and it looks nothing like the photoshopped versions being circulated online. In verbiage, you basically trolled her over nothing.
Here's the thing: Ranu Mondal was not looking for fame or fandom when a video of her went viral. She was not looking for a career in Bollywood when Himesh Reshammiya recorded a song with her. She isn't trying to look "pretty" or conform with society's idea of what a celebrity should look like when salons around the country offer her free makeovers.
But, one can assume, that all Ranu Mondal would really like is respect - something that she is entitled to, and not on grounds of new-found fame or stardom. Now that we've delved deep into her past, dug up her family history, applauded her achievements, trolled her, scorned her and made her the butt of our jokes, can we please leave her alone?