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Deepika Padukone’s cleavage row: Sensational-sexist-misogynist

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What everyone needs to understand though, is the line between real and reel is almost non-existent if not blurred

A lot has been written about the now famously infamous ‘cleavage’ row surrounding actor Deepika Padukone. And there may or may not be an end to this. Moral brigades have sprung about like momo stalls – in every nook and cranny – on and off the Internet. Empowerment and equality for all is the new punch line everyone seems to be resorting to, yet again.

For the Rip Van Winkles that infest our world today, here’s a primer.

Last week, an English daily from Mumbai posted a video through their twitter handle with what they probably thought were rather innocuous words [OMG! Deepika’s cleavage show!]. The video was a year old and the star was at a public event, draped in gorgeousness that ‘flaunted’ her assets – a woman’s all encompassing cleavage. What they, or anybody for that matter, were oblivious to, was the outrage that surged in Deepika. So yes, she tweeted an angry response and was supported by several people from the film industry and outside. She also wrote a note on her Facebook page, asking people to stop objectifying her real self, as opposed to her reel characters.

However, this did not end there and Monday morning, the said publication wrote an open letter to the actor with the predictable and now trending words ‘Dear Deepika…our point of view’. In what seems like a futile and insinuating defence, the writer of the open letter calls the actress a hypocrite, almost telling her that she was asking for it, since she began her career as a calendar girl for a liquor brand and flaunted her body during stage shows and photo shoots. The rebuttal by the publication met with a barrage of retaliatory pieces from several quarters and snowballed into something that even made it to international press.

This entire episode brings us to a pertinent question. Does it really deserve the attention it has gathered? Are actresses now tired of being objectified? And will this result in something more concrete? Say, the death knell for those horridly named ‘item numbers’. As much as the Hindi film industry has been given accolades for the dawn of ‘new age cinema’, for promoting ‘Gandhigiri’ and similar Samaritan activities, it is also blamed for many things – promoting immoral activities, titillating people, hurting religious sentiments, to name a few. Perhaps now they’ll be more responsible and take a firm stand against several allegations and accusations hurled at them.

That celebrities are public figures is a no brainer. They’re also aware of their reach and impact should they choose to associate themselves with a certain humanitarian cause. So are they really exempt from being scrutinized for what they wear and the movie and songs they feature in? Is the ‘right to not be objectified’ debate actually just gibberish or should it be now taken seriously? Is it time the Hindi film industry takes a look at how its overt objectification of actors spills out in the open? And how it gets translated into ‘sensational-sexist-misogynist’ headlines and copies? What everyone needs to understand though, is the line between real and reel is almost non-existent if not blurred.

Sure, the idea behind any kind of cinema is to entertain. Please don’t fall for the ‘leave your brains at home to enjoy this movie’ trap. That can’t happen. Given what has transpired during the past week and what has become of it (whether this entire exercise is an orchestrated move is questionable), is it time to look into the real objective of cinema? It is to educate? Entertain? Or is it now just reduced to being a money-making factory?

And for those who think that sensational headlines work and sell and get maximum page views online because ‘that is what the reader wants’ and ‘who do you think is consuming this’, should perhaps think ‘who is feeding the audience’? It would be rather unfair to put the blame on an audience hungry for news - cerebral or non-cerebral. Do we really want to resort to “Bollywood actresses and their peek-a-boo moments”, “All not well in ABC’s marriage”, “Superstar’s abs fake! Watch exclusive video”. The media needs to start feeding and seeding the right kind of content before we can take sides and be oh-so-morally-righteous.

In other news, #GetWellSoonTOI is also trending and has nothing to do with Deepika Padukone. Salman Khan fans are apparently miffed that the same publication carried an article questioning the authenticity of the actor’s abs. Clearly, it hasn’t worked in their favour. As Tom Cruise’s Lt Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men said, “And the hits just keep on coming”!