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Stardom’s downside: Leave the kids alone, media must draw the line

THE ASIAN AGE. | ARCHANA DALMIA
Published : May 15, 2019, 12:29 am IST
Updated : May 15, 2019, 12:35 am IST

A recent case in point is the whole brouhaha over Ajay Devgan’s daughter Nysa Devgan.

Taimur Ali Khan
 Taimur Ali Khan

For some star kids growing up around film sets has been no biggie, a reality that they have welcomed into their lives — whether it was Shashi Kapoor, Sridevi or Amir Khan, their debut into Bollywood happened as child stars. However with social media being what it is, (this two headed beast has both good and bad sides to it), star kids are finding it harder and harder to carve out a life away from the glare of the paparazzi.

A recent case in point is the whole brouhaha over Ajay Devgan’s daughter Nysa Devgan. The teen was mercilessly trolled on social media after a certain “airport look” of hers surfaced on the Internet. Read: the girl was wearing a pair of shorts and a longish hoodie. Her adoring “fans” turned trolls overnight. In a statement to the press Devgan had reportedly said that kids shouldn’t pay the price for their parents being famous. Devgan told a well-known daily, “She is just a 14-year-old and I feel, at times, people forget that and talk rubbish. She was wearing a long shirt but she was also wearing shorts. Now because of the length of the shirt, her shorts weren’t visible and the kid got trolled for that.”

Another example of overexposure to the lens is the little Taimur whose famous parents, (Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor duh!) ensure that he dressed and well-presented every time he steps out of the house since it is a given that he will be under the scrutiny of the camera.  Currently Taimur is the paparazzi’s favourite, and he has even started playing to the gallery, giving the cameras something to fawn over every time he is out of his home. His early step into stardom seems inevitable since we can also see him in the VIP stroller Ad. Both parents clearly don’t mind it and more power to them.

Nysa DevganNysa Devgan

However the constant gaze of the paparazzi, social media and the ever-present phone camera, can have a long term damaging effect on the psyche of the child. Be it in Hollywood or Bollywood. This is true especially after the child star hits their 40s and the camera-men aren’t chasing them anymore. These child-stars often develop all kinds of anti-social behavior to garner attention. Its often seen as a cry for help or in the case of some Hollywood stars something to just spice up their lives.

Take the case of Hollywood hottie Winona Ryder. The 44-year-old actress, who is best known for her roles in Beetlejuice , Girl, Interrupted, Reality Bites and Little Women, was convicted of shoplifting $5,000 worth of designer clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills in December 2001. She was sentenced to three years’ supervised probation, ordered to do 480 hours of community service and fined a total of $2,700. Ryder was also ordered to pay compensation to Saks for the stolen items and undergo counselling! After spending some time away from the glare of the cameras Ryder is now aware that she is looking forward to getting older and the wrinkles on her forehead are a prize rather than something to be ‘taken care of’.  Ryder is on the right path having taken some time for herself but many of her contemporaries have not been so lucky.

Jugal HansrajJugal Hansraj

At the other end of the scale is child artist Macaulay Culkin. Culkin’s life has rightly been described as the   “fallout from an atomic blast” by one journalist. By the age of 12, Culkin was the most successful child actor of his time. He had done Uncle Buck, two Home Alone films, My Girl and (box office turkey) Richie Rich that all raked in the millions. At 14, he became legally emancipated from his parents; since both parents had been trying to gain control of his $17m fortune in their divorce. Culkin married at 17, and separated two years later. Sleepovers with Michael Jackson became public knowledge when he was called as a defense witness at the singer’s molestation trial. This was followed by drug abuse rumors and it soon became apparent that darling of matinee kidult cinema was facing a terrible downward spiral.  It has taken a lot of good counseling and medication to bring him back on the right track and one hears that he is even doing a new film, which is a reprisal of his Home Alone trilogy but with the roles reversed, he’s now the crazy grown-up who gets bugged to death by the precocious kid.

In India we have many examples where kids are introduced to cinema as child stars, but they are not able to garner the same success as adults. Without taking names I will tell you the story of two little stars who premiered in a classic that was hailed as ‘the golden era of Indian new wave cinema’. One made it big and she danced her way to stardom without much Tanha, while the other, well he made a valiant attempt at making it as a lead hero but the box office and the audiences found his chocolate boy good looks (which really worked for him as a child star) more of a deterrent rather than an asset. The result is that the young man went through severe depression although he never talked about it; but he came out the winner when he turned to directing his own animation film that won him a National Award. Yes I am talking about Jugal Hansraj who is doing much better behind the camera than in front of it.  

The point I am making is that some star kids and child actors are able to sustain their childhood fame and some aren’t. Which is fine. However they too, like every tax paying citizen of India have the right to their private lives.

Winona RyderWinona Ryder

Sometimes the media and fandom can go overboard to the point where it causes deep and long lasting psychological damage. Let’s know where and when to draw the line.

For some star kids growing up around film sets has been no biggie, a reality that they have welcomed into their lives — whether it was Shashi Kapoor, Sridevi or Amir Khan, their debut into Bollywood happened as child stars. However with social media being what it is, (this two headed beast has both good and bad sides to it), star kids are finding it harder and harder to carve out a life away from the glare of the paparazzi.

A recent case in point is the whole brouhaha over Ajay Devgan’s daughter Nysa Devgan. The teen was mercilessly trolled on social media after a certain “airport look” of hers surfaced on the Internet. Read: the girl was wearing a pair of shorts and a longish hoodie. Her adoring “fans” turned trolls overnight. In a statement to the press Devgan had reportedly said that kids shouldn’t pay the price for their parents being famous. Devgan told a well-known daily, “She is just a 14-year-old and I feel, at times, people forget that and talk rubbish. She was wearing a long shirt but she was also wearing shorts. Now because of the length of the shirt, her shorts weren’t visible and the kid got trolled for that.”

Another example of overexposure to the lens is the little Taimur whose famous parents, (Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor duh!) ensure that he dressed and well-presented every time he steps out of the house since it is a given that he will be under the scrutiny of the camera.  Currently Taimur is the paparazzi’s favourite, and he has even started playing to the gallery, giving the cameras something to fawn over every time he is out of his home. His early step into stardom seems inevitable since we can also see him in the VIP stroller Ad. Both parents clearly don’t mind it and more power to them.

However the constant gaze of the paparazzi, social media and the ever-present phone camera, can have a long term damaging effect on the psyche of the child. Be it in Hollywood or Bollywood. This is true especially after the child star hits their 40s and the camera-men aren’t chasing them anymore. These child-stars often develop all kinds of anti-social behavior to garner attention. Its often seen as a cry for help or in the case of some Hollywood stars something to just spice up their lives.

Take the case of Hollywood hottie Winona Ryder. The 44-year-old actress, who is best known for her roles in Beetlejuice , Girl, Interrupted, Reality Bites and Little Women, was convicted of shoplifting $5,000 worth of designer clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills in December 2001. She was sentenced to three years’ supervised probation, ordered to do 480 hours of community service and fined a total of $2,700. Ryder was also ordered to pay compensation to Saks for the stolen items and undergo counselling! After spending some time away from the glare of the cameras Ryder is now aware that she is looking forward to getting older and the wrinkles on her forehead are a prize rather than something to be ‘taken care of’.  Ryder is on the right path having taken some time for herself but many of her contemporaries have not been so lucky.

At the other end of the scale is child artist Macaulay Culkin. Culkin’s life has rightly been described as the   “fallout from an atomic blast” by one journalist. By the age of 12, Culkin was the most successful child actor of his time. He had done Uncle Buck, two Home Alone films, My Girl and (box office turkey) Richie Rich that all raked in the millions. At 14, he became legally emancipated from his parents; since both parents had been trying to gain control of his $17m fortune in their divorce. Culkin married at 17, and separated two years later. Sleepovers with Michael Jackson became public knowledge when he was called as a defense witness at the singer’s molestation trial. This was followed by drug abuse rumors and it soon became apparent that darling of matinee kidult cinema was facing a terrible downward spiral.  It has taken a lot of good counseling and medication to bring him back on the right track and one hears that he is even doing a new film, which is a reprisal of his Home Alone trilogy but with the roles reversed, he’s now the crazy grown-up who gets bugged to death by the precocious kid.

Macaulay CulkinMacaulay Culkin

In India we have many examples where kids are introduced to cinema as child stars, but they are not able to garner the same success as adults. Without taking names I will tell you the story of two little stars who premiered in a classic that was hailed as ‘the golden era of Indian new wave cinema’. One made it big and she danced her way to stardom without much Tanha, while the other, well he made a valiant attempt at making it as a lead hero but the box office and the audiences found his chocolate boy good looks (which really worked for him as a child star) more of a deterrent rather than an asset. The result is that the young man went through severe depression although he never talked about it; but he came out the winner when he turned to directing his own animation film that won him a National Award. Yes I am talking about Jugal Hansraj who is doing much better behind the camera than in front of it.  

The point I am making is that some star kids and child actors are able to sustain their childhood fame and some aren’t. Which is fine. However they too, like every tax paying citizen of India have the right to their private lives.

Sometimes the media and fandom can go overboard to the point where it causes deep and long lasting psychological damage. Let’s know where and when to draw the line.

The writer is the chairperson of the AICC grievance cell. The views expressed here are personal.

Tags: taimur ali khan, nysa devgan