Variety

We all know Katrina Kaif

Shashi Baliga | Updated on November 20, 2017

Katrina Kaif

LF_MUGSHOT_SHASHI

Before deriding Bollywood stars, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari should have done some homework on the hard grind behind their success.

Johnny Lever is not my favourite screen comedian, I have to admit. He has great comic timing but I believe it is far more effective in live stage shows than on screen. But I have to grant that he has been one of Hindi cinema's most popular and enduring laugh-guys.

Katrina Kaif is a stunningly beautiful woman who may not be the best actress around… okay, let's not be polite about this; she is definitely not the best actress around. But she is one of Bollywood's top three stars today.

Both Lever and Katrina have got to the top of their respective games thanks to some pretty hard work; nobody has handed them their success on a platter. Salman Khan may have opened some doors for Katrina, but no godfather, however powerful, can push you to the very top in films.

How far did Uday Chopra get even though his father Yash Chopra, the most powerful man in Bollywood today, produced a bunch of movies created specifically for him? Katrina has risen steadily because the audience is clearly in love with her and directors like her because she is hard-working, professional and — this is important — she's also considered a ‘lucky' star.

In short, both Katrina and Lever have got up there on their own steam in an industry notorious for its fondness for sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts.

I really cannot stress this point enough, because there is so little room in Hindi films — as in Indian politics — for those who do not have the advantage of a famous surname. Commendable on their part, you might think.

But Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari seems to view both Katrina and Lever with some degree of contempt. The actress, because she ‘dared' compare herself with Congress scion Rahul Gandhi when she argued in a recent interview, “Am I supposed to be ashamed that I am half-Asian, half-European? I mean, no! Rahul Gandhi is half-Indian, half-Italian. So? I am very proud of what I am…”

Poor Katrina, who is usually very careful, even painfully diplomatic, with her words, found herself facing a torrent of reactions to her remark, including that of Congress spokesperson Tewari, who sneered, “Who is Katrina Kaif? Tomorrow you will ask me to react to Johnny Lever's statement.” He added, in case you didn't get his point, “To what level do you want to bring down political discourse in the country?”

Thought-provoking questions, those. Once I had got over the astonishing arrogance and complete absence of any democratic spirit they displayed, they made me want to ask Mister Tewari some questions of my own.

How is it that you are aware of fading comedian Lever, but not Katrina, whose beauteous face pops up ever so often in commercial breaks between your numerous TV debates, and is also plastered on hoardings all across India?

What's the bet that both Katrina and Lever are perhaps better known than you in many parts of the country? What are the odds that if Katrina and Lever offer to campaign for the Congress Party in the next elections, the offer will be taken up promptly? In fact, some Congress contestants might even ask Katrina to campaign for them.

In this great democracy of ours, since when have the utterances of a film star, or any other law-abiding citizen of India, been of any less importance than, say, yours? Whatever happened to desh ki awaaz, the voice of the people and all that?

Do enlighten us: what is the level of political discourse that you are currently engaged in? The sanctimonious, selectively amnesiac sophistry that airs practically every night on television which nobody buys? The heart-warming displays of decibel power in the Lok Sabha that we have got used to? Or the terminally boring drone attacks launched by excruciatingly inarticulate MPs?

What specifically do you have against Lever or his statements? Does he have a criminal record like so many of your compatriots? Has he defrauded the country of thousands of crore? Has he gained popularity or power through false promises or pretences? Is he using taxpayer money to build himself sprawling mansions? Is it simply that you don't find him funny enough? Perhaps all these years of listening to hilarious statements like “The Congress Party adheres to the highest moral standards,” or anthems such as ‘Our pride is Mother India/Our guide is Mother Sonia' have raised the bar so high for you that humour any less clever leaves you cold. I, for one, will not blame you on this count.

Do you believe, like so many others, that film stars are a pampered, unethical lot who don't have any specific skills, don't deserve the media coverage they get and don't really earn the vast amounts of money they make? Er, has somebody told you that is what most Indians think of politicians? Just multiply it by about a hundred, though.

Or, do you pick on film stars because they are the softest, least retaliatory targets? Because they just don't have the time or patience or backbone to defend themselves and often climb down or apologise pretty soon in such situations? Katrina has gone the predictable way by apologising: “I think the statement has been taken out of context, but if I have hurt anyone's sentiments, I'm extremely sorry.”

Published on July 28, 2011

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