The other day when Bollywood star Deepika Padukone was entering the Mumbai airport, a security guard asked her for her identity card. She shot back a question, do you need it. The guard said yes, and the actress flashed the card and walked in. Social media posts in India erupted in sheer joy. They patted her for being humble enough to present her identification!
Really, it is appalling the way we venerate our celebrities. Can a George Clooney or a Clint Eastwood or an Angelina Jolie or, for that matter, any Hollywood star walk through American airport security without presenting their identity card? No way. I have seen Roman Polanski queue up at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and go through the security check just like any other man or woman. So why would Padukone be singled out for special mention on social media sites when she was obliged – like any other citizen of India – to show her papers.
Sadly in India, we suffer from this degrading slavishness that pushes us to worship stardom – be it a cricketer or an actor or a minister. This is particularly glaring in Tamil Nadu, where actors not only get titles like Thalapathi (Commander-in-Chief), Captain and Makkal Selvan (People's Darling), but also are showered with sky-high praises. Often, a Rajinikanth movie release is preceded by drum-beats and cracker displays. Huge wooden cutouts of the actor are made, placed strategically outside the cinemas showing his film, and they are anointed with milk, honey and sandalwood. The cutouts are also garlanded with fresh flowers.
Never mind, the movie could turn out to be a disastrous flop, and may lose crores of rupees putting producers and others in peril.
Some months ago, the well-known Tamil actor, Jai, was caught driving drunk, and he was told to appear in court. He failed to do so, but eventually turned up when a non-bailable warrant was issued. The court suspended his driver's licence and asked him to pay a fine of Rs 5000. The police were reportedly upset with this singularly light punishment, especially because the star had committed the same crime earlier.
I remember an established Bollywood actor and his companions walking in to catch a flight at Mumbai airport after the gates had been closed. But the Indian counter-staff obliged him and let him pass.
What is despicable is the air of arrogance some of our film stars carry on their sleeves, and they have hundreds of clapper-boys – their fans of course – who gush over them, place huge halos around their heads and, well, spoil them, silly into thinking that they can do no wrong. They are revered like demi-gods!
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In the ultimate analysis, the guard at the airport gate was merely following protocol and his duty when he asked Padukone for her identification. Well, she did not make a fuss, but did shoot a question: Do you need it? Of course, Miss Padukone, you need to produce your papers. For all you know, the poor guy at the entrance may not be a movie-goer, and would not have known you. And even if he had recognised you, he was well within his rights to ask for your identity card. And certainly, this does not call for any celebration and outbursts of joy from fans on social platforms.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)