New Delhi: "By God... it's rather odd," as the Brits might say. It truly is. Here are B-town's red-hot Dudes and divas, all glitz, glam, gloss, sexy, macho and cool, flashing style and altitude, 24*7, blitzing every available nook and cranny of every conceivable media avenue to gain that extra (publicity) edge over their rival and dig deeper into fan space, living the 10-star perfumed life of the pampered celeb where gossip, scandal, fights, bitching, jealousies, insecurities, posturing and exhibitionism come with the turf, right?
However, come a big release and these very same flamboyant, flashy hotties drop everything, change into sack cloth and ashes and make a beeline - folded hands, closed eyes - for the mandir/masjid/religious place of their choice. Religious or not, this is one calling they religiously respond to with startling speed because it is closely connected to their future. So suddenly this super-brash hunk - or gorgeous fashionista - super confident about everything is reduced to an everyday, normal, god-fearing mortal, jittery and insecure as hell, leveraging he power of prayer in the hope that the big boy above waves the film through to the select Rs 100 crore club.
The latest in the "Help-God.' trip was the beautiful Kat Kaif who was reported to have made a quick air dash to Ajmer Sharif to seek the blessings of Moinuddin Chisti. Wearing a black outfit, head covered the Sheila-ki-Jawani item bomb was a zillion miles away from showbiz and appeared perfectly cast as the earnest devotee requesting god to bless her latest starrer, Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
Ajmer Sharif seems to be the favourite religious destination of Bollywood celebrities.
Considering her fab track record with prayers in this shrine - Ek Tha Tiger and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan - and the readymade 40 carat glow that the film carries, Kaif could well register a hat-trick. Earlier the entire team of the Ajay Devgn - Starrer Son of Sardar - JTHJ's big rival - was said to have visited the divine Golden Temple in Amritsar, seeking blessings for their film.
Several other big cats and banners of Bollywood have, over the years, been moved - literally and otherwise - to fall on the feet of their favourite deity and pray that their film does well. After all, in the final reckoning, beyond star-glow, hysterical promotions, monster budget, spectacular locales, gorgeous music and romance, drama and conflict, action and emotion, there is only one judge n' jury who can seal the fate of the film... God.
So what does one make of it... does it real make sense? Is it ridiculous dramabaazi? Superstition in action or just a normal invocation to the almighty to bless their project?
Behavioral Scientist Mira Kakkar thinks that B-town gets the rap for any and every thing it does because of the glamorous space and slot they occupy. "Don't all organizations hold mahurats, pujas and religious ceremonies before they commence operations start a new, ambitious project? How come no one bats an eyelid then? It's a part of the Indian tradition to invoke the blessings of the almighty, so what's the big deal? Katrina and Ajay did what most big honchos in business and industry do; seek aashirwad.
Their being hi-profile luminaries of the glambiz don't - shouldn't - erode or trivialize their intent. Sure, a lot of the stuff stars do is for attention-grabbing but that comes with the territory they reside in. To count this as one of them is both insensitive and inaccurate." Vikas Kharbanda doesn't agree. The Delhi-based Communication specialist finds, "these excursions into god-land hilarious because they are so obviously opportunistic. All year, they live the extravagant life of the pampered rich and famous but the moment a big-ticket release comes up, they turn trembling devotees and mosey across to their favourite gods for maska. God is not that dumb, okay, so he lets his silence do the blessing. Win some, lose some. If these filmy blokes concentrated a little more on the quality of their films and less on shrine-excursions, they may have been better placed. When will their dramabazi stop? Grow up guys and stop pressuring the old boy. He has enough on his plate."
Film scholar Partho Chatterjee agrees, "It has nothing to do with religion, faith or devotion... it's about naked commerce. Crores have been sunk into the project, so, please god, let there be a good ROI. It's a plain and simple business compulsion, a fervent plea to the Big Boss to make the film flop-proof and Rs 100 crore friendly. God must be having a blast seeing these Oscar-winning movies. Funnily, when some of these films strike gold and rake in the stuff, not too much is heard about divine blessings or intervention during the celebration parties."
B-town fan, Neha Sarin supports this move, "Mira is right. Bollywood remains the most convenient and favourite punching bag of all the righteous kill-joys who smell a rat wherever they go. These judgmental, khadoos breed never give these guys any credit or benefit of doubt. Holy shrines belong to everybody and devotees going there don't need an entry-card/permission from this cynical lot. They have invested blood, sweat and big bucks in their project, so is it a sin to go to these places of worship and ask the blessings of the respected deities/Holy people and pray for their success? Why call it dramabaazi and opportunism when most everyday people do the same? Be honest - How many times do we actually remember god without motive in our everyday lives? Don't we too seek his blessings on special occasions to fulfill special needs... aren't these releases too special occasions? C'mon gimme a break. B-town is a soft target. People living in glass houses..."
Phew - quite a mouthful, huh? Cut to another track. This one beams live from Ajmer Sharif - the favourite religious destiny of B-town personalities, big and small. There too opinions seem to be divided between the powers that are regarding the Industry's agenda, intent and objective of their visit. Dangah Dewan Zainul Abedin Ali Khan - the hereditary Sajjada-nashin of Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisty - believes that a holy place must not be used as a platform for anything that is forbidden by Islamic law. Film stars, he says come there to seek blessings for their films and promote them through the media. He has no problem with the film frat visiting the dargaah, but 'mazaar pe CD rakh ke jaate hain, wo galat hai.'
Why? Because, he explains all sorts of obscene and immoral elements could be in the movie that is blasphemy. He requests all Islamic intellectuals to pay urgent attention to this issue and not remain quiet. He further believes that Ajmer Sharif being such a popular and revered place, 'Yahan aakar publicity ke liye who yeh sab karte hain. Woh ashleelta ka paros rahe hain,religious jagah pe."
However the Khadim at the Dargah is clearly not on the same page. Avers Qutubuddin Sakhi, "A celebrity or a commoner comes here to pray for his/her well being - not publicity. Bollywood stars have been coming here for the last two decades and more those who feel strongly against and more. Those who feel strongly against this are entitled to their opinion but have no authority to ban them."
Religious heads of another eminent dargah, Delhi's Hazrat Nizamuddin agree and take it forward. States Syed Afsar Ali Nizami, "To say that stars or directors are using this holy place for commercial purpose and degrading moral values is completely wrong. If the stars believe that their visits at these holy shrines will get their wishes fulfilled, what's wrong? Kisiki karobar chal raha hai Baba ki dua se, toh usme kharabi kya hai? Iss sab ko islam se koi matlab nahin. Islam alag hai. Dargah alag hai." He says that the spirit not the letter is important and the big picture must be seen.
Be that as it may, one thing is clear; in times of anxiety, worry, problem, stress, tension, confusion, insecurity... there is no greater antidote, stress-buster, emotional and spiritual aphrodisiac that the biggest dude and rockstar above.
So Friday - Freako's, lage raho... Jab Tak Hain Jaan, Son of Sardar will keep the flag flying.