Celebrity violence as catharsis

Photographs of Saatchi grasping Lawson’s neck were released when the couple was seen at a restaurant in London. Lawson was fighting her tears when she left the restaurant

Devika Sahni Delhi 

The disparities between a celebrity’s glitzy reel life and real life have always created a buzz in the tabloids. Often, knowing a celebrity beyond their on-screen image has been upsetting for their fans. The latest is the case of the troubled marriage between celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her multimillionaire ex-advertising tycoon husband, Charles Saatchi. Photographs of Saatchi grasping Lawson’s neck were released when the couple was seen at a restaurant in London. Lawson was fighting her tears when she left the restaurant. Although Saatch tried to put the matter under the carpet by calling it a “playful tiff”, Nigella has apparently filed for divorce, making her stressful relationship with him public.

This isn’t the first time one is coming across physical violence involved in a celebrity couple’s relationship. Beyond the glamour and fancies of the silver screen, there lies a dark reality where celebrity women have been facing violence. A decade ago, when AishwaryaRai and Salman Khan were a couple, Aishwarya made allegations of physical and mental violence by Salman. Apart from the blackbucks he poached in Rajasthan, or the ‘homicide case’ for killing and injuring people sleeping on the streets while driving his car, Salman had reportedly perpetrated violence against a former girlfriend and small-time actor, Somy Ali, too.

Bollywood siren ZeenatAman was brutalized by Mazhar Khan, even while her relationship with a married Sanjay Khan was not exactly rosy. American pop star Rihana was severely beaten up by singer Chris Brown. Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen is known to be a compulsive misogynist with cases of violence against women, including former model Kelly Preston whom he shot in the arm. He was arrested for publicly assaulting his second wife and later his girlfriend. Ironically, he plays an anger management therapist in one of his sitcoms that is being aired these days. Mel Gibson too was charged with violence against his partner. On grounds of infidelity, Sean Penn abused Madonna physically. One night in an intoxicated state, he even went after her ex boyfriend with a gun.

Many cases of troubled celebrity relationships has the wife in a more socially powerful and popular position than the man. Violence becomes a kind of catharsis for the so-called ‘alpha-male’. The financial status of the woman, her fan following, her relationship with co-stars, late, erratic working hours in shifting locations and constant rumours are issues which possessive, obsessive men find difficult to cope with. In a vacuous, selfish, shallow and super rich life, insecurity and violence, including sexual violence, makes a heady cocktail. Alcoholism and drug abuse too become rampant.

Many women from uneducated and educated families, affluent, middle class or poor homes, face brutal barbarianism at home. Often, they choose to remain silent under family and other pressures. However, there are many others who fight back and assert their rights and independence.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JULY 2013