Saturday, December 8, 2007

Celebrities of Yesteryear, where are they?

Where is Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady now? She was the Prime Minister of U.K. for three terms. She made Britain turn right in its economic policy and away from soft Socialism which the British Labour Party was specializing in. But when did you hear about her last? The newspapers do not write about her any more. The TV cameras do not chase her any longer. She does deserve her retirement and rest after an aggressive pursuit of power in a man's world. But, along with the loss of power, her celebrity status too seems to have gone. We do not know whether she has taken this loss in her stride and moved on emotionally.

Thatcher is not the only celebrity who has lost that status. She is in the good company of so many other politicians and movie stars. Jimmy Carter, Senior Bush, Gorbachev, the residual Beatles, Walesa, Mandela, Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor.....the list is long. In India where I live, there are several celebrities of yesteryear whom time has forgotten to carry with them forward. Rajesh Khanna, the first actor of Bolywood to earn the title 'Superstar' does not hit the newspaper headlines any more. If he does compete for space in the middle pages and that too occasionally, it is not for any worthy reason that can bring back his for-ever-lost celebrity status. If Vyjayanthimala, one of the most admired actresses of the Hindi movies of the sixties were to walk on the Mumbai roads today, she would not get a second look from the passers-by. Not because she has aged. But because she has lost her celebrity tag. No one wants to Google-search Rajesh Khanna and Vyjayanthimala. The new celebrities are Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. Why would any one be interested in the post-retirement phases of Khanna and Vyjayanthi? Sad. Is it not?
On second thoughts, one has reasons to be interested in knowing what these celebrities of the past are doing now. Have they come to terms with the loss of admirers? Countless fans hungry for every piece of news about them? The interviews, the Award functions, the controversies? In the case of politicians, the power of deciding the destiny of millions of commoners? The sands of time have buried all those perks that came to them with the celebrity status. I am convinced that their lives post-retirement are more difficult than yours and mine, psychologically speaking. Their identity has been taken away. The balloon has deflated. The one anchor on which they leaned has collapsed. The average Joe has less respect for the 'has-been' than for the 'yet-to-be' or even 'no-body'. This is what hurts the once-upon-a-time-celebrities most. They look for recognition in your eyes, if not admiration. They do not get it. You look through them. And that shatters the celebrity hearts. Dharmendra, a seasoned actor of Bollywood , who is past his prime was frank enough to pen a poem on this. The much-appreciated poem talks about his standing in front of a multiplex cinema hall in Mumbai recently and finding that not one pair of eyes in that huge crowd showed the mildest sign of recognizing him.
Well, that is life. Like every thing else in this world, fame too comes with an expiry tag. Any one who keeps this truth in mind constantly, while still being a celebrity, has more chances of surviving the death of the celebrity phase. Others will be emotional wrecks.

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