How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low

MINU JAIN writes from New Delhi: The family that prays together stays together. That seems to be the mantra of the Bachchans as they hotfoot it from one temple to another in the run-up to son Abhishek‘s wedding to Aishwarya Rai. And a star struck nation, denied of any real news of the wedding of the year, eagerly laps up the superstitious journeys of Bollywood’s numero uno family.

It’s the year when archaic terms like manglik jumped out of the matrimonial columns of newspapers to page one, when our screen idols moved out of the silver screen to grace temples across India as they bowed down to blind belief, and when the paparazzi failed to get any real news and compensated by covering every detail of the temple visits.

And filmdom’s ultimate screen icon Amitabh Bachchan, wife Jaya, son Abhishek and to be daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, a formidable family unit with millions of rupees riding on them and millions of fans following every move, are singularly responsible.

From November, when Bollywood’s hottest couple went public with their relationship, to now, the Bachchan family have been seen outside numerous temples genuflecting before the gods that be, and to every superstition in the book.

In a country where astrologers are consulted before business planners when starting a new venture, where a much-in-love couple has to call off their relationship because their horoscopes don’t “match”, where women are relegated to second position and where religion and politics have come to make a combustible mix, the Bachchans aren’t exactly the best role models.

They began their religious quest in November when they visited the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi in the dead of the night reportedly to get Ash married to a tree because she was a Manglik, astrologically Mars bearing.

It was the first confirmation that the couple were getting married. And photographs of the family, with a deglamourised Aishwarya’s forehead smeared with vermilion, with Abhishek and his parents (and Samajwadi Party’s Amar Singh of course) had the nation giddy with excitement.

From uber success and glamour, Aishwarya was suitably reduced to bahu status, head bowed demurely and the Bachchans took on patriarchal dominance.

Just like it is in much of feudal India.

It was also an opportunity for much of India to brush up on their terminology. Hey, what exactly is a manglik? How does one describe the term? Do you really have to get married to a tree to ensure your husband doesn’t die? Those were the questions doing the rounds of not only media offices that had to write the story, but also of many drawing rooms.

In the end, whether Aishwarya really got married to a peepul tree in Varanasi, a banana tree in a Bangalore temple and a god’s idol in Ayodhya as was widely reported didn’t really matter.

The damage had been done. Father-in-law Amitabh—rings of every stone and hue on his fingers obviously to ward off the evil eye flashing from every photograph—denied that she had done so. But who cared. By that time, the message had gone down.

The powerful Bachchans are as susceptible to the worst kind of superstition as the next person. To expect them to be different and help stem the regressive slide of Indian society would obviously be too much.

Since then, the media—and all of us—have faithfully followed their travels to the Vindhyavasini temple in Mirzapur on Amar Singh’s birthday, their much publicised 15 km trek to the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai (the favourite of all the stars), and some more to help Aishwarya’s smooth induction into the family.

In the latest, Bachchan senior and his confidants, industrialist Anil Ambani and Amar Singh, have visited the Tirupati temple and offered Rs.5.1 million each to the temple trust, one of the richest in the country. Amitabh, who is said to have also donated 100 kg of gold, placed a card for his son’s wedding on April 20 at the deity’s feet.

The motive was honourable no doubt—for poor children and hospital facilities in Tirupati. But Tirupati presumably doesn’t need the money, other places could do more with it.

One of the few signs of protest came from a Bihar feminist lawyer, Shruti Singh, who filed a PIL against the Bachchans in the Patna High Court.

“The rituals performed by Aishwarya, Amitabh and Abhishek would only promote superstitions and blind faith among common people,” says a furious Shruti.

It could so easily have been different. It is the same Amitabh who has been hugely successful in making a dent in the campaign against polio simply because he has such a huge following and people believe in him. He tells us what to drink, what suiting to wear and what battery to use.

He could also use his power over the people to deliver a progressive, rational message through his personal life.

But that is not to be.

If this can happen to Aishwarya Rai, who symbolises ultimate power, money and success, think of other women in India. She should have broken the stereotype instead of becoming one. The Bachchans have failed India.

Did anyone say religion should be a private matter?

Photograph courtesy Rajesh Chaurasia/ Associated Press

22 Responses to “How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low”

  1. Prasad Says:

    Whats wrong with the author? Avaravara Paadu avavaravaradu. Devarannu nambakku janarige Hedarabeke? Amitabh Ishtadante Athanu nadeda. Adakke yaake ishtu Kashta?

    Thank God that the author of this crap is not a Amitabh type crowd puller.

    Crazy t houghts

  2. Vishwas Babban Says:

    >If this can happen to Aishwarya Rai, who symbolises ultimate power, money >and success, think of other women in India. She should have broken the >stereotype instead of becoming one. The Bachchans have failed India.

    If Aishwarya Rai is really such a powerful person, why is she allowing others to force her in doing certain things. Or is she being forced at all? Either way what has a PIL got to do with how people want to conduct their lives?

  3. Bollywood Movies Says:

    This is a terrible piece of analysis and I don’t understand why the writer is trying to show that Aishwarya Rai is the weak woman and Amitabh is the powerful man!!! Aishwarya Rai earns a huge amount of money and no one is forcing her to get into this marriage. Really, I wish that MINU JAIN could rewrite this article.
    Ash married to a tree because she was a Manglik- no she married to a tree because she wanted to be a daughter in law in the Bachchan family.
    When AMitabh became the symbol of goodness? Except some foolish persons, everyone knows that whatever actors do in the movie or TV it is pure acting and it has no relationship with real life.

  4. Blog -Covering latest Buzz in News,technology » How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low Says:

    […] How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low […]

  5. Vineet Jain Says:

    Aishwarya and her fiance sharing the floor.

    Dance Link.

    I must say she looks good! Maybe good for him. We all need some change in our perspectives starting from ME.

  6. Raghu Says:

    I think its a waste of time to talk about these things. Each person is an individual and has a right for his own beliefs/practices. We are making a fool of ourselves by trying to tell that Amitabh has done all these things and that people will follow it blindly.

  7. Vikram Kamath Says:

    Agree with Raghu. Religion is personal matter. And it is individual belief. Media covers too much these days in the name of the news.

    What ever Big B and his family believes he can do under the sun in religious matters as the right given by Indian constitution.

    Please do not post such a nonsense issues to discuss.

  8. Arun Says:

    Talk of the channels focusing too much on the personal issues of celebs…and the author too has done nothing but the same. So much of time is wasted. Let the family members smear vermilion or grease, how does it matter. If the family has a good fan following, does it mean that they have no personal likes and dislikes? If Aishwarya is a strong woman, she definitely is, does it mean that she should have no beliefs in traditional practices?

    This family has gone through the worst of times during 1990s and it is no surprise that their tilt towards divine interventions, spiritual influence and religious practices during the period would have only accentuated. And they hold their beliefs sacred. What’s wrong with that? The family visiting Siddhi Vinayak, Aishwarya and her mom visiting a Dargah at Ajmer or Sachin visiting Kukke Subramanya are all private matters. They are not advocating this, but practicing it as a private affair.

    Misuse of PIL too.

  9. Alok Says:

    If a person’s religion, beliefs and faith are subject to media scrutiny, is it that person’s fault for holding such beliefs?

    Or is it that persons who are celebrities should only have those set of beliefs and follow only those faiths in such manner as the media (read liberal, atheist set) believe they should?

    Mindless ramblings of this kind simply clog up blogosphere even further than the NRN-national-anthem-crap that has been going around.

  10. vinay Says:

    author writes ‘He could also use his power over the people to deliver a progressive, rational message through his personal life….’ a view from the author’s perspective need not be the same for AB …does it mean that all atheists are rationalists?

  11. rustyvagabond Says:

    Why should we want Amitabh Bachchan and his family to be holier than thou? They are as regressive as the rest of the majority of this country is. Why should there be any expectation that they would be progressive simply because they all make movies? What is the connection?

    It is true that actors/artists etc have a responsibility towards the society they live in. But they should feel that within themselves. You cannot thrust it upon them now, can you?

  12. Dheerendragopal Says:

    B.T.W who is Bacchan ?

  13. Krishna Says:

    How AB junior and ash wants to get married is there personal choice. The last time i heard we were still a democracy and everyone has right to live there life as they want to and not how Miss Manju wants them to. Why we have to look every event from feminist point of view.

  14. WS Says:

    Cheerfully suprised and wish them all the best !

  15. Sans Says:

    Every person has their own right to faith and belif in Gods. The author does not have any right to insult or comment their faith as superstitious. This author whoever he/she is may be a person who laps up such news, and write comments since they are jealous and cant digest it.

  16. ramareddy Says:

    I simply couldnt get why the word “regressively low” was used for the caption. India or Hinduism is unaffected by the good or bad actions of individuals. If visiting temples or consulting astrologers is an act of superstition or blind faiths, then i concur that the author has a regressive mind. Astrology was initially a science to point the position of stars and time.Later on the rishi’s amassed a database by grouping events which happened under different positions of stars and came out with the commonalities. Even astrology says that its only a science and purely an indicator.

  17. Tinu M. Patel Says:

    It just goes to show you one thing. Bribe is a part of india in both the spiritual and physical realm. What makes a person think that GOD would have favor in his life if he just left a few kG of Gold. GOD has given him enough for this life more than most. yet he is still unsatisfied and believes he owes. This is problem of every sinner who wants to believe he can earn his blessings. Amitabh and any one else including me is no different. Its very sad to see mans will over fear lose.

  18. Raghavendra M Kandkur Says:


    Is it necessary to pinpoint everything the Big B does. Do not our politicians do more Poojas compared to any other persons on the Earth. Big B has become like a PingPong ball anyone who wants to hit him join the game and hit him. That is there only motive….

  19. Daman Says:

    I agree with the writer.The Bachchans are really a ridiculous lot.

  20. twistleton Says:

    hee hee
    lucky tree :D

    Big B by the sheer scale of his fame and his image of being a respectable old chap has a greater responsibility to simply simply behave sensibly.

    But that is something for him to realize.

    I thought Ash B would be a woman of greater spirit than to appease spirits and shibboleths.

  21. Lola Says:

    When is a person truly powerful? People always associate power with money yet fail to realize that real power lies with those who are independent in thought. Aishwarya has always struck me as a very traditional family oriented woman and very unlike her BW contemporaries. Yes, she has a very successful career but that alone is not the measure of true independence. Having said that, she has the right to live the life she desires even if it means she lives it on the basis of archaic principles. She married Abhishek out of her own free will.

    Rather than blame the Bachchans, I pity those who consider celebrities in the film industry as thier role models. The Bachchans are hardly the epitome of good ethics or good character.

  22. Vidushak Says:

    Just wondering…Why did Aishwarya have to marry a tree before marrying another?

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