Let’s get this out of the way right away — whoever came up with the idea of putting Suhana Khan on the cover of Vogue deserves a promotion.
I mean, just look at the amount of publicity it’s generated for the magazine! If you think all of social media foaming and frothing at the mouth is going to give the powers-that-be at Vogue even one second of sleeplessness… I salute your innocence and naiveté. I saw this really cute half-hearted hashtag on Twitter — #BoycottVogue — and I have to admit, it made me erupt into some rather unladylike snorts.
Vogue, a magazine filled with glossy pages featuring products so hideously expensive that even its cheapest recommendations would wipe out my entire pay cheque, is not meant for all the people clamouring to boycott it, or whose sensibilities are hurt by the vulgarity of a popular sperm gracing its sacred cover. We’ve seen Shweta Bachchan Nanda on the cover of Vogue often enough — ironically, she and her daughter were both on the cover exactly this time, last year — so there’s no reason for us to be offended by Suhana Khan’s presence on it.
Vogue is meant for people like the Bachchans, the Nandas, and the Khans, and their rich, richer, obscenely richest friends. And they’re going to simper and preen at having one of their own on its cover, however undeserved the honour might be. It is a genius move by Vogue, really. Neatly inserting itself into the conversation of the commoners even as it emphasises its unwavering fealty to the 1 percent. And they got Shah Rukh Khan to release the issue and tweet heart-melting things for them in the process. You have to be a stone-cold monster to not feel the fuzzies when a father talks about a second chance to hold his precious daughter in his arms.
Then why are the panties of all of us, who are anyway too middle class to be of any relevance to Vogue, in a twist? The clarion call to boycott Vogue would make any sense if you were going to shell out the Rs 150 to buy an actual copy in the first place. And, let’s face it, if the interview with Suhana was to make it on the magazine’s site outside the paywall, we’d all guiltily read it. Outraged sense of righteousness is no match for the difficult-to-come-by opportunity to penetrate Mannat’s towering walls.
Because keeping up pretences is important, in a civilised, democratic society.
Pretence is the glue that holds us together and a magazine cannot be allowed to threaten this delicate eco-system where the rest of the 99 percent tells itself that it, too, can avail of the same opportunities that the one percent-ers (more often than not) are born into. But only if it keeps its nose to the grindstone and pays its dues, while the 1 percent-era act like their struggles and insecurities are just like ours.
We want to believe that we can be them if we only push ourselves a little bit harder, and they want to keep us hooked by assuring us they’re not all that different so we stay invested in their charmed lives, and their carefully curated Instagram accounts. It is an arrangement that has worked, for the most part.
Until now, that is.
For the last couple of years, Bollywood has been in the throes of heated debates, cutting accusations, and a whole lot of finger-pointing over the all-pervasive claws of nepotism. Karan Johar, the Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy combined, of star kids, must curse the day he invited the curly-haired hurricane (Kangana Ranaut) to his deliciously frivolous show, Koffee With Karan. With one throwaway comment, Ranaut ripped through the delicate fabric that cloaks star kid privilege. The rules of discourse around the topic changed, overnight.
Don’t get me wrong — not much had to materially change. The Janhvi, Ranbir, Sonam, Arjun, Harshvardhan Kapoors of the world were still going to fall into perfect launch vehicles with enormous marketing, styling and PR budgets, while the rest of the world queues up in the heat for audition after endless audition; but at least they had the decency to look uncomfortable or be defensive when questioned about it. At least they were expected to dredge up an iota of talent somewhere down the line, even if they landed movies simply because their parents were willing to aggressively promote their duds.
When Vogue puts a Suhana Khan on the cover, it’s almost as if it is not even trying to pretend that merit has anything to do with anything. We all knew it, but must Vogue be so blatantly obvious about it? Is it too much to ask, that the magazine wait until she signs her debut film with Karan Johar, before wetting its panties in glee?
Truth be told, we’re not angry with Vogue, we’re angry with ourselves for being so enamoured by anything that smells like celebrity that a teenager’s whine about her glittery life is a story far too many of us will greedily read. Vogue is not pretending when it calls Suhana Khan a future star, we’re pretending, if we think she isn’t already one. We made her a star. So let’s take a leaf out of Vogue and stop pretending, shall we?