Before you ask, yes, I realize the irony of a media person posting a headline such as this on an entertainment website. Gossip, both of the personal and professional variety, is our bread and butter. But I write this open letter not as a media person, but as a fan. And I, for one, have had enough.
For the past two years, the personal drama between Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut has dominated the headlines. Once the law was dragged into it, so were their lawyers, and nonsensical statements were released left, right, and center by not only the involved parties, but by their friends, relatives, and colleagues as well. And yet, after all this time, the only thing that has been proven is that there’s very little place for dignity in the Hindi film industry.
Let’s call this ordeal exactly what it is: an affair gone wrong. Whether Kangana and Hrithik hooked up once, a hundred times, dated, got engaged, or merely flirted on set, the two parted ways with radically different ideas of what their personal equation was previously, and what it should be moving forward. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Unrequited love and attraction has been the subject of stories, songs, art, and poetry for centuries. What most of us don’t have, of course, is a national platform to vent our anger and frustration when relationships don’t go our way. And that’s exactly what the sycophantic yellow press has given to both Kangana and Hrithik, at the expense of any truth, integrity, or regard for ethics.
We don’t know what actually happened between Kangana and Hrithik, and at this point, it’s the police’s job to sort through to sordid details. I would include their lawyers in that charge of duty, but they seem more interested in making a name for themselves in the media than settling this case in anything resembling a dignified manner. So the onus of responsibility from keeping this spat from turning into a circus falls on the media…and on that front, we are failing spectacularly.
During the promotional tour of the Hansal Mehta-directed film Simran, Kangana gave several explosive interviews, the subject of which was not the film she was promoting, but rather her long-finished relationship with Hrithik Roshan. And while it was the responsibility of the film’s team, including Mr. Mehta, to rein in her incendiary tendencies during these interviews, some of the film industry’s most esteemed journalists let her ramble on unchecked and unchallenged as she made some very serious charges against Hrithik and his family. Far from questioning her story, or even trying to relate it back to the film she was meant to be promoting, Ms. Barkha Dutt even went so far as to applaud Kangana as a champion of feminism for “speaking up” (against what, I’m not quite sure), all because Ms. Dutt personally admires women who “dare to be disliked”.
Fast forward a few weeks. Simran has failed at the box office, and Hrithik’s camp is taking advantage of the relative silence to tell his side of the story. After posting a surprisingly dignified, though incredibly vague, statement on social media, Hrithik’s high-powered Bollywood pals came out in full force to make sure that his voice was projected as loudly as Kangana’s had been. And if there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about turning up the volume, it’s Arnab Goswami, who promptly scheduled a sit-down, tell-all interview with the newly chatty Hrithik. Whether or not Mr. Goswami will grill Mr. Roshan on how and why Kangana’s private emails and nude photos were leaked to the public remains to be seen, but I for one am not holding my breath.
There are many pertinent issues this scandal has brought up: gender politics, cyber crime, revenge porn, stalking, journalistic ethics, and the way our clamoring for more details on all of the above has normalized a news cycle where these issues are only addressed insofar as they help us figure out whether two adults had a sexual relationship. Newsflash: people in show business have affairs all the time. Sex, cheating, and breakups are all a part of not only the entertainment industry, but human relationships in general. The enduring interest in this particular affair is, quite frankly, beyond my comprehension, especially when the media sweeps under the rug real problems like physical abuse, sexual harassment, blackmail and extortion, and other insidious forms of violence taking place among the actors we idolize and in the films we pay to see. But all these things, which spread like a disease through not only the industry but through our society as a whole, are apparently far less important than whether or not Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut had a sexual relationship.
I get it, celebrity gossip is fun. Not only do I enjoy hearing it, but I often write about it as well. But everything has its limit, and after almost four years, this scandal has far exceeded its expiration date. Due to an apparent lack of self-preservation, the parties involved seem to have tossed their personal sense of privacy out the window…but that does not mean that members of the media have to humor them. When the same amount of coverage is given to actors who beat their girlfriends or directors accused of laundering black money, then perhaps I will be more forgiving of the media’s penchant for making an embarrassing scandal like this one even more salacious. But for now, it’s time to stop turning a benign personal squabble into a matter of national importance.
Kangana and Hrithik may be alright with washing their dirty linen in public, but we the people do not need to hand them the soap and water to do so. So I’m begging you, media outlets, to stop giving these two a platform for their petty quarreling, or else start asking them the tough questions, starting with, “What the hell are you two thinking?!”