AN ACTOR PLAYS an imaginary character but returns, owned by the audience in his true personality, to their homes, residing in their thoughts, sometimes becoming delusionally real. Those who jump orbits into stardom turn ultimately into extreme objects of voyeurism. At the heart of this connection, pervading across it like ether, is sexual fantasy. People are not interested in what shoes Shah Rukh wears or the kitchen of Deepika Padukone’s new home because of their expertise in leather or interior design. A fantasy can never be achieved, but to keep it going constantly needs fuel to be poured into it as oblation and that is done by collecting and hoarding details of the star. Such relentless embellishment of the obsession is, in turn, exploited for commerce and industries that rotate around the stars. It is a pretty straightforward transaction and that is why it makes the case of Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s memoir somewhat curious.
He has just withdrawn it with this tweet: ‘I m apologising 2 every1 who’s sentiments r hurt bcz of d chaos around my memoir #AnOrdinaryLife I hereby regret & decide 2 withdraw my book’. The book’s title is An Ordinary Life, but Siddiqui’s has clearly been an extraordinary one; driven by a struggle that, in rare cases, becomes worth it. He does not have much going in the physical appearance department but today shares near equal screen space with superstars who do. And yet, while his book would have numerous details about this great journey, what has caught the attention of the world and in turn led to his retracting the book, are a few pages of affairs.
There are numerous liaisons mentioned, including wives, but the main objection stems from a portion where he talks about a relationship with a co-star that was sexual from his standpoint but broke up because his partner wanted romance. He confesses to his own callousness, ‘But I was quite a selfish bastard. I had a plain aim: go to her house, make out and leave. I could not talk lovey-dovey too much. It finally struck her that I was a rascal who cared only for himself. (Actually, all the girls I have ever been with have had this same complaint about me. I would only come to them for my own needs. Otherwise, I might not even take their calls.)’
The actress he named has objected. Should he have taken her consent beforehand? It would be decent to do so but not incumbent in an autobiography because, after all, one’s own life is one’s own life in its ugliness and beauty. If a memoir is true, it will be honest and that will hurt. There is then the question of why only matters of sex should become subjects of such self-censorship. If a director had objected to bad press from his memoir, would he have chucked the book? From the extracts at least, what he has written is not sleazy, just somewhat clumsy. It was however marketed through sex, highlighted by the media through sex and withdrawn because of sex. A Bollywood star with a better sense of his place in the world would revel in such a windfall of free publicity. It is not always good to develop a moral conscience on behalf of someone else.