Rati Agnihotri a star of the 80s in hit films like Ek Duje Ke Liye, and Coolie, suffered horrific domestic abuse at the hands of his architect husband Anil Virvani. She was at the top when she met Virwani and married him in 1985, quit the movie business and became a homemaker and mother.
After 30 years of frequent abuse, where she was violently hit, never at her face or at a visible body part, she finally shed her all- is -well demeanor in public, spill the beans and disclose the violence before the police. She decided to call it quits and filed for a divorce.
The picture-perfect portrayal of domestic bliss is a façade so much cherished in the glamorous surroundings of the tinsel town. This charade maintained due to various reasons, mostly for keeping the family intact, to protect the children or just plain attachment with the partner, or fear of getting out of the comfort zone, just pushes the whole thing under the carpet but does not uproot it.
Human rights is generally seen as a violation of fundamental rights and/or natural rights of the deprived people or hapless, common man. It’s not so.
Though Human rights violations in their narrow definition pertain to disregard, abuse or plain apathy towards the rights of common man by the State machinery, in their broader interpretation they refer to any and every kind of abuse, violation of a person’s dignity, physical being, mental makeup by one individual against another where one is in a dominant or influential position and has the power to misuse his position. It is in this context that the above mentioned example of Rati-Anil marital life is a telling example.
It’s a myth that celebrities are immune from such atrocities. It’s not for the first time this kind of thing has happened in so called Bollywood. Almost a decade ago Neetu Singh had lodged a complaint against her dear husband Rishi Kapoor for domestic violence.
Women empowerment is a catchphrase in these volatile times but atrocities and assault of women dignity and physical persona show no signs of abating with reports of domestic violence surfacing often from the glittering façade of glamour world.
Sarika’s case is another instance. Sarika started her acting career at the age of four. Her father had walked out on the marriage and her mother often abused her and forced her to work, sometimes. When she became a successful actress, her mother abused and thrashed her in public. She married Tamil superstar Kamal Hassan. After having two daughters from their relationship, she walked out on Kamal Hassan for the same reason—domestic violence and mental torture.
In year 2008 the former beauty queen-turned actress Yukta Mookhey married a New York based businessman Prince Tuli. Just after 4 years in 2012 she filed a complaint against him for physical and sexual abuse, mental harassment and demands for dowry. Her case is still in process.
Way back in 70’s a glamour icon and a beauty queen Zeenat Aman faced physical abuse at the hands of her rumoured husband Sanjay Khan right in the midst of a public gathering. Her dramatic life off screen had another twist when she married an actor-director Mazhar Khan whose career was stagnant. Their marital life was a roller-coaster.
Zeenat Aman came out in the open to accuse her husband Mazhar Khan of physical abuse and violence. Unfortunately Mazhar died not so old due to cancer. Zeenat’s marital life from physical abuse turned to serving her terminally ill husband.
From big screen to small screen its not only the stories that depict the dimensions of domestic violence and human rights abuse. The real life mirrors the reel life and vice a versa. There has been this famous case of Shweta Tiwari who had to bear with the physical abuse and rights violation at the hands of her insecure, struggling actor- husband Raja Chaudhry. She bore with the torture initially for the sake of their daughter but finally separated from him and got the divorce.
We are half-way through the second decade of the twenty first century. The world has changed altogether in these last 15 years. The technology has changed and shaped our lives drastically. Still the human consciousness remains stuck in the same age-old beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. There is more awareness, thanks to the technology and social-media platforms. It’s our duty to take advantage of these options and educate the people about the importance of human rights and being just plain human.
The celebrities and stars who are brand ambassadors of so many products, should rather endorse the humane values and how to treat and respect fellow beings. They are the role models. But their responsibility is much more, to live the role—not only on screen, but off-screen too. In that lies the redemption. This can become a real game changer for righting the wrongs and doing things right—the human way.