Pratik Basu is a prolific and published author who has worn several caps; cook, housekeeper, animal lover, cigar afficionado and most recently, CEO Buena Vista Television and FTV
When the other day my neighbour’s precocious 13-year old, Mausumi (whose general deportment is almost as capricious as the monsoon wind she is named after), chanced upon a complimentary copy of this magazine that my editor had sent me, possibly out of guilt for having had as much fun as she did at the launch party I was not invited to, and asked, rather pointedly, what qualified me to write in a journal dedicated to the lives and lifestyles of celebrities, it gave me cause for pause.
Before I had quite recovered my bearings, she followed through with a quick one-two that had me back on the ropes, reeling: Was I a celebrity writer (which was, obviously, a rhetorical question because she answered it herself almost as soon as she’d asked it with a dismissive shrug of her shoulders) and did I know any celebs at all, let alone well enough to write about them? Rather than confess to being stumped and rendered temporarily speechless, I tried to take the high road and not stoop to argue the point with someone less than one-fourth my age and experience, though, on the evidence of her penetrative queries, this was a monsoon wind of hurricane proportions that would not quit till it had completely rained out my parade, unless I could find a convincing explanation to resolve the doubts she seemed to have about my – and my column’s – raison d’être.
Not ever having imagined that I would be defending myself one day against the accusations of a juvenile with a definite, delinquent disposition, I found myself arguing, with gratuitous vehemence, that most celebrities were creations of media anyway and how famous a person was, particularly someone with limited, mediocre or no talent at all except the fortune to have been born into fortune, depended largely on how famous or infamous media wanted them to be. Which, in turn, depended on how famous or infamous they already were among celebrity rubberneckers that countless numbers of us seem to have become through extended exposure to paparazzi pot-shots, paid pieces in daily press supplements, scripted reality shows on television, dedicated celeb and lifestyle magazines and, the biggest purveyor of trivial information of them all, the ubiquitous Internet, where popularity – celebrity status, if you will – is measured in terms of Friends, Likes, Winks, Nudges, Followers and Tweets. Celebrity, I continued, warming to my argument, is among the most frequently used words in contemporary urban lexicon, a noun of significant standing on its own and an adjective of supreme suppleness too, equally at home with actors, authors, bakers, bartenders, cooks, cricketers, columnists, doctors, dieticians, fashionistas, fitness trainers, hairstylists and holistic healers as with adult-film actresses, agony uncles, Big Boss contestants, Kingfisher calendar girls, career criminals (one Charles Sobhraj leaps to mind), guileful godmen, garrulous news anchors and portfolio-less, politician panellists.
So, I concluded with what I thought was enough conviction to sway the argument conclusively in my favour, you don’t have to know a celebrity or be one to inhabit their world because their world is already an inextricable part of yours, thanks to the all-pervasive, all-encompassing influence of media, old and new.
The sole audience of my impassioned diatribe gave me a quizzical look as if my overdone rhetoric had convinced her of quite the opposite of what I had intended and, if her diet of reading had been Hamlet and not Harry Potter, she might well have said: The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks. What she did say was no less provocative than what she had opened with: So, if you write often enough for a magazine that’s a celebrity insider and you don’t have much talent going for you, you could one day become a celebrity, too?