Subhash K Jha
"A kiss of death" is how Papon's colleagues in the music fraternity have described his act which cost the "Moh moh ke dhaage" singer dearly. In his defence, Papon says he is a "demonstrative, affectionate" man and the kiss was "fatherly".
But the nation, and its favourite news anchor, are not buying this justification. The anchor was certain that the "utterly, untoward and unwanted" attention by the self-styled Papa must have bewildered the child. In India, fathers don't kiss their daughters on their lips. Mahesh Bhatt had done so with his daughter Pooja and all hell had broken loose.
That was 20 years ago, when the prudes were not professional protesters. Today, everyone is a closet social activist, running a private "samaaj-sudhaar" NGO. We are constantly focusing on the irrelevant, targeting celebrities because that's where the headlines are.
Swara Bhaskar's vaginal monologue hit home because it was about Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film. Luv Ranjan's "Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety" (which, by the way, I just loved) has a lot more to raise hackles about, including a heroine who is painted in the most tainted colours and a song that goes "Bum bum boom boom" where the leading men are seen slapping women's posteriors.
"Koi nahin bolega, kya phayda hai?" says a middle-aged, highly successful director. "Because Luv Ranjan is not as headline-friendly as Bhansali. No one will publicly speak up against Papon from the film industry because he is a popular playback singer today. And there's an unwritten rule that the film fraternity closes ranks when one of them gets into trouble."
This director is right. I asked all the leading lights of Bollywood to comment. No one responded. Except Tapsee Pannu, who said she would want to hear the victim's version before saying anything.
Fair enough. Why isn't the victim saying anything? The victim's parents have spoken in Papon's defence, saying the singer has always played the mentor to their daughter, scrupulously. But some of Papon's colleagues in Bollywood feel this defence is an eyewash.
"At this juncture the girl's parents do not want to jeopardise her future by making her seem controversial. They want to win the reality show. I believe there's some amount of pressure from the channel as well to 'sort out the matter internally'. No one wants this to blow up into a 'perverted Papon' campaign," says a leading music composer who has worked with Papon.
Meanwhile, the nation's favourite watchdogs are baying for his blood. Senior cops see "naked lust" in Papon's body language towards the girl.
Sorry, I missed that. If you ask me, I really don't think the singer meant to show a lustful warmth towards the child. But he is a celebrity of sorts (though, to be honest, I haven't heard any of his songs except "Moh moh") and celebrities, especially in our country, are allowed to get away with outrageously improper behaviour.
I know of at least two A-list superstars who talk most improperly, and lewdly, about their female co-stars before their cronies and friends who laugh out loudly. Then there is this intensely serious actor known for his masala and offbeat films and who's married to one of Bollywood's most accomplished actresses. He would tell his hangers-on in graphic detail what he had done to/with actress X or Y on the previous night. The descriptions were sheer porn.
If only our filmy heroes and other entertainment icons did not make the correct noises only in public, they wouldn't be caught with their guard down when they feel no one is listening. Decorum is not only for the CCTV cameras.