New Delhi: When the official Twitter handle of director Ayan Mukerji's forthcoming film 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' tweeted, "Ranbir Kapoor touches everyone's feet on stage! Isn't that adorable," it immediately sparked an interesting online debate. Was the star just joking or conforming to Indian tradition that dates back to centuries?
Some people were interested in knowing whether he has touched Deepika's feet or not while some saw it as an eyeball catching gesture.
He's done it in the past as a joke, you know. Kapoor startled his former girlfriend Deepika Padukone when he bent down to touch her feet at the Colors Screen award function in 2012. But the respectful gesture is fast losing relevance as technology widens the disconnect between generations.
Indian philosophy sees 'charan-sparsha' (touching of an elder's feet) as a superlative form of pranam, which is an act of showing respect. Hierarchy plays a big role in the touching of feet. Elderly people, gods, parents and teachers are the people who command a position of respect.
Out of the six traditional ways of pranamas, existing form of touching the feet is closer to 'Dandavata'. So, the act of touching feet remains a popular way of showing respect but objecting to it shouldn't be seen as a mere gesture of insult, as the case is being made out in social networking sites.
Musicals make a good chunk of the reality shows and one thing that we invariably see in every such programme is contestants touching the feet of either judges or whosoever is invited on the show. Those who come on the show are believed to have separate personal and professional lives. In his real life, a guest may not be anywhere close to his ideal self that reincarnates on small screens but those feet deserve to be touched with apparent respect when the common audience are watching TV.
Sometimes, the contestants get so involved that they would grab an assistant camera person's feet if he happens to reach the sets.
There is another side to it as well. Sometimes participants decide to turn back midway because they belong to different teams.
I know a few people, who upon meeting, just push their feet forward, and you are obliged to touch it. Ranbir is at least 15-16 year junior to some of the reigning kings of the Hindi film industry. Our Young Turk will take some time to build the same kind of brand value that some of his seniors enjoy. So, despite being a brilliant actor he is going to be treated like a kid for some more years.
He is not married and his boyish charm is intact. His feet-touching has rung the right notes with elderly conservatives who feel Bollywood's young generation should set an example.
What Ranbir did shouldn't necessarily be seen as a publicity gimmick, it was just a spontaneous reaction which took place due to the hidden cultural baggage we carry all the time.