Opinion | Will our celebrities please show up?
One expects involvement from celebrities and influencers with relief efforts because their fandom is the people
Where are our celebrities? While regular people have been displaying extraordinary courage and ability during this crisis — verifying leads on oxygen, beds, plasma, and mobilising and taking action — Indian celebrities, for the most part, have stayed silent. But this is the time to show up!
International celebrities like podcast host Jay Shetty have raised a lot of money [$36,88,981 in a virtual fundraiser on May 1]. And actor Priyanka Chopra is doing it relentlessly on Twitter, highlighting the situation in India and delivering an impassioned plea for people to donate, calling for action on supply of vaccines, and sharing a video with news clips capturing the true horror of the situation. To do something like this, you need guts. And persistence.
Who’s doing it right
Some are using their platforms effectively, like actor Bhumi Pednekar, and content creators Janice Sequeira and Kusha Kapila. They have been sharing leads [and resources for beds, oxygen, plasma donors] and amplifying calls for help on Twitter.
Actor Sonu Sood has been fantastic both last year and now. He’s been raising multiple SOS calls and helping in real time on Twitter [and even via his phone number]. Actor John Abraham handed his social media accounts over to NGOs; that’s one way of doing it.
Comedians like Mallika Dua and Srishti Dixit have been using Instagram Stories to amplify requests and resources, while Vir Das has shared posts and tweets apart from having standup shows for Covid relief. However, as a community, there is scope for a lot more to be done.
These days, many celebrities in India prefer to post pictures of themselves wearing masks and doing yoga… people don’t want to see that right now. Shilpa Shetty was trolled for this recently on Instagram. Alia Bhatt returned from the Maldives and the very next day announced that she was going to be amplifying leads in partnership with independent journalist Faye D’Souza. It felt like an avoid-backlash-and-react-quickly situation [as an earlier post had the actor with the caption, ‘The only time being negative is a good thing’]. What I’m hearing from people is that the leads are expiring in five minutes. So it remains to be seen how much those numbers are helping people and actually saving lives.
At the time of writing this, Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli have announced a fundraiser, #InThisTogether, in association with Ketto, the crowdfunding platform. According to news reports, the duo will donate ₹2 crore as their share of the ₹7 crore goal. And Salman Khan has promised to financially support 25,000 daily wage workers [he will be credtiting ₹1,500 each to their accounts]. Many of the big accounts, meanwhile, are silent. For example, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. It’s not unfair to expect involvement from celebrities and influencers because, at the end of the day, their fandom is the people. Even if someone has 2,000 followers on social media, that’s a strong network to get leads and save people. Also, if, as a celebrity, they are making a donation, they should announce it. One donation will inspire thousands of people to donate. They should talk about how they are helping the cause.
There’s the counter argument that some could be battling issues [stress, mental health challenges]. I read this beautiful quote that said, “You can’t benefit from culture and you can’t benefit from society at large without actually showing up for the real, tangible people who make that culture and society.” This is the time to be present, if possible.
Waiting for a sign
There is also the perception that [Indian celebrities] are waiting for a sign-off from the government to post anything Covid-related. For humanity’s sake, they should use their influence now and support relief efforts. People will remember this period. And if they are lost [about how best to use their might on social media], there are always templates like Sood’s and Pednekar’s to follow.
— As told to Aparna Narrain
Santu Misra is a New Delhi-based creative director known for incubating Next-Gen digital influencers.
The print version of this article has been updated here to include Kohli and Sharma’s fundraiser, and Salman Khan’s initiative.