First News
Volume:7, Number:40
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IDLE MIND
SYED BADRUL AHSAN
by SYED BADRUL AHSAN

The Media, Gossip, and Salacious Stories

It has never happened in Bangladesh before. Suddenly, everyone seems to be ready to give his or her opinion on the revelations relating to the marriage of the actors Shakib Khan and Apu Biswas.

It all began with the lady spilling the beans on her secret marriage to Khan nearly nine years ago and the child born of their wedlock. For Khan, the moment was surely an embarrassing one and he sought to ride over it through promising a media briefing of his own on the issue. And then, with not much of an explanation, he pulled out of the media briefing. That left all those journalists willing and ready to hear and exchange gossip, often of a salacious nature, disappointed.

The question now is why the media should be so interested in the whole story. Apu Biswas, certainly driven to desperation, was compelled for reasons of her own to divulge the details of her romance and marriage with Shakib Khan. It should have been for Khan to mend the cracks in his marriage wall before Biswas went on a private television channel to speak of her woes. That he did not, or would not, was a mistake. He has now committed a second mistake by opting out of that promised media briefing.

Notwithstanding all of this, though, there is yet the question of why journalists should be so glued, in such a bizarre manner, to the story. It is a life Apu Biswas and Shakib Khan will share or will not share. That is their business. Why must newspapers and television channels go for a higher readership or higher ratings through revealing the private lives of these two individuals so blatantly in public?

The story has predictably led to a flurry of comments on social media. Nearly everyone appears on standby to offer an opinion on the entire story. Of course one would have appreciated such expressions of opinion were something grievous to happen to Apu Biswas and Shakib Khan.

Had the story been one which questioned the character of either of the two, a proper journalistic inquiry into the affair would not only be understandable, but also desirable. In the present instance, it is only a marriage, one that Shakib Khan has acknowledged. That should have been the end of the story. You can be sure, though, that the bloodhounds will not call off the hunt anytime soon.

This propensity on the part of men and women, and not just in the media, to enter areas they ought not to has always been rather troubling. In Bangladesh, in the early 1970s, whispers went around in the days following the resignation of a minister from Bangabandhu’s cabinet. It was suggested that the minister had been compelled by Bangabandhu to resign in the face of reports relating to his alleged relationship with a leading movie actress of the country. The whispers did not go far and to this day no one quite knows the entire story.

Did we get upset, in the 1970s, that the details of the story were not revealed to us in the public domain? We did not. After his resignation, the sacked minister went on with his life. We did with ours.

There are in this country a good number of women whose names were once linked to one of our military dictators. The tales, which tumbled out in the days of the dictatorship, were certainly spicy and surely did not help the dictator any. As for the women, their reputations were on the line.

But take a broader view of it all. If the romance an individual in high office indulges in does not affect his public performance, if those women linked to him are not tearing up the fabric of social order through their acts, who are we to complain? Yes, we do complain when Bill Clinton engages in sex with Monica Lewinsky in the White House. And we do because he lied about it.

We do not look upon Yahya Khan’s amorous acts with the singer Noor Jehan with sympathy because those acts took him away from his responsibilities as president of his country. But when romances engaged in by people in the limelight do little or no harm to society, do not upset the social equilibrium, we should not be complaining. Nor should we be spending our days drooling over such matters of the heart.

Not long ago, the actor Dilip Kumar tied the knot secretly with a woman named Asma and went out of his way to keep the marriage a secret. When revelations began appearing in the media, he first denied them and then acknowledged them. Soon he went for a divorce from Asma and went back home to his first wife, the actress Saira Bano. The media did their job and then went about doing their regular work. But have we forgotten Dilip Kumar’s duplicity, his insensitivity in marrying Asma, and then swiftly divorcing her?

Syed Badrul Ahsan is the Associate Editor of Asian Age

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