Editorial Blog: Stars and their right to privacy

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15apr_privacyWith changing times and changing media, fans nowadays have more access to the lives of their favorite stars but it seems that a line is being crossed. In this special editorial column we take a look at the media, stars and their right to privacy.

Let’s rewind back about two, let’s make that three, decades. Back then there were only magazines. People would receive a monthly copy at home or buy them at a newsstand. The magazines contained interviews with their favorite stars, several photoshoots, often a poster and some gossip.

There was a certain mystery surrounding stars. Well, that era is gone!

Today, news is everywhere and updated every day, hour or even minute. We have easy access to the actors, their interviews, pictures and gossip. With social media taking over our lives, making us hungry for more, life has become harder and more difficult for a celebrity.

Celebrities cannot step outside of their houses without being ‘haunted’. The press chases stars for a quote, digs into their personal lives, follows them every step of the way and those around them, and hide in the bushes in front of the houses to get that one perfect shot.

Every media channel wants to be the first to share a picture or have breaking news. It seems that in today’s digital day and age, there is no room for privacy at all. But do stars even deserve privacy?

Entertainment is a religion
Entertainment has become some kind of new-age religion worldwide and the press and fans are ardent followers. Bollywood, the entertainment capital of India, is no different.

A lot of our favorite stars can be found on social media, where they share tidbits on what is happening in their lives, private and workfield, with their fans. Fans get a chance to ask them questions and feel much closer to them. We get to catch a glimpse of the human side of actors, which is nice and which we tend to forget.  The only thing stars barely have these days is: Freedom.

Occupational hazard
We can definitely argue that actors are public figures and that being chased by photographers is an occupational hazard. But where do we draw the line?

A few weeks ago, Arjun Rampal got angry with the media. The actor lashed out on Twitter. “My wife and I where at Bandra court filing a divorce? Say, Midday & few others. You know it’s really easy to find that out. Did u bother? ‪#fakepress. The state of affairs about journalists in India… They on group chats on whatsapp and cook up stories. That’s where news is made. That’s the truth.”

This outburst resulted in Rampal refusing to do any personal interviews or discuss his private life with any media person. He asked them to mind their own business. 

This is where I, being a journalist myself,  wonder why would a journalist want to cook up a story like that? Isn’t it easier to call up Rampal, tell him he was spotted outside of a court and ask him directly what he was doing there?  Isn’t that what has been taught in school? Is it necessary to cook up a story? If you want to write fiction, write a script.

Caught in the Act
Another example is Shahid Kapoor. This chap will be getting married in a few months. The actor told the media: “It’s my personal space so I won’t get into the details of that. I hope you’ll respect that. But, I am very happy to announce it to everyone.”

He sends out a clear signal that he wants to keep the matter private with the keyword here being respect. Yet, media are digging into the life of his wife-to-be Mira Rajput, by talking to friends or scanning her Facebook and posting about it. So where is the respect?

Katrina Kaif got caught on camera while vacationing with boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor in Ibiza. She later spoke about the incident saying, “The pictures were taken while I was on holiday by someone who, in an act of cowardice, has shot without permission and then used the pictures for commercial gain. There is a breed of journalism that preys on celebrities in the worst possible manner crossing all lines of privacy and decency.”

I know it is their job and every magazine, online or offline, is on the lookout for news. But can’t it be done more decently? Aren’t these actors human beings with a life besides their work?

Cautionary tale
Actress Priyanka Chopra stated the following last year: “I believe that I am putting 90 percent of myself and my family life out in front of the public, I have every right to keep 10 percent of it for myself. I am a girl and I have the right to keep my personal life personal.” Another ‘shoutout’ for some privacy.

It is no surprise that a lot of actors take precautionary measures when it comes to their private life. The term ‘we are just good friends’ has been used as mechanism to keep some part of their lives private. Yet, secrets find a way to come out…Maybe, it’s time to adopt a new mechanism?

As a journalist, one knows things need to be verified before sending the news out into ‘the big bad world’.

Being Publicly controlled
I do believe when you live your life in the public eye, it’s publicly controlled in some way. The world is interested in the private lives of the rich and famous. Stars, and their families, are a product and consumers cannot get enough of it. So basically it’s a huge money making business and one does everything to sell the product.

Yet, I feel, there is another side to it. Actors are human beings as well. We might forget it, and think we ‘own’ them as they somehow are thought of as public property, but they also have their own lives.

Of course, when you get into the business you know the consequences. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that besides being labeled as a star with their lives being all splattered all over the Internet and newspapers, there is a part of them that just wants to be who they are. They would like to have a nice time with their friends without being followed….all the time.

As much as we don’t like Facebook sharing or selling our personal matters, an actor too longs for some moments of just ‘being human’ as well. But here another question arises: will it be possible for the paparazzi culture to give actors some kind of space or respect they ask for? Or with the new ways and possibilities to present news… will it get even worse for the next generation?

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