When I read Nitin Gadkari’s statements on veteran actress Asha Parekh, I cringed, not for Ashaji — she is way above these petty heckling exercises — but for the entire political brigade which shamelessly uses stars’ names, power and clout for their own benefit.
Look at the way Shatrughan Sinha and Hema Malini are used to attract crowds at political parties. But when it comes to allotting them real power they are shunned as ‘glamour industry ke putley’ (puppets of the glamour industry).
Asha Parekh may or may not have gone lobbying for a Padma Bhushan. But even if she did what is wrong in it? Actors, sports-persons and writers routinely lobby for awards. Besides, if Saif Ali Khan is seen suited for a Padma Shri surely Asha Parekh deserves the Padma Bhushan. Moreover, should a private meeting between a much-loved ex-actress and a politician who tacitly represents her interests, be made public?
Nobody cares if Parekh climbed 12 floors to meet Gadkari . Did he have the courtesy to see her down those 12 floors personally? Doesn't look like it, going by the way he has humiliated her publicly. Most of our politicians need a crash course basic etiquettes. They throw in names in their public speeches which have nothing to do with their political performance.
Stars are perennially walking on a two-edged sword. They must forever make themselves available to politicians and bureaucrats for functions, rallies and ribbon-cutting. When they take time off for these engagements with politicians and bureaucrats they must make it seem as if they, the politicians and bureaucrats, are doing them a favour, and not the other way around.
I remember an incident that occured in a hotel in Patna where Abhishek Bachchan was staying for the night. A bureaucrat’s nephew was getting married in the same hotel. When the wedding revellers got to know of Abhishek’s presence they all rushed to knock on his door at 2.30 am for selfies. There were approximately 50 people wanting to enter Abhishek’s room. Groggy and confused, Abhishek asked them to come back in the morning. The bureaucrat at the helm of the revellers’ gang glowered at Abhishek with a smile, ‘Theek hai, dekh lenge’, he said.
What did Abhishek do after that?
‘What could I do? I allowed all of them to take pictures with me one by one. I felt like I was mass molested,’ he said.
Politicians and bureaucrats consider stars a usable commodity, and they don’t hesitate in belittling them in public to get a few laughs. Remember Laloo Yadav’s infamous statement that he would make Bihar’s roads smoother than Hema Malini’s cheeks? She was furious. ‘Why bring me into election promises?Please treat us with respect,’ she retorted.
Stars, in case we forget, are as human as all of us. Mr Gadkari’s statement hurt Asha Parekh immensely. Baffled by the outburst, she wanted to know why a personal meeting which may or may not have happened, was made an occasion for ridicule.
That is a question which politicians need to ask themselves each time they use an entertainer’s name to get noticed.