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Salman Khan. Photo: Shivam Saxena/Hindustan Times
Salman Khan. Photo: Shivam Saxena/Hindustan Times

Bollywood’s creativity keeps spirits high amid lockdown

  • Film celebrities face the challenge of remaining in the public eye through ways other than movies and endorsements at this time

New Delhi: On Monday morning, actor Salman Khan released a single called Pyaar Karona, a four-minute track that he has sung and co-written on the need for strength and social distancing during the covid-19 crisis. Khan’s song is a follow-up to a video he put out on Instagram last week on the dangers of the pandemic and the need to stay indoors and respect those at the frontline, and an example of the role celebrities can play at this time to stay socially relevant.

While regular posts about their lavish lifestyle can sometimes appear tone-deaf to the global crisis devastating millions, film celebrities face the challenge of remaining in the public eye through ways other than movies and endorsements at this time. Apart from Khan, actor John Abraham has appeared in a two-and-a-half minute video titled Mera Bharat Mahaan with a poem penned by his Satyameva Jayate director Milap Milan Zhaveri in collaboration with music label T-Series. Both Khan's and Abraham’s offerings are high on patriotic quotient, complete with strains of the national anthem, emphasizing that the nation will emerge stronger after this.

Earlier this month, actor Akshay Kumar collaborated with music label Jjust Music to bring out a music video titled Muskurayega India shot individually by actors at home to talk about hope for better times. It featured names like Tiger Shroff, Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, Kartik

Aaryan, Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann Khurrana, Kiara Advani, Rajkummar Rao, Sidharth Malhotra, Rakul Preet Singh and Ananya Pandey, besides Kumar.

Before that, actors across different language industries including Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth, Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt, Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, Mammootty, Sonalee, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Shiva Rajkumar and Dosanjh came together for a short film titled Family, again shot at home, to advocate social distancing and support for daily wage earners.

M.G. Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder of Brand-Building.com, said the key for celebrities at a time like this is to turn the message they wish to convey into an interesting story with candour and humility.

“Nobody is waiting for an announcement from you just because you are a celebrity, but the point is to leave a lasting impression and do it your own way. Plus, it’s not like they are a great authority on hygiene but the truth is people still look up to them like demi-gods," Parameswaran said.

In an article earlier this week, film critic Anupama Chopra pointed out that visibility is an integral part of brand maintenance for Bollywood celebrities but the pandemic has put an end to much of the supersized attention they are used to. While initial social media posts centred around fitness videos, cooking, poetry or philosophical musings, things are more sombre now to suit the grave times. Vanity Fair recently ran an article captioned: A global pandemic might be a time for celebrities to stay quiet. Author Richard Lawson wrote that a certain kind of “covid content rang false, distasteful and ignorant of the seriousness of the stakes."

“The big question is, what can they do that won’t come across as tone-deaf during a global crisis. And yet staying quiet doesn’t seem like the right strategy either. Artists are a source of inspiration, distraction and joy, especially at a time when the world feels so dystopian. Perhaps the answer is more thoughtful and inventive covid content," Chopra wrote.

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