This appeared in Bombay Times this morning :
Don’t Mess with the Press….
Media as Monster?? Take two recent high profile cases. Sheetal Mafatlal’s and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s. Till very recently, both were the absolute darlings of fawning journos who behaved like greedy puppies in their presence. Suddenly, the two of them have dropped from grace and are being pilloried by the same presswallas who had propped them up in the first place. I am more interested in tracking the Dhoni saga, since Dhoni is a national figure with an international fan following running into millions. Sheetal remains a local celeb. A Mumbai society girl, who makes great pics ( in and out of jail). All it took for Dhoni’s halo to lose its sheen, was one unguarded remark, a glare, and a sharp rebuke when questioned about Sehwag’s shoulder injury. I watched that particular press conference carefully, and could anticipate what would follow. Dhoni’s body language was aggressive, and his standard post-match charm was totally missing. Instaed, he chose to be belligerent and defensive by turn, and ended up putting both feet into his mouth. Mar gayaa, I said to myself. The guy’s had it.
Sure enough, the press came down on him like a ton of bricks…. And I guarantee you, no amount of damage control can help after that single outburst. Whether or not Dhoni covers himself with untold glory from this point on, whether or not we clinch the T20 ( at the time of writing, we had still to make the semis), Dhoni is a marked man. Unfortunately, this is how the cookie crumbles. The press can be particularly harsh and unforgiving towards idols they themselves have created. Dhoni gave himself away when he briefly lost it and challenged the press (“ You are accusing me of leaking news ?”). At that point there was no such accusation…. but he inadvertently gave the game away. Huge mistake. Countless tv debates followed with several experts voicing their two bits’ worth on whether or not Dhoni should have said what he did. The consensus was that Dhoni should have kept his trap shut. Bishen Singh Bedi put it in the right context when he said, “ A captain must always maintain his cool.” Others agreed and added that it is imperative for a captain to remain in control at all times – particularly so during a crisis. I agree. But Dhoni is a young, hot- blooded athlete, not a paunchy, seasoned politician. He is human, he too can get provoked, and surely we can make some concessions for a sportsman who has otherwise conducted himself admirably?? Apparently not!!
Which brings me to Sheetal. Let me state it bluntly – I am on her side. Not her personally or specifically. I would have been on anybody’s side who had been singled out for an offence that others have waltzed away from after paying a fine. Sheetal is no spring chicken. She is a businesswoman and she, more than most people, must know the rules. Ignorance is no defence. Even so… why detain and jail her?? That seemed a pretty vicious thing to do, vindictive, too. And perhaps it was an over- zealous interpretation of the law. Unless the authorities know something we don’t. And they plan to go public with the damaging information\evidence at a later date. As of now, Sheetal stands accused of flouting gold import rules. In the past, even the Bachchans have been detained for non-declaration of dutiable luxury items to the tune of one crore of rupees and more. They weren’t marched off to jail. They were fined. I can think of several others – Adar Poonawala, Suresh Hiranandani etc. So,why was Sheetal targeted for this extra special treatment?? Who was out to fix her? Mind you, I have no sympathy for her kind who often allow their arrogance to get the better of good sense and believe they are above and beyond the law. Sheetal will now get entangled in complex court proceedings, and chances are, her professional credentials as a brand ambassador for an international fashion house, will be damaged permanently. All for a few pieces of gold ( not even 24 –carat, as it emerges). Once again, it was the rottweiler –style mediawallas she ran foul of. Moral of the story?? Don’t mess with the press. Or else…right Dhoni??
I am in a state of shock! Shiney? And rape?? I have always been a Shiney Ahuja fan. The guy is a far better actor than most of the duds hanging around. Better looking, too. Why would he rape an 18 year-old -maid working in his home as a temp? He has a lovely wife, a cute daughter... but then again, who knows what beast lurks beneath the veneer of a gentleman? His wife insists the man is being framed. The police say he has 'confessed'. The maid has added that he threatened to kill her. The story gets murkier by the minute. Chances are Bollywood biggies will turn their backs on Shiney. In their eyes he is a nobody. Shiney isn't a star son. Nor does he belong to any known camp. He hasn't sucked up to any of the Khans or Bachchans either. If anything, his co-stars have accused him of being distant and unfriendly. He has always stayed away from those typical filmi set ups - no partying-shartying, no groupies, no punch ups, no courting presswallas. That's why I liked the chap. Found him attractively aloof... a brooder. Troubled and intense. Our very own James Dean. And now this mess! Am hoping against hope the maid is a conniving b**** and not a helpless sexual victim of a star's passing fancy. Shiney is certainly not the first 'star rapist' in Bollywood. Let's see how many dirty secrets tumble out now that the Pandora's Box has been opened.