The actor has chosen to do what more privileged and established stars have not done before her
Finally, it has come to this. Members of the party with a difference, which commands the absolutist heft of 303 Lok Sabha seats, cornered celebrity citizen and Bollywood A-lister Deepika Padukone for showing solidarity with students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who were holding a protest against the violence unleashed on the university’s campus. Not only that, loyalists of the ruling BJP dismissed her championship of the democratic right to speak out and be heard as equivalent to an endorsement of the “tukde tukde” gang, a blanket term for intelligent citizenry who question wrongful Government policies. Worst, they even made a “nationalist” call for boycotting her films. Many may slam her appearance as a PR stunt or claim she seized the first mover’s advantage as a breakout artiste when Bollywood is being shamed for being politically correct. Others may argue that at a time an A-lister’s ratings are guided by her relevance in Twitterverse and young Indian consumerists, she has made a smart move. But Deepika, no stranger to far-right fanaticism, still took a significant first step. Let’s not forget she is among the highest paid actors in the country, is a producer and has every reason not to jeopardise her ivory tower life. Yet she has chosen to do what the more privileged and established stars have not done before her, grasping the sentiment of the times, taking a public stand against violence in institutions of education and the erosion of what she calls “the foundation of her country.” There have been activist veterans of the industry like Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and the Delhi-schooled brigade led by actor Swara Bhaskar. But they don’t command Deepika’s market value. And if she is taking a stand, then she is swaying that market with it. As a youth icon, her act was change-making and as a conscience call to an industry generally considered supine, she has genuinely shattered the glass house.
No one knows the decimating and terrifying power of hate better than Deepika. She has had bounties on her head when her film Padmavaat turned fringe Rajput groups against her. Fortunately, most Indians have risen to her defence. When celebrities make humongous amounts of money for their ability to influence the masses, then why shouldn’t they also lend themselves to a cause like any right-minded citizen if they so deem fit? Deepika has done what every conscientious Indian should do when democracy is threatened. Sadly, such gestures by celebrities are few and far between.