Friday, February 22, 2008

Read this article today, in which Soha Ali Khan was deemed to be a ‘youth icon’. The poor girl was quoted saying that actors are basically entertainers, and should not be looked upon as a source of exemplary moral behaviour. She was commenting with reference to the stars-seen-smoking fiasco that’s in the air. Shah Rukh Khan has been criticized by the media and groups trying to uphold “Indian morality and values” for smoking publicly, and setting a bad example for people, especially the youth, that hero-worships him. His response was that people don’t pick up smoking just because they see him do it. And if the youth has to pick up habits from him, why not pick up his inclination to work hard.

Personally, I don’t even think we should go into the subjective depths of this critique. What I cannot understand is how we have, as a country, permitted media and morality-touting groups to become so interfering. How can someone object to the habits of another, supporting it with rubbishy claims like the youth being influenced (yeah, by virtue of your freedom of speech you are free to go scream and object, but pressurize the actor to quit?!). If the youth of your country is stupid and gullible enough (and I know it is, I know people may pick up smoking after having seen SRK do it), I think there is a pressing need for you to start some kind of awareness classes for your youth. To teach them to take their own decisions, to direct them to not get affected by the actions of some poor chap who wants to smoke, and is even abstaining from doing the same on screen so that their choices aren’t influenced by his style. I can go as far as to agree that perhaps actors shouldn’t be shown smoking on screen, because movies have a social responsibility. Which isn’t to say actors don’t, and I even concede that their responsibility is much greater than that of the average man, for they’re unfortunately given an iconic status in this country. But this does not give anyone the right to pressurize them or in any way influence their personal choices, claiming social responsibility and the youth getting affected as a reason.

It is his choice whether he wants to smoke or not. It is his life he is putting at stake. It is his decision entirely. I don’t see how anyone can try and interfere with the choice. Yeah, you pay a price for being famous, but that mean you stop living as per your own choices. If you’ve got a problem, try and effect a change in the mentality of people, who look upon actors as a source of instruction on how to live their lives.

Live and let live, really.