The minute this topic was suggested names and faces that flashed across my mind’s eye were Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princess Diana from the world’s optics and Jayalalitha, Hemamalini, Sridevi and many other Indian film stars…all women who have been hugely popular and paid a heavy price for this.
In India, for our film stars there have been two major influences on their careers…mothers and family and the casting couch. Ambitious mothers who had not made the mark in the film world or left destitute by families turned to their pretty nubile daughters to save their sinking boat. The heroines made it big alright with adulation, fame, even fortune but there was a gaping hole in their personal space.
This vacuum where they lacked a confidante, a partner or just somebody to depend upon was filled in by co-stars, men with an important presence in the film world and in the case of Jayalalitha, the political arena as well. Most of them became second wives and in India bigamy is only punishable if the first wife takes umbrage and files a case. Their insecurity about men being after their money, after their bodies and the exploitation of families, the lack of grooms in the traditional arranged marriage scenario, the slur attached to their profession drove them to becoming second wives.
So in Tamilnadu, we have this concept of ‘chinna veedu’ or small/second home where the paramour is housed. We had a political giant who spent the day with his official wife and home and the evening to next morning in his second home. Both wives…in some cases 3 to 4 extra homes were very productive in terms of kids and they in turn took to films as well.
We also have a media that promotes an affair between stars when a film is being shot and about to release. It used to be conjecture, but now it is paid news and PR practices. The paparazzi is famous in the West and the biggest victim of it was Princess Diana. However, I think that her media blitz was also part of her being glorified into a victimised, solitary idol, a symbol of the ‘wronged, abused’ woman who was being spotlighted at that time. This was the era when women were coming out to protest against chauvinism and patriarchal norms that had an iron grip on society. Diana was a glamorous Pygmalion who became the mascot of this rebellion.
Are there virtues to popularity? Well, let me share an amusing account from my own life. There was a famous film star called Padmini..a friend of the family in fact! I had also briefly forayed into acting in films based on my years on the stage. The star was awarded a Regional Award called Kalaimamani…meaning a jewel in the garland of arts. My name was printed just before hers in trade directories. The phone bells rang that day incessantly to wish me on receiving the reward. I got a couple of bouquets as well that I had to return sadly!! Well…that could be the virtue of having a famous name in the same field, isn’t it?
This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah and Prof.Natarajan.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they write about this topic.