With fame comes controversies. Over the years, several Bollywood celebrities have found themselves the subject of unwanted attention in India for various reasons -- from surprise weddings and baby bumps to extra-marital affairs and divorces. The latest celebrity to hog the limelight is actress Kareena Kapoor Khan, this time not for any feel-good news.
Kareena has recently been trending on Twitter, following reports that she had demanded a whopping Rs 12 crore fee for playing the mythological character Sita on-screen. Thousands used the hashtag #BoycottKareenKhan to slam Kareena for demanding such a high fee for portraying the revered Hindu character despite being married to a Muslim actor in real life.
Let's explore the controversy.
Why is Sita revered in India
Sita is the lead female character of Ramayana, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, penned by sage Valmiki between 500 BCE and 100 BCE. In the Hindu epic, Sita is described as the daughter of Bhumi (the Earth) and the adopted daughter of King Janaka of Videha kingdom and his wife, Queen Sunayana.
The marriage between Sita, known for her dedication and purity, and Rama, the Prince of the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, in itself is a story worth telling. Sita chose Rama as her husband in a swayamvara — bride choosing the best from among a list of suitors after a contest. This was after Rama successfully completed the task of stringing a magic bow.
Sita subsequently accompanied Rama to his kingdom but had to soon go into exile with her husband and brother-in-law Laksmana for 14 years through the plotting of his stepmother. In exile, they settled in a forest from where she was abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Rama gathered an army of monkeys and rescued Sita after killing Ravana in a war.
Later Sita was asked by Rama, an incarnation of a Hindu God, to prove her chastity. Sita entered fire, but was saved by other Hindu Gods. After the couple's triumphant return to Ayodhya, Rama's righteous rule came to be known as Ram-raj (golden rule) for all mankind.
Why the controversy
In the later 1980s, Indian state TV telecast a series based on the ancient Sanskrit epic of the same name. The TV series, Ramayana, broke all records and became a national craze then.
Over the years, a number of Hindu nationalist parties, including India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, rode the TV show to spark a Hindu awakening in this country. And the BJP cashed in on the opportunity to start a campaign, Ram Janmabhoomi (Rama’s birthplace) movement, and forged a sense of Hindu togetherness to eventually come to power.
"Criticised for its government's poor handling of the Covid situation in the country, many in the BJP are now trying to salvage the party's nationalist image and divert people's attention from the health situation. And Kareena is indeed the ideal diversion tactic," said Prof Suneeta Roy, a political pundit.
Kareena and the social media
Four months ago, 40-year-old Kareena also hogged the limelight when she gave birth to a baby boy -- their second son -- at a private hospital in the Indian city of Mumbai.
In fact, Kareena and her husband Saif Ali Khan -- dubbed Saifeena by the paparazzi -- announced the pregnancy on social media in August last year. "We are very pleased to announce that we are expecting an addition to our family!! Thank you to all our well-wishers for all their love and support."
Kareena and Saif -- the son of former Indian cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and former Bollywood's yesteryear heroine Sharmila Tagore -- tied the knot in 2012. The couple welcomed their first son, Taimur, in December 2016. Saif also has two children -- actor Sara Ali Khan and Ibrahim Ali Khan with former wife Amrita Singh, also a Bollywood actress.
Born to the Kapoor family, known as the 'First Family of Bollywood', Kareena -- the granddaughter of legendary actor-director Raj Kapoor, made her acting debut opposite another legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan's son Abhishek with the 2000 drama Refugee.
But her real success came in 2004 when she played a sex worker in the drama Chameli.
She subsequently earned critical recognition for her role in the 2006 crime flick Omkara, a character based on William Shakespeare's heroine Desdemona.
Recipient of several awards, Kareena is one of Bollywood's highest-paid actresses. She will be next seen in Advait Chandan's Laal Singh Chaddha and Karan Johar's Takht. Kareena is also all set to publish her first pregnancy book later this year.