Twinkle Twinkle, Still a Star

Pop Culture

Twinkle Twinkle, Still a Star

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza/ Arré

On November 2, Ameesha Patel of DON’T-MAKE-MY-UNDERWEAR-A-FLAG fame sent out the customary tweet about the artistic greatness of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The film’s director and Bollywood top dog, Karan Johar, who was busy retweeting reviews and appreciation from his colleagues, did not respond to Ameesha’s kindness.

On the same day, she wished Shah Rukh Khan, “one of the finest, classiest n most intelligent eloquent actors” a V happy bday, with an attached picture of SRK awkwardly side hugging her. Shah Rukh’s expression in the picture is more to the tune of a dude stepping into his bathroom to the smell of fresh faeces, post one too many aloo paranthas. SRK, like KJo, didn’t respond and Ameesha’s Twitter remained un-lit. Her Twitter did light up though on Diwali. She retweeted a fan-made poster/collage of her next to pathakas (firecrackers), whose graphical sophistication made ClipArt in MS Powerpoint 2002 seem like Avatar.

Cultural relevance is a rare, seemingly finite currency, and Ameesha Patel cashed in all her 100s early. Now stuck in woman-actor-celebrity purgatory, she spends her time retweeting fan pages like @ameesharules.

Where Ameesha tries to build a trodden road to the pin-up girl moniker again, Twinkle Khanna has built a sprawling six-lane freeway. Residing firmly atop the other side of the cultural relevance spectrum, Mrs Funnybones has cultivated a zero-fucks-given persona on Twitter and brought the same flair to her mainstream coming out party cum book tour to Koffee With Karan last Sunday. She said “Tentacles to Testicles” would be her title for a book on Bollywood, asked Karan Johar to go to jail for 377 days, and declared that marriage is essentially a baby-producing agreement and nothing else. Oh she also vetted husband Akshay Kumar’s family for amicable genes.

Remember Rani Mukerji and Kajol? They last hit headlines for marrying Aditya Chopra and supporting their husbands.

Twinkle Khanna has moulded herself into the straight talker India has been clamouring for. She’s part observer, part leaky insider. She used Twitter to resurrect herself at a moment when the seeds of influence are easier to sow than ever before and the rewards include long-term access to the timelines we hold so dear. Remember the time Aamir Khan was a social activist shedding tears every Sunday on TV? Twinkle Khanna’s activism lies in her snark and she encashes it every day with indelible ink on her middle finger.

Sadly, she’s the exception not the rule. Women actors way more famous than her, have faded long ago from our collective consciousness. Remember Rani Mukerji and Kajol? They last hit headlines for marrying Aditya Chopra and supporting their husbands. The once most beautiful woman in the world Aishwarya Rai now struggles with pulling off even cougar roles (but then in her defence, she struggled pulling off almost any role) and Preity Zinta isn’t making news for hugging cricketers anymore. The grapevine has it that she still hasn’t moved on from her dimples.

These are the A-listers btw. The B-listers like Shilpa Shetty took the road many times taken. A two-year stint in London, an NRI husband, and wads of cash to throw around at a shitty new production house.

This is kind of depressing, but then Bollywood is a depressing place. It’s a seemingly sexist workplace which is a product of its audiences’ fancy, who are okay with 50-year-old men playing lover boys only if there is newer arm candy in tow. The keys to the box office are fashioned by 21-year-old men ready for three shows a day at a single-screen theatre. Rajini, Salman, Shah Rukh, etc aren’t better actors than their women counterparts; they were just lucky enough to be sporting penises. Their relevancy lies unscathed like the Bollywood hero walking away from a bomb explosion.

The women actors, however, are still looking for their time in the extended spotlight. They use their social media handles to perpetuate the “pretty folk in an ivory tower” narrative and use Instagram and B-list entertainment sites as the means of this bad-grammared pogrom. At a time when being authentic, in touch, and aware is suddenly the new hot, posting a picture of your new Birkin on Instagram is the exact opposite of keeping it real. Which is why in the world of #TooReal, Twinkle Khanna wrote the book on the art of being cool.