ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from San Francisco: There are plenty of things to infuriate a dispassionate news consumer watching India from a distance these days, but as a fully paid-up Kannadiga, nothing had the same effect on my blood pressure last week than a towering piece of turd called Darshan.
The “Challenging Star”, as the clearly challenged star is called by his fawning fans and factotums, was exposed to be a horrific wife-beater, who stubbed a burning cigarette into her throat, pulled her ear ring, showed her his revolver, assaulted her, threatened to kill their son—much of all this in a car moving around Bangalore.
While such testesterone-driven, alcohol-lubricated machismo is India’s most popular non-televised sport, it is the response to Darshan’s arrest following a police complaint filed by his wife, who was hospitalised, that says plenty about the sad direction in which Karnataka as a society and Kannada filmdom, as its most dysfunctional part, are headed.
First, you had Darshan’s fans, who obviously are blinded by their hero worship to not know the difference between the real and the make-believe.
Far from mocking their “hero” for his seeming inability to deal with domestic strife without pulling out a metaphorical machchu or a laangu, the idiots (including many women) took out processions in support of Darshan in various cities, conducted homas, stoned buses, and demanded that the police release him from detention.
Then, you had the scum of the Kannada film industry, who, it seems, like to send a “social message” only through their movies, not in the way they conduct themselves in public—or private.
These angels and emissaries rushed in and rushed out of the hospital where Darshan’s wife was under sedation, holding “talks” and “negotiations”, which is shorthand for putting pressure on the wounded woman to kiss her self-respect goodbye and withdraw her brave five-page complaint which showed her abominable husband as a serial offender.
That the poor lady did, feigning a fall in the bathroom.
Obviously, as a big, bankable star, Darshan has a lot of money riding on him and the incident could affect his image, especially for an industry whose heroes and heroines have in recent months been under the scanner for all the wrong reasons. But surely Darshan also has a familial and social responsibility that goes beyond swinging the turnstiles?
Next, as if in salute to B.S. Yediyurappa who had convinced himself that the world revolved around Lingayat mutts, Bangalore Mirror and Praja Vani report that the Vokkaliga lobby in the film industry—and a Vokkaliga minister in the Sadananda Gowda team—put pressure on the police to water down the charges against Darshan.
And this, although Darshan is only a faux Vokkaliga, belonging originally to the Telugu speaking Balija community.
What does it say about a society that views every action and reaction through the prism of caste, and sees the arrest of a philandering wife-beater not as just desserts but as an attack on their community?
However, the cake and bakery in this disgraceful episode is taken by the Karnataka film producers’ association which has banned not the philandering wife-beater whose brutality the world has seen, but the “other woman”, who is supposed to have been the source of the strife between the drunken husband and the battered wife.
The male chauvinism of the Kannada film industry, where the casting couch is a permanent prop, has long been established. But whose cause is Scandalwood, as Sandalwood needs to be rechristened, espousing by ignoring a Poriki wife-beater and turning on his co-star Nikita Thukral with whom he was allegedly having an affair?
Like all modern-day thugs and criminals who discover parts of their bodies they didn’t know existed till they are caught with their pants down, Darshan the “fine actor” that he is, hopped from hospital to hospital before settling on the Rajiv Gandhi institute of chest diseases to treat his asthma-induced chest pain.
Considering his brutality, the film industry’s solidarity, the caste overtones, the film producers’ madness and his fans’ blindness, the challenged star should well and truly have been lodged in the first hospital he checked in: the national institute of mental health and neuro sciences, or NIMHANS as the world knows it.
It would been the perfect advertisement for the state of Kannada filmdom.
Photograph: Actor Darshan‘s wife Vijayalakshmi leaves the Rajiv Gandhi insitute of chest diseases in Bangalore after visiting her husband, on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)