I have met Deepika Padukone just once: it was the CNN IBN Indian of the year awards last year when she won the special achievement prize for having acted in a series of hit films. She cried on that occasion on receiving the award from her father, the legendary badminton player Prakash Padukone. One sensed that the tears were the typical emotional response of a girl brought up with middle class values who was still coming to terms with the scale of her celebrityhood.
Now, the tears have given way to a flash of anger. Responding to a photograph showing her cleavage in a Times of India website, Deepika has tweeted: ‘I have breasts, you got a problem?’. It’s a sharp, direct response to a tabloid media culture that promotes the objectification of women. You could argue, as some have, that Bollywood contributes to this trend by repeatedly showing women as sex objects, so why blame the media? Point taken. If Deepika were to be seen actively encouraging photographers to film her body beautiful, she should have no complaints. But if this is yet another example of the mindless titillation that dominates our entertainment pages, then we must seriously ask ourselves whether a newspaper or a website is simply falling for the trap of the lowest common denominator. Sex sells, but when it’s at the cost of sense and sensibility, then it’s time to switch off.