Home >Opinion >Madhuri and Madhavan

It has been a noisy and newsy fortnight in India.

The preparations for the forthcoming international yoga day on 21 June are a fit topic for a current discussion, but my top picks are the judgements echoing against an actor and an actress.

One indicates what we think of film roles and another of what we think of role modelling.

One is about what a celebrity should do when the script is not fictional. Another about what an actor should not do even when the script is fictional.

One involves Madhuri Dixit Nene, the former reigning queen of Bollywood and currently the gorgeous mom under fire for the Maggi noodles controversy.

The other is about actor R. Madhavan, who plays an insipid wimp in the recent film, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu.

Madhuri has been slammed for endorsing a food item with excessive lead content and monosodium glutamate (MSG), the charge being that celebrities should know better than offer legitimacy to stuff that, allegedly, can harm us.

Madhavan, too, has serious charges against him.

He has gone and decimated the image of macho heroes in Hindi films, where they are all hunks who get righteously angry, have trim tummies, bulging biceps, are possessive, chivalrous and dominating and have mothers with golden hearts.

In the film, Madhavan is none of these—he can barely save himself from being hurled around like a sack of potatoes from one situation to another.

His mother?

Oh, she has a durable heart made of stainless steel.

Actors Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta, too, have endorsed Maggi noodles, Nestle’s claim to infamy.

But Bachchan seems a bit off the hook since he hasn’t shot a Maggi commercial in the past two years. He has also engaged in the debate by assuring all those who are interested that he will cooperate with whatever is pronounced for him. Whereas Zinta tweeted that the last time she was seen in a Maggi ad was 12 years ago. That settles it more or less.

Between Madhavan’s terrible role—where in the world do two firebrand women fall for an indecisive nincompoop like him—and Madhuri’s poor role modelling, selling oats noodles to harried nuclear families and pronouncing them healthy, I find Madhuri more culpable.

Not because she and her PR team didn’t do their homework well about noodles that taste like rubber marinated in sugarcane vinegar and sprinkled with stale salt. But because ever since the news about Maggi’s lead content broke out, the actress has not bothered to say one word publicly about where she stands on all this.

We do not know if she is feeling repentant about endorsing an allegedly harmful item or if she is confused and needs legal counselling before assuaging our concerns. She probably thinks she can just shrug the whole thing off by choosing “golden silence".

Celebrities can’t be held for the adulteration in food stuff that they endorse, but they are certainly responsible for the commercial choices that exploit their star status.

The least we expect of them is to speak up. Take responsibility for avoidable blunders or else argue why not.

Madhavan, on the other hand, cannot be blamed for choosing a stupid role, but he should ponder a bit before sounding so hoity-toity about the film’s success.

He plays a distinctly unprogressive man, an uncool husband who deserves to be dumped for the choices he is shown making. Even in all the promotional interviews with Kangna Ranaut, his fabulous co-actor in the film, he postured about his role as if it were one of the most difficult ones an actor has played in Hindi cinema.

Yet, the best articles written on the film reflected how pedantic the film turns out to be after delving into compelling modern diversions. Its final promise fizzles out after provoking more than traditional interest in the Indian marriage. All we are left with in the film is the enjoyable acting of Ranaut, Deepak Dobriyal and a couple of other actors.

But neither the film’s success nor the entertainment you derive as a spectator has anything to do with Madhavan. So the actor’s claims of it being a “really tough role for me because I had no lines" makes me wonder why he is being a fool outside the film.

Personally, I have no quarrel with losers—thousands of men are that, their gender and self-aggrandizement in a country like India notwithstanding. Yet I was glad that Madhavan was critiqued for playing one. His acting kit in Tanu weds Manu Returns confuses the character of the wimp because the actor playing the loser appears to be constantly priding in himself as a smart guy.

So there we are—Madhuri and Madhavan. One for remaining high-handedly silent on India’s beloved home-cooked junk food and the other for playing a loser so highhandedly.

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