Where do we go from here?

September 25, 2022

Under public scrutiny constantly, where do you draw the line when it comes to stars’ behaviour and their right to privacy?

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Instead of attacking and trolling a superstar like Mahira Khan when on a vacation, perhaps we should focus on her work such as the upcoming film, The Legend of Maula Jatt, where she plays a character called Mukkho Jatti.


Pakistani celebrities often provide com-edic fodder with what they say on a public forum. It is no longer restricted to interviews given on television or in print media.

Social media, a different kind of vehicle, has been a game-changer, providing everyone an opportunity to spew out unnecessary commentary, often when it comes to showbiz.

Another bigger problem, as a result of this, is how patriarchal and misogynistic views from country’s pioneering stars are becoming acceptable.

However, tables turn when it comes to younger actors, particularly female stars and the junior/senior divide, which needs to be eradicated.

At the moment, Pakistan is crippled by historically devastating floods and requires a miraculous effort that not only saves lives but rebuilds infrastructure for those who have lost homes and livelihood.

Our collective attention should be on the floods and what we can do, as individuals, and as a community to help.

But, the interwebs seems far too invested in discussing the private life of public figures. Our stars seem to be on a roll – in terms of problematic views.

And while that may be true, trolling is not the answer to anything. Dissecting photos uploaded by stars (or not) and passing negative remarks on their work in heinous language is now justifiable to people but it shouldn’t be. On a similar tangent, not respecting the need for privacy by celebrities when the matter is private is also long gone. Paradoxically enough, often stars add fuel to fire by nitpicking the same topic, not realizing perhaps the mountain of views they will face.

What happens between a couple is not a subject to speculate about. For instance, an announcement of the breaking of a relationship doesn’t require public debate of the negative kind just because the people involved are in the spotlight. It is not binary.

Serious allegations have been levelled against Feroze Khan by his ex-wife Syeda Aliza Sultan of domestic violence, infidelity and psychological trauma. It is not a subject to parse on social media without thoughtfulness.

The onus also falls on some stars who bring up issues pertaining to two people particularly if even one of them do not wish to talk about the matter anymore. Using such a personal matter to make yourself look good or your progeny is glib and disrespectful. Take the case of a brilliant actor like Syra Yusuf, who was once married to Shehroz Sabz-wari. Not married to Sabz-wari anymore (who is now married to Sadaf Kanwal), Syra is working in the industry and speaks her own truth but as the marriage was dissolved, the story needed to be over. But it still isn’t. Apparently, her ex-husband’s father, Beh-roze Sabzwari, among one of Pakistan’s well-established actors, has gone on national TV and repeated the spiel that though he stands by Syra, he has advised his ex-daughter-in-law to get married on numerous occasions. Why repeat this advice on national TV? It’s like the industry-fans relationship is akin to Lord of the Flies (by William Golding). What Syra chooses to do or not do is her own private decision and we certainly don’t need to talk about it.

Mahira Khan, seen in New York with Ranbir Kapoor, once upon a time, became a matter of national concern and news that appeared during prime time. However, it was not news; it never was. It was “entertainment” of the worst order. But the actor was put under so much pressure that she did apologize.

“Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over

And it seems as though the writings on the wall

Superstar, you finally made it

But once your picture becomes tainted

It’s what they call

The rise and fall.”

– ‘Rise and Fall’ by Craig David ft. Sting

There are bigger issues to talk about. The conversation around Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act Bill, first legislated in 2018 and opposed by some section of society on the basis of religion in the present, is something worth talking about. That the criticism was rejected by the law minister is perhaps the silver lining.

Another topic is how Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie visited Pakistan recently and vowed to get the world involved in what she has described as the worst humanitarian crisis. Perhaps local celebrities attending an award ceremony in Canada while the people are drowning, dying is in bad taste?

Other matters need a delicate response. The admission of a popular actor’s wife of suffering physical and emotional abuse is alarming and this is the kind of alleged behaviour that must be investigated – though not by out-for-anyone’s-blood masses on social media.

Media of all kinds, in the end, does not belong in the bedroom. However, if someone has made such strong allegations of abuse, violence, infidelity and blackmail, the right course is to not parse it back and forth and take sides on social media platforms without thinking twice. Such matters require thoughtfulness before going online and jumping on or starting what is a useless debate because you like a certain actor. Period.

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