Are Indian celebrities tone-deaf to its massive COVID-19 crisis? 

Written By: Annu Kaushik WION
New Delhi Published: May 05, 2021, 04:14 PM(IST)

A file photo of coronavirus in India. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Many citizens have taken personal initiatives to aid patients and their families. But our stars, who have millions of supporters and could have made a difference, seem to be disinterested in amplifying distress messages. 

 

As social media in India turned into a Covid helpline amid a massive new wave of the pandemic, most celebrities continue to remain silent. This was in contrast to the first wave, when at least some of them endorsed public service messages on preventive measures. 

Ordinary people with negligible follower counts have been retweeting SOS calls for urgent supplies including vital medical oxygen, in the hopes that those in need will get help, and in several cases they did. 

Many citizens have taken personal initiatives to aid patients and their families. But our stars, who have millions of supporters and could have made a difference, seem to be disinterested in amplifying distress messages. 

 This does not mean that they have taken a sabbatical from social media. They are pretty much active and keep us updated with their daily lives: Instagramming photos and posting about their Maldives vacations, upcoming movies, and exercise routines. 

Brand endorsements continued as before. While people have been forced to shed hefty amounts for Covid treatment, some cricketers and actors promote luxury products. And there are health supplements too. Because what is a better time to promote a healthy lifestyle than a pandemic? 

Some stars started sharing helpline numbers only after receiving a backlash.

But overall, the detachment of Indian celebrities from the unfolding national tragedy seems like they are living in an alternate reality. 

It’s not just about reach and influence, but also the money they make. They can donate, share verified leads. Their teams can help them with the process. But none of it happened, in most cases. 

The enormity of their silence is amplified by the fact that the stars themselves have not remained untouched by the crisis. The Indian Premier League has been suspended after several players tested positive. Several Bollywood stars tested positive, and the release of their movies has been either postponed or moved to OTT platforms. 

There could have been a unified effort from the film, TV and sporting fraternities, using the power of their organisations and deep pockets, to address the crisis. Not a single attempt worth mentioning has been made in that direction. 

Will they break their silence now? 

Let us look at the explanations for not helping, by those defending celebrities. 

They say that it’s not the job of the stars to help people navigate through this crisis. By the same logic, it is also not the job of common people to do so either. 

 Another defence is that celebs want to stay away from anything political. But in the past, our stars did voice concerns for several causes, be it political or personal, though political ones are admittedly rare. 

Then there's the counter that they alone should decide how to spend their hard-earned money. A celebrity’s value is measured by the number of people who admire him or her. The movies, brand deals they get depend on their fan following. 

 While most remain unempathetic, some have come forward to provide assistance. Actors like Bhumi Pednekar and Sonam Kapoor have been sharing requests for oxygen, medicines on their social media handles and Priyanka Chopra Jonas has been raising funds for India, Sachin Tendulkar has made donations, to name just a few. 

Australian cricketer Pat Cummins contributed to India's fight against covid even before some of our celebs came forward.

One can’t forget the contribution of actor Sonu Sood who continues to be a good samaritan. That Sood could send migrants home at the height of the lockdown showed us what a person with resources and influence can do. 

But the crux here is choice. Sood chose to help, many are yet to do that.  

 

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)

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