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More ‘Shwetas’ behind the curtain

By Krati Gupta

Edited by Shambhavi Singh,Senior editor,The Indian Economist

I still remember the first horror movie I watched as a kid- Makdee.  I was initially terrified, but as the plot thickened, I was awestruck by how the protagonist Chunni, a small girl from a North Indian village, fights against all odds and destroys the myth surrounding witches and their black magic. The protagonist’s bravery made me love the film, and I felt a spurt of courage inside me. The film won second prize in Chicago International Children’s Film Festival , and back home the lead actress was awarded  the Indian National Film Award for Best Child Artist at a mere age of 11. A big achievement indeed!  She later appeared in the movie ‘Iqbal’ in 2005, which became one of the highest grossing films of the year. It was commercially as well as critically acclaimed, and grabbed the National Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues. She later worked in Telugu and Bengali Cinema and received nominations in Filmfare for best actress.

Signs of a promising career in the movie industry, aren’t they? The initial signs undoubtedly pointed to the same.

I was going through the newspaper the other day, when I came across the headline, ” Shweta  Basu Prasad held in allegations of prostitution.”  It came as a shock to me as I read on that she had accepted the accusations of operating a prostitution racket, and admitted to her wrong career choices. She said that her lean financial situations and ‘encouragement’ by some people led her to the flesh trade. She went on to say that there were other actresses who had opted this path.

I was having a hard time digesting the incident, when a male friend of mine, casually brought up the incident in a conversation. He said,’ Did you hear about that Shweta Basu case? I didn’t know her before this. I just checked her pictures out after reading about it. Yaa, she is hot!” This remark irked me beyond measure.

Majority of the people would have forgotten who she was, but as soon as news channels flashed this headline, people started showing interest all of a sudden. Her pictures and life history were browsed by many, and her sex appeal was discussed.  Internet showed mixed reactions, with hoards of people commenting and judging her for the choices she made. The sting operation by a Telugu TV channel showed her charging money for delivering sexual favours. Her character now lays bare in front of people to be dissected. But the bigger question that looms is that whether this case should be treated as another celebrity sex scandal or is there much more to it? What and who forced such a promising actress to sell her body for money? And why are actresses with a decelerating career slope increasingly opting for this?

The questions remain unanswered.

It is sad that her identity was revealed, while the high profile clients who exploited her still remain unnamed. She is now being scrutinised for her actions, while the rich businessmen sit back and enjoy the show and invest their money in finding some other aspiring actress to satiate their cravings.

In the police interrogation she said that no films were coming her way, and she had the burden of meeting her financial commitments. It is not just her, but many other actresses who fall in the same vicious circle. Promises of movies roles, desire to stay in the limelight and jingling of a few coins, sway them to this path. The pimps make money off the exploitation of these naive and gullible actresses. It is a matter of grief, that an actress with a National Award in her kitty ,and a consistent performance afterwards were also not enough to guarantee a decent film career.

It needs to be understood that Shweta is merely a pawn; the trade needs to be removed its root. Prostitution is not criminalised, but its associated activities are, hence, it is unfair to put the entire blame on the actress and judge her character. This should be thoroughly investigated and others involved in the racket should be held accountable.

Everyone commits mistakes. But a second chance is what one can make the best use of. A few directors have come forward to offer her movie roles following the incident. It will be great to see her start afresh, deliver some of the best performances of her career in the years to come, and bag even more prestigious awards.

Krati is currently a Pre final year student pursuing chemical engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad. She loves watching movies and posing for pictures. Apart from juggling between the concepts of thermodynamics and heat transfer during college hours, she is a greenhorn at writing and is highly optimistic about exploring the vast horizon in this field . She believes penning down her thoughts will make at least a small difference to the world.


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