Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Letting Down Our Talent - Indira Gaikwad and Shweta Prasad

Two disturbing pieces of news last week. One about a national award winner in para Olympics selling off her medals to finance her medical treatment and another national award winner for acting being arrested for prostitution. Somehow we as a society have let our talent down and forced them to seek avenues far below what they deserve. They deserve our accolades, our love and appreciation and see what we have given them.

The first picture is that of 43 year old polio-stricken Indira Gaikwad who has won the Shiv Chhatrapathi award in 1991, (Maharashtra's highest award for differently-abled sportspeople)  and over 35 medals and awards in sports such as power lifting, cycle racing, shotput, discus throw, javelin throw etc. She won 8 golds representing her state. The picture shows her sitting in on the  floor of her 'matchbox-size home' in Rastapeth with her 75 year old mother, selling off her medals as scrap because her mother's medical bills were Rs. 500 last month. Her father is no more; he died of cancer. Indira has been promised a job but nothing has come of it. Meanwhile she and her mother live off a combined income of Rs. 800 a month from the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Anudan Yojana. Other efforts at work have not paid off  and she talks of suicide as an option if she cannot get a small government job.

The second is that of the immensely talented Shweta Basu Prasad who won the National Film Award for best child artiste for her performance in Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Makdee' and Star Screen Award for 'Iqbal' and nominations for other movies.There is no doubting the young girl's talent and one can only wonder how she has been led or forced to go astray. It is a tough profession, films, especially when you see the industry filled with sons and daughters of yesteryear actors and directors and producers and what not - how will an outsider from a normal background make the cut. Instead of nurturing and promoting her phenomenal talent, we, as a nation have somehow pushed her into the oldest profession. I don't know how many remember, but there was a sting operation on her last year too and people knew that things were going wrong with her. But who has the time? Today she sits in a remand home - wonder why and for what end - for a crime society committed on her. We, as a society can accept a porn star like Sunny Leone (which is wonderful), but then we suddenly turn all judgmental against this young girl. Shweta hopefully will come out of this mess and use her talent to receive what is really due to her and hopefully the industry and the society will allow her to. There is no shame in making a mistake; she has accepted it unlike some other great celebrities and powerful scions who are running away from all kinds of court cases pending against them. She can start afresh and all power to her. The mistake squarely lies on us, the society.

These are two stray cases. One wonders how many such are languishing because they are not of the right birth, of the right shape or size or color or name or fame. As long as we promote and support mediocrity, which we tend to do in all walks of life, from politics to sports, literature to arts, we as a nation will suffer from a narrow vision, a narrow representation of what we are. Just imagine the kind of performances Shweta would have revelled in if given an opportunity, a true celebration of the art form, instead of having to watch wooden faced actors practicing their skills on us for decades and still not showing a patch of the talent of such gifted artistes. But then, we get what we deserve.

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