Has corona killed the very notion of Celebrity? Introspection is in; flake has crumbled in the grip of the mighty mite. As the virus bulldozes over our certainties, the world looks back in shock at what it once held in awe: luxe lifestyle, OTT fashion or just mall-to-mall consumerism. All these coalesced in the shimmering creatures whose every move and cleavage were followed with unabashed gape. But with the pandemic-engendered back-to-basics resolve, these glitzens are in danger of being unceremoniously Kondo-ed. Is the existential crisis already upon them? If storied designer houses are making masks instead of mascara, and Katrina Kaif is doing jhadoo-pochha instead of teetering off to some impossibly glamorous getaway, then surely the paparazzi-peppered party is over?
Mandated lockdown has been fortified by voluntary fear. Everyone’s braced for the brave new normal (now a cliché as overworked as us in these help-less times). Sequins and gown have tumbled down and in the dusting been equally made, as the 16th-century James Shirley didn’t quite put it in his poem on death the leveller. But if we are asking if the virus has made celebrity history, let’s look at the recent viral spat between two divas of Bollywood, that Gangotri of brittle fame.
Director Farah Khan posted a clip in ‘the interest of health and safety’ with a ‘meri humble request’ to the stars to ‘stop making and bombarding us with your work-out videos’. She righteously added, ‘You may have no worries other than looking after your figures, but most of us have bigger concerns during this crisis.’ She rounded off her tick-off with a threat worse than death: ‘If you can’t stop, then toh don’t feel bad if I unfollow you.’ This prompted a pronto smackdown from Sonam Kapoor: ‘Let people be, judginess (sic) is so not cool.’ This was in continuation of her director-sister Rhea’s Instagram riposte: ‘If people wanna work out during this time, let them; if they wanna bake and cook and make friggin eclairs from scratch, let them….’. A sizeable slice of the starry quarantine oeuvre also consists of videos showing them ‘channeling their inner barber’ (Anushka)/ mali; (Juhi)/ halwai; (Malaika making ladoos)/ intellectual (Saif in his study with faux candles and real orchids).
Is it all too fakey-flaky in these fractious times? Methinks Farah just did not get it. Even more than earlier, the have-less need the diversion of the have-mores. Amidst mounting panic and household chores, the celebrity could be therapy — or even the equivalent of the exotic getaway. More simply, Katrina doing the dishes might make the bartan load lighter for Kamala-ji in her Karol Bagh 2BHK.
The larger point is that we’re hard-wired for voyeurism. That’s what fuels Rich Lists, which are devoured even though they will always have zero-relevance to our lives. It’s what drove the phenomenon of Page Three, the undisputed progenitor of the Indian Celebrity; no paternity test needed. Those of us present at its birthing in the Bombay Times had no idea that it would create a whole new anthropological classification, or lead to the illogical spectacle of Page One People scrambling to become P3Ps. Acquiring fame was a slog; achieving celebrity was the quick fix provided you had the stuff to strut, and could magnetise it for the flash bulbs. Those already in our obsession zone had it easiest, film stars and cricketers. When they hit upon incestuous marriages, they doubled their equity.
Clothes are the essential accessory of celebrity. It’s a symbiotic relationship. But the glitterati can’t be all dressed up when corona has rained on their parading, and completely reversed the definition of ‘hot-spots’. Come on, how much enthusiasm can they summon to gown up for a Zoom party? So, will the rag trade become just that since dressing down will outlast the lockdown? Social distancing and WFH will not entirely disappear when the pandemic finally does. Even if these constraints are totally dismantled, the chastened shopper will no longer see the point of vertiginous stilettoes. After our corona-minted insight, retail therapy might well come with the toxic side-effect of guilt.
Does this portend a no-frills world where high fashion has flounced off, cutting at the very heart of glam-sham? That our eyeballs will no longer stick to glitter glue? That celebrities will turn into post-midnight Cinderellas? And we, sad sods, be condemned to the choiceless choice between jammies and track pants? Nah! There are many reasons, important and un, why these glitzens will not, and should not, be consigned to the raddi of irrelevance. Sorry, Farah, those ‘unconcerned’ Tik-Tok videos are needed to muffle the ticking time-bomb of the corona.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.