At around 4 pm on Saturday someone sent me a message. “Shabana Azmi critically injured in a road accident. Really sad.”
He sounded more excited for having broken the news to me, than sad. I panicked. Shabana is my hero, someone I look up to and admire beyond words, one of my dearest friends, and my most favourite actress whom I’ve known for 40 years. We last chatted on Friday evening after Javed Saab’s birthday celebrations. She poured herself into organizing all the events for Javed Saab’s 75th birthday.
Her enthusiasm spilled over in our chats and she told me, ‘Aap agar aayenge char chand lag jayega.’
That’s Shabana, never pressurizing you into doing anything but always communicating her genuine warmth to everyone who matters in her life. Luckily I am one of them. To, therefore, read ghoulish and utterly misguided and foolish reports of her “critical” accident made me shiver. I immediately contacted Javed Saab who understandably didn’t respond immediately. He called back a little later and told me not to worry. It was Farhan who told me he was also trying to contact his father, and that he would let me know the status as soon as he got in touch, and he did.
But it was Shabana’s sister-in-law Tanve who was the first to put my mind to rest . “She’s okay,” Tanve informed me. And I breathed a sigh of relief.
But the newshounds had just started. As the evening progressed the reporting of the accident got more and more ghoulish. There is obviously more ‘hits’ when you write about tragedies. So the doomsday ‘profits’ took over. And decency be damned! First information reports in the press claimed Javed and Shabana were in the car when the accident happened. This was completely false. Javed Saab was not in the car when the accident happened.
Then there were hysterical reports that Shabana had a ‘near-fatal’ accident and she was ‘critical’. She was not. But I certainly am critical of such alarmist reportage. In the evening Javed Saab called me back to say Shabana was fully conscious. The injury was all external.
This is where the voyeuristic side of the media surfaced full-throttle. Pictures of Shabana lying prostrate with pronounced facial injury were used across the internet and the papers too. Is there no sense of propriety in the press? I asked one of the portal’s editors why such private pictures were being put on public display and his reply made my blood freeze. “Ab dekho, Shabana Azmi koi Deepika Padukone toh hai nahin. Her accident can only sell on the basis of heightened drama. Blood tears melodrama..”
While the drama unfolds, all sense of decency is thrown to the winds. But sorry, to sell a mishap to the public by using pictures that violate the most basic level of decency, I can’t live with that.Best of luck to the hounds of voyeurism.