Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Tracking the Big B through thick and thin
A perfect Saturday afternoon beckoned me. An early lunch was had, the house was quiet and the prospect of dropping off into an uninterrupted sleep was enough to make me smile.
One phone call changed all that. Amitabh Bachchan is on his way to the hospital, a source said and he is sick. The first thing that registered in my mind was “I hope he is ok” and then the journalistic instinct kicked in.
Frantic calls to his office, the hospital and his doctor followed. Details became clearer, the situation calmed down a bit and everyone heaved a collective sigh of relief. Many of us couldn’t help but go back in time to 2005 when Bachchan was recuperating in the same hospital. The focus on him then was immense.
There were hourly updates on news channels, reporters stationed outside the hospital 24×7 and thousands thronged to Lilavati Hospital, as if their presence might have made a difference. Prayer meetings were held and the entire film industry held its breath.
I’ve been told it was the same when Bachchan met with an accident on the sets of his film “Coolie” in 1982. I was three years old then and don’t remember the incident so I only have the 2005 illness to go by.
It hasn’t been as bad this time around but I do know of fellow reporters who have kept vigil outside Lilavati Hospital since Saturday. Television channels and newspapers have been full of news, filmographies, reactions from fan clubs and detailed discussions with doctors on intestinal diseases.
Over the weekend, we have been subjected to all kinds of details about the sickness — how Jaya Bachchan kept vigil by her husband’s bed all night, TV channels replaying the shot from “Coolie” where Bachchan got injured and discussions with astrologers on the actor‘s future.
It is understandable that being the icon that he is, any news of Bachchan will be followed by the media almost obsessively. This morning a casual discussion in office also turned to the same topic.
“I feel really bad for the guy. If I were sick, I wouldn’t want an army of cameras and photographers grappling to get my picture,” said a colleague.
Monday’s edition of the Mumbai Mirror voiced similar sentiments.
“The attention given to Bachchan by our media both in normal times and when he falls sick is disproportionate to his importance,” reader V M Swaraj said in a letter to the paper.
This is a difficult one to answer, I think. As media, we have to cover this news, it is important. But shouldn’t we also be drawing the line somewhere? And if so, where should that line be?
What do you think?