Are we seeing things correctly? Deepika Padukone showed up on the JNU campus to express solidarity with the students of JNUSU? Are you serious? Given mainstream Bollywood’s stunned silence on the issue, it does feel like a dream. On top of that, Padukone is set to release a film this Friday. Three days before the release of any film… is Bollywood’s We’re-Apolitical-And-Happy-
And yet, Deepika Padukone *chooses* to visit the JNU campus, while the rest of her A-list contemporaries feign ignorance? Hell, that’s something.
Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone visits JNU campus, expresses solidarity with students.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) 7 January 2020
Now before we bestow her with the title of ‘the saviour’, let’s take a step back and acknowledge that this is not a simple moment of being starstruck. We’re not talking about the glamour she brings to the protests.
And there are other worries around the visit too – why did she stay only for a few minutes? Why didn’t she say anything if she feels so strongly? Was she here to score brownie points with the ‘woke-liberal’ type of the audience, who are also incidentally the target audience for her upcoming film about an acid attack survivor.
There are plenty of questions, and there’s too little time. Let’s hypothesise that she is, in fact, trying to score brownie points with a demographic of her fans. Which, in comparison, to the rest of her colleagues is still a step further. Why didn’t she say anything? Probably because celebrities and their sound bytes often divert attention from the main issue? Does nobody remember how Aamir Khan’s mere presence robbed the Narmada Bachao Andolan of its sanctity? Why did she stay only a few minutes? On the bright side, where she could have spent those few minutes doing absolutely anything else in the world, she chose to drop by at the JNU campus and hug the JNUSU president, Aishe Ghosh, who was severely beaten up on Sunday evening.
Being a famous person can often be a double-edged sword in India. Whatever you might do, you stand to alienate about half of your audience. Like it or not, but this does translate into the footfalls in theatres, the nationwide trending hashtags, and the death-threats that a celebrity might receive. Deepika Padukone showing up on the JNU campus might or might not affect the protests in any significant way. She showed up, in spite of having things to lose. She’s a global star, and her actions get recognised by the world media.
It’s not just about a protest being legitimised by a celebrity. But imagine how much a protest grows in profile when even a scared-of-losing-their-fame Bollywood actor joins in. Even without uttering a word. Padukone’s colleagues can learn.