Female Stardom and Mysterious Deaths in the Bollywood Industry: The Case of Shantipriya from Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om
Om Shanti Om, a 2007 Hindi commercial film by Farah Khan, is an uncanny story of a male film extra, Om, who gets killed in the attempt to save a popular female star, Shantipriya, from a heinous murder. The uncanny way he is reborn and goes on to avenge Shantipriya’s death forms the premise of the film. What is only used as a catalyst but never deliberated upon on its own terms is the mystery created around the murder of Shantipriya. A discussion of Shantipriya’s murder may seem of little consequence until one thinks about the history of sudden female star deaths in the industry and how they have been popularized as ‘mystery deaths’ for gossip by the public and the Bollywood fraternity in explicitly gendered terms. Mysteries are created and circulated in the media around sudden male star deaths as well, but while reporting sudden deaths of female stars, there is a gendered angle to it. In my paper, I deal with mystery-creation in the media by film fraternity members, public and reporters, as a reaction to sudden star deaths. I contextualize this component of star death reactions in the current research on mourning and celebrity deaths and discourses on stardom in Bollywood studies. My questions are--How is a gendered mystery-creation around her sudden death related to the female star’s nature of stardom? How can the reaction to Shantipriya’s death in the film’s narrative be framed within this argument?