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A Tragic Comedy of Errors

My first reactions, as I heard the now viral conversation between Kapil Sharma and the editor of a leading entertainment news portal were mixed – some amount of dark humour (with the jibes that Kapil made saying “english waale kaunse hit ho gaye!”) but there was mostly disbelief. Was this really the man of TV, known for his comedy, who at one point in time, even if not of late, was responsible for many laughing their heads off at his humour? Was he actually capable of mouthing the filth that I heard? But then there was a sense of déjà vu. In the past nearly two decades of being a film journalist for both TV and print – I had heard of and even seen firsthand – several instances where a celebrity was not even a shadow of what he or she projected as an image. I must admit, a lot of hero-like figures in my mind came crashing down, rather rudely.

I have seen many lash out, act really obnoxious, break down and simply lose it before my eyes. Globally, many big names in showbiz have faced a downfall of – and over the years, after being a public relations spin doctor for at least half a dozen celebs (sorry, my ethics come in the way of naming them) I have come to the conclusion that the reason for their fall from top is almost always the fame that they so fervently chase. Even though, this is never really acknowledged as the case.

Fame is its own price
In an interview to NDTV several years ago, Hrithik Roshan had declared: “There are no side effects of anything. If there is a negative feedback then it is just a feedback. There is no negative side-effect. We all have areas of our life which are not perfect and we can choose to sit and complain about that,” Hrithik said. (Read the interview here: I am sure after 15 years and the recent controversies he has been embroiled in, he would be happy to eat his words.

But Hrithik is a discussion for another time.

What prompted me to finally pen down what I may have been very vocal about was – what happened to Kapil Sharma?

But Kapil Sharma isn’t the only case where the side effects of fame have taken over all the goodwill an entertainer may have earned. Veteran film journalist Rauf Ahmed had once told me how Rajesh Khanna once kept filmmaker BR Chopra waiting in Srinagar for three consecutive days. The fourth day, he sent his cook on his business class ticket! Justifying such high-handedness, Khanna had declared to Ahmed: “People come to see my films to see me.”

That was Rajesh Khanna. But there are many examples of how people become one-song- or one-film-wonders – just because they cannot handle the sudden adulation that has hit them when they were just so unprepared. And then the most dangerous aspect of fame – hubris – comes into play.

When I was a journalist with a leading news channel, a leading actress was signed on to be the brand ambassador for a jewellery brand. A group of journalists who were invited to interview her were made to wait for four hours in the sweltering May of Mumbai outside her vanity van. When asked the reason for the delay, she had cheekily remarked, “Because I can !”

A Punjabi singer, who shot to fame with his breakthrough song, and has been one of my clients, had once remarked, “No one is as talented as I am!” And yet, there is only one song that he is still remembered for – his debut about half a decade ago. I noticed his posse and circle of hangers-on were constantly fanning the fire of ‘I am the best’ within him. Hubris is just one aspect of fame. It triggers something within a person, affecting the outer as much as inner personality.

Coming back, again, to Kapil Sharma, during the phone call, after he abuses the editor of the portal, Kapil Sharma takes the phone and tries to assuage the situation. When towards the end the editor asks for an apology for the foul language used, the friend declares: “Kapil will not apologise to anybody!”

Feeding the monsters
Like in the case of Rajesh Khanna, or the singer I am referring to, and several other celebs – even this posse of Kapil Sharma – it is mostly the hangers on, the coterie around a star – which keeps reassuring a person about his (or her) false sense of entitlement – this coterie, this posse, is often rewarded for their loyalty…And paradoxically, it is a public figure’s closest friends and family that also have a role to play in how the celeb deals with fame. It is up to this inner circle to serve him or her a reality check…and often, they don’t do it. I have been in one and I know how antsy a famous person became when shown the mirror! Or how insecure they are – or become.

With power comes responsibility
Fame, in this case, is never the attributed cause. In Kapil’s case, it is his ‘depression’ that is being cited as the reason for his mercurial behaviour. As always, it is either an “arbitrary” imbalance or a “suddenly developed” stress that takes blame, but few recognize that these are more than merely unfortunate side effects to fame.

Stardom is power. And as power can corrupt those who have it, so can stardom. The negative effects of stardom depend on an individual – how well-/ ill- equipped one is to handle the attention. They are trapped in a cage. They don’t trust people and react in extreme ways when a situation merely requires them to be normal.

Walking a red carpet while donning designer outfits and bathed in bling is the most imagined visual when imagining a “celebrity”. However, most celebrities lead lonely lives – possibly because they take the world of make-believe they create too seriously – often creating bubbles to live in. I think it is worth to question whether fame is worth the loss of cherished relationships? Is it worth your privacy, sanity or sense of security?

Or is it okay to portray the sense of tragic-comedy that is not even funny.


Text by Aarti Kapur Singh

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