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sonia agarwal


Over the years, the relationship between media and cinema has been hot and cold. It has been a symbiotic relationship; the sore point of which has always been gossip and grapevine. It is this element of the media that has always put cinema personalities on high alert; time and again. Somehow, it looks like something that is here to stay forever. Many sections of the media can’t seem to find too many better ways to spice up their news. Things about cinema that have been stereotyped through the media include things like the casting couch, celebrity link ups and such things. Somehow, all this has created a rather unworthy picture of cinema, at least in the minds of a minority. Cinema obviously does not enjoy being stereotyped in such an unfavourable manner; nor do celebrities, many of who have been frustrated by the unending prying of the media.

But, has cinema done enough to pull itself out of such stereotypes or is it only feeding the media with more opportunities to perpetuate, perhaps even justify, gossip and grapevine. One feels not. Why is that so? Well, if anyone has stereotyped cinema, it is cinema itself. One only needs to look at the movies that are based on the film industry itself and you will find them abounding in stereotypes; some of which look even sharper than the kind of things we come across in gossip columns.

Look at Oru Nadigaiyin Vaakkumoolam; all the worst things you have heard about the film industry (whether you believed them or not is another thing altogether) were shown on the big screen. Yes, a movie is a work of fiction. But, one cannot deny that portrayals in cinema do mould our outlook towards certain things; especially when it is about things that we do not have a direct knowledge of. We have to agree that cinema has more or less shaped the average Tamil citizen’s attitude towards policemen (it is safe to assume that  95% of people who watch Tamil cinema think of traffic policemen as  basically ‘bribe collectors’). Tamil cinema has also played a role in shaping attitudes towards politics. So, it is no surprise, that when Tamil cinema has something to say about itself, people tend to accept it as a largely prevalent reality. Oru Nadigaiyin Vaakkumoolam had it all; the casting couch, the contemptuous star, the demanding star parent, the lecherous producer etc. It was more like a manual of all gossip material rolled into a 2 hour capsule.

But, Oru Nadigaiyin Vaakkumoolam is not the only movie that has stereotyped cinema in such a way. ‘The Dirty Picture’, acclaimed for showing the mercurial rise and fall of a poster girl too had many stereotypes; in fact, the movie was built around popular (mis)conceptions about cinema. The ageing hero who refuses to accept that time is catching up with him, the actress who gives in to addictions in the face of the pressure of fame etc. If that is what cinema has to say about itself, you hardly can blame the media if it says something along similar lines. Take any movie about the film industry for that matter; it will have at least a few of the most unpleasant stereotypes that the media has pasted onto cinema.

Sometimes, it is not just in cinema that such stereotypes are encouraged. It is sometimes felt that film makers welcome a bit of gossip about their film or the lead stars in it when the release is imminent. Of course, that is an allegation that cannot be backed up with any substantiation. But, it smelt strangely like a set up during the weeks that ran up to the release of Ekk Deewana Tha. It is tough to understand how it is promotional activity for a film when Prateik Babbar says that it is very tough to convince Amy to come out on a date. No prizes for guessing that all such talk was non-existent after February 17. There have also been very curious cases when film makers have tried to cash in on personal lives of the stars. It cannot be put down to pure coincidence that movies featuring a ‘soon to be married star couple’ always makes it to screens just one week before or after the marriage. We had Ritesh-Genelia’s Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya releasing closely behind their marriage. And, that is not a one off case; we had Abhishek-Aishwarya’s Umrao Jaan releasing just after their marriage. We even had Sillunu Oru Kadhal releasing the Friday before the Suriya-Jyothika marriage. Were all these coincidences? We’ll never know.

The point is; until cinema starts stereotyping itself thus, the media cannot be expected to do so. Also, until cinema distances itself from the personalities of its stars (almost every other star movie has a dialogue or two that directly reflect the personality of the star) everyone will continue to view things with blurred borders. Finally, if not anything else, let actors not sell gossip. Don’t get what I mean? Remember the Vodafone ad where Prakash Raj asks you to ‘dial 123’ to get the latest gossip on stars. Irffan Khan said the same in Hindi. Well, when actors of their stature sell gossip, people are bound to buy it. No point complaining later.

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