India’s Page 3 Culture

Recently, the televised chat show Koffee with Karan concluded its fifth season, and the show had included some stars whose work I tend to like, such as Shahid Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan, in what seems like a growing sea of ‘Page 3’ random faces. But what is this ‘Page 3’? Page 3 culture in India is associated with tabloid coverage of parties and high society/high class activities. On the surface, it looks pretty normal (and even a tad bit mundane) – Page 3 is just India’s answer to tabloid journalism and all the stars who appear in it. But Page 3 has sensationalism attached to it and is regarded as something of a phenomenon, which is tough to grasp really – it’s just a colourful spread of gossip and stars in tabloid newspapers, and nothing else.

Page 3 is filled with celebrities, whose work or societal contribution has managed to grab attention, they need that recognition, and they also need to be entertaining enough for aristocrats, or for middle-class families, who deserve to be entertained every morning when they open their newspapers and turn to Page 3.

I think in India sensationalism is attached to what should simply be regarded as gossip journalism and nothing else, no matter how scandalous a star’s latest life story is. Sometimes it’s an eyesore: I don’t think it’s very interesting to learn about people I normally don’t like to work with on a regular basis. Another facet to the whole ‘Page 3’ story is that people aren’t always very candid and upfront about a large part of their lives that everyone may be able to see on Page 3.

I don’t like to go round and round with the same sets of confusion as lovers of that ridiculous aspect of Page 3 culture might: I think actresses, for example, really should be more open when their careers haven’t really gone anywhere, even though they began with a bang (somewhat). Is that really so hard to do – not pretend to be something they are not? I would guess not but some people really take fakeness to another level. In my world itself, composed of actresses I find interesting, not every actress in town has had the same lengthy (and legendary) career trajectory as industry veterans, such as Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan, and it’s so obvious.

There isn’t always a lot of clarity on every aspect of this Page 3 culture, however, which begs the question of what kind of a role model these celebrities really roll themselves out to be for people who like to tune into their glittering lives, round the clock. Stars, or successful people in the public eye, have the good life, they are well-known and they know how to balance a lot of work, with a healthy dose of fun – people want to incorporate all of that into their own lives, as well, which is why they are good role models. I doubt Page 3 appeals to readers for those exact reasons because it is really for people who want to appear on it to be heard, to be seen and to be famous; aside from that celebrity bandwagon, Page 3 is really truly meant for faithful followers of Bollywood gossip.