Thus featured, was a billboard campaign by a leading south Indian newspaper as a tongue in cheek retort to the other rival newspaper that was marketing itself aggressively to make its inroads into south India.
No newspapers shall be named here, but we all know that celebrity culture popularly known as page 3 culture in India gained momentum in the last 10-12 years .
News about celebrities, gossip on their sexual life, outfits, wardrobe , marriages or the breakdown of it, their baby bumps etc. have predominantly featured on websites, TV channels, newspapers and magazines.
Many a pseudo-intellectual snob has berated the onslaught on page 3 culture. Many have scoffed the vanity, questioned the morality and judged the integrity of page 3 celebrities based on what they read, hear and see.
Let me confess that when I pick up the newspaper the first thing in the morning, it is the page 3 section that I delve into. Perhaps because my family picks up the rest of the paper and i am always left with the supplement to read up when I am eating my breakfast.
No matter how vain I think it is, I certainly am attracted to all that is featured on page 3 .
I am like millions of others a page 3 addict. Much as i scoff at their lifestyles, their choices and all else I hear from what gets published, I love to go through page 3 news in all its forms. TV channels, Newspapers and magazines.
Contrary to how it comes across to the lay person, Page 3 is serious business. To be featured on page 3 does not come easy. Ask anyone who is now a regular on page 3 and they will tell you how fickle it is. A lot of networking, hard work, investment and strategy goes into maintaining the image of being a celebrity. As much as many of them have pulled off some vain and irritating stunts for the sake of attracting attention, there are equal number of celebrities featured on page 3 that have deeply influenced and impacted the thinking and values of an entire generation.
A few years ago Page3 was featuring the Saif – Kareena escapades. That, they were India’s first publicly acknowledged live-in couple did attract attention. But not in a narrow minded judgmental way that would have typically been the prevailing middle class value system . It would not be an exaggeration to say that Saif- Kareena made live-in relationships a topic of open discussion among the younger generation of Indians.
Lara Dutta’s baby bump made pregnancy a pride for a woman. It was a far cry from the time when pregnancy was perceived as something that spelt the doom on a woman’s attractiveness and therefore her self-esteem.
The Bachchan’s have enjoyed unlimited airtime in page 3 sections of our media. Without that, I doubt if they would have a successful career that they seem to enjoy. Through page 3 they have successfully project the utopia of an ideal Indian family. The Patriarch, the son, the traditional trophy DIL and a socialite MIL, in all their glamour and grandeur have made the Traditional Indian joint family more real and as an ideal worth emulating.
Karan Johar – is perhaps the only gay celebrity who has openly come out of the closet. He gave gay community an identity. A couple of months ago a cousin of mine, who was the most eligible bachelor in our extended family came out in the open and announced he was gay. Our generation understood what he said, unlike my parents, uncles and aunts who could not fathom what he was saying and what the big deal was it all about to be gay and what had it to do in refusing to get married.
As far as I am concerned , Page 3 gossip opened up my world to understand and acknowledge the existence of LGBT community. Karan Johar’s page 3 features gave visibility to the fact that a gay can be your regular next door guy. It was thanks to him, more than many other gay right activitists that my cousin gained the courage to break free from the shackles of what would have been a life long repressed existence and shaped his self esteem and made him take pride in his identity.
Many argue that Page 3 culture is typically Indian. It sensationalizes the Indian penchant for gossip, for vanity and idol worship.
I would say, Page 3 culture otherwise called the celebrity culture is universal.
Whether it is the Princess Diana’s escapades from the double standards imposed by the Royal family or Marilyn monroe’s bellowing skirt, Elizabeth Taylor many suitors, penchant for celebrity gossip is eternal.
If you want to watch celebrity gossip in its most primitive form, watch out for a bunch of old village women. Their gossip, value judgments about the young , the rich, the well-to –do, the ones getting laid or hitched and all else about falling morality around them is how celebrity gossip originates.
There is no point denying the influence of page 3. As image consultant, it is for us to understand the spirit, psyche and universality of page 3 culture and help our clients find success in their respective fields through careful image building. Page 3 features are all about seeking attention and crafting an image. It is about crafting an image that may or may not reflect the person’s true identity. But that is immaterial for me as a professional interested in understanding image building.
Rakhi Swant’s page 3 image is just as carefully constructed as Sachin Tendulkar’s.
N R Narayana murthy’s image as middle class icon is just as carefully constructed and that of Amitabh Bachchan’s as an aging Patriarch ( after the fall of the angry young man image) .
Our work as Image consultants may not be in crafting the images for the people who would be featured in page 3 columns of newspapers.
It could very well be for people at corporate workplaces, a traditional wedding gathering, a local community activity or for a cause. As long as there will be penchant for attention seeking, there will be people vying to be featured in page 3 columns. And the penchant for gossip and attention seeking is human nature, eternal and universal.
It is therefore that the process of celebrity image building fascinates me as it is a highly under rated but powerful profession that can shape not just the external looks but also the values and thoughts of millions of people across the world.