Star, Spectacle and Public
You would probably expect a day that begins with the anticipation of a landmark Budget and Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th century to end as one of the most memorable of the year. But when both the politicians bat it out for more than 2 hours just to kill our excitement and save their skin, at the end of the day, you are left with no feeling except exhaustion and relief that at least it ended. After speculating for months as to what would happen you are too tired now to even protest. It’s only the next day when you wake up at 10am after a tiring workweek that you start formulating your views and expressing your disappointment.
If your immediate reaction on Tendulkar completing his century was “Thank God!” (just like Sachin who must have thanked his God and Papa up in the Sky), then read on, you’ll enjoy it. But if your immediate and morning-after reaction still is “Yes! Yes! Oh my God! Now the Bharat Ratna! (just like Sachin and his faithful fans), then stop right now, I don’t wish to hurt your feelings and spoil my relationship with you.
Stardom is Cocaine. It’s Gutkha. It’s like winning a video game against the computer and that too with a “highest score”. It’s the heady cocktail served by the bartender named Public to the guest named Star at the pub named Spectacle.
The Spectacle is the game-field which can be sports, cinema, politics or even your workplace. It is the context to this whole Stardom game – that brings the player, the public and the action together.
The Star is made by the Public, and don’t you ever forget that. All Stars are self-made. They are the ones who got Talent, Opportunity and Luck together at the right moment AND then made full use of it. There might be things which give a head start. You might start with a Gandhi surname. But you finally make it on your own with sheer hard work. So full credit goes to whoever makes it in life. But becoming a Star is different from being famous or respected. Sreesanth is famous. Dravid is respected. But Sachin is a true Star.
But when a person holds the country’s cricketing fortunes at ransom just to play out his 100th century, that’s arrogance. The arrogance that “If India loses but I still make 100, then I shall be forgiven”. That “I have got the absolute majority in the Assembly, so the Public will automatically agree with whatever I do next 5 years”.
Everything follows a life-cycle of Birth, Adolescence, Adulthood, Maturity, Old Age, and finally Death. So with Stardom. It is very important for the Star to realise which stage he is in. But it is very very difficult. And the withdrawal symptoms are painful.
Stars like Sachin make and break their stardom themselves. The Public does go to see the Star. But the Star shouldn’t make the mistake of starting to think that the Public is coming to see him only. Then the Star overshadows the Spectacle. And the Public eventually loses interest. Happened with Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh, Shahrukh, Sania Mirza, Indira Gandhi and now Sachin. Soon to be followed by Salman. There is no Star without a Spectacle. And respect for the Public is paramount.
The most important sign of a Star is the applause he gets. And only the Public can applaud. Sachin wouldn’t have liked to hit his 100th century in an empty stadium in an untelevised match, would he? The Public goes for the Spectacle and they want to see their Star perform in this Spectacle. Outside the stadium, Star Sachin is nothing. Would the Public stare at Sachin for two hours at a shopping mall? They would certainly for more when he is playing.
Rajnikanth has forever remained a bigger star than Shahrukh or Amitabh simply because of the applause he gets. And the only reason the Public willingly cheers for a sexagenarian under heavy make-up dancing, fighting and generally doing super-human stuff is that he gives them the due respect. He doesn’t say, “See I’m here to score my 100th century so let me take my time” or “You want to see Shahrukh, so watch me in the films I make”. He gives them what they want. Not I’m sure you’ll like what I give you.
The Stars will come and go. They’ll walk in and walk out of the bar. If they get drunk and make a ruckus, they’ll be thrown out. The Public can even refuse them the next drink. The Public and the Spectacle were always together. And will be. One day you too will be a Star. And don’t you ever forget that.