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Can’t yesterday’s hate become Love Today?- Cinema express

Can’t yesterday’s hate become Love Today?

As Pradeep Ranganathan is trolled for his alleged opinions made before becoming successful, the writer talks about recognising the potential to evolve, and the vagaries of social media success

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Published: 17th November 2022

A tiger can never change its stripes. A leopard can never change its spots. A scorpion always stings. A cobra always strikes. I’m pretty sure some of these majestic inhabitants of the animal kingdom take offence at the condescending generalisation of their traits. We often see this generalisation being extended to humans and their perceived inability to change their essential nature, and as a not-so-majestic member of this species, I take offence too. A person can change, evolve, and become someone even completely unrecognisable to the self. So, how is it fair to crucify an evolved person for uninformed opinions of the past? Also, this phenomenon is seen more often in the present digital age where the footprints of yore aren’t really imprinted in the sand but in concrete.

Of course, these words are put together in response to the social media tirade against a social media darling who gave a sensational blockbuster in Tamil cinema. Pradeep Ranganathan is a fascinating case study about the fickle nature of today’s social media celebrities. While Pradeep’s popularity comes from delivering two back-to-back hits in the form of Comali and Love Today, there is no doubt that he is a modern-day celebrity who understands the way social media works. He isn’t a ‘boomer’ who isn’t aware of the perils of having ‘foot-in-the-mouth’ disorder. Looking at all the pre-release and post-release interviews for Love Today, it is very clear that Pradeep Ranganathan of 2022 is very measured with his words, and takes his time to ensure only the politically correct things are uttered. Barring a throwaway line about casteism, Pradeep had a stellar record with his interviews and one couldn’t stop being in awe of this young talent who was breaking open doors to newer avenues. Love Today became a blockbuster too, and he actually became a beacon of hope in certain sections of the audience. And then… those footprints in concrete were unearthed by some eager netizen, who wanted to… well, I don’t really know.

Social media posts from a decade back found their way to the present, and bam! Pradeep Ranganathan, the toast of netizens a week back, became prime roast material. He is 29 now, and when he put forth these contentious opinions, he was in his late teens - that phase in all our lives where most of us are less informed and invariably immature. In a world, where there is a generational shift every five years, it is easy to imagine that the 2010s was a different world altogether. Pradeep’s world, just like many of ours, was different too. Can we look at the kind of things we tweeted or posted a decade back without squirming in our seats? Can we really look back in time and not cringe at the kind of opinions we decided to defend to our deaths? Of course, this generalisation is wrong too, but come on… are we the same people we were a decade back? So, why do we expect our celebrities to be any different? Especially since these statements were said at a time when they were far from being the celebrity they are today.

Now, in a bid to avoid being trolled further, Pradeep Ranganathan has deactivated his Facebook account. That is… years of memories close to his heart have been locked in a vault because a few of those memories were unearthed for incessant trolling. In an industry built on accessibility and the strength of contacts, one small misstep might be enough for a self-made talent like Pradeep to find himself on a slippery slope. We have seen how opinions/jokes cracked at a young age have come back to bite celebrities at a later stage of their career. It now makes sense that he will want to be doubly careful not just about the things he is saying, but also go back in time to do course corrections. 

Which Pradeep Ranganathan will we see next? The genial and hopeful one or the guarded and calculative one? But to be honest, right from the moment those old tweets and posts resurfaced, there were loads of people who threw their weight behind Pradeep Ranganathan. They amplified tweets and posts that stand testament to Pradeep’s earnestness and perseverance. If one section spoke about his shifting goalposts to serve his purpose, one other section chose to highlight his dogged confidence. If one section tore him down as an opportunist, the other section heralded him as the present-day poster boy of success.

Can’t Pradeep, who once hated something, like the same thing a few years later? Can’t Pradeep who felt something to be underwhelming find it to be comforting a few years later? Can’t Pradeep basically just evolve over years? Couldn’t the books he read, the films he saw, the songs he heard, the people he met, and the conversations he had made him evolve into the person he is? Anyway, Pradeep claims that these viral screenshots are photoshopped by some vested interests. He said, "I'm not angry with the people trying to change things, instead I thank them for showing me how much people support me. Also, a few of the posts are real. But posts with cuss words are fake. I’ve made mistakes, and with age, all of us grow and learn. I’ve tried correcting it. I still try to become a better person each day " 

However, the bottom line is that, in this case, it shouldn’t matter even if those opinions were his own. While it is understandable, even if completely wrong, that a celebrity is expected to be perfect, Pradeep is being trolled for opinions that he had when he was still in college! Pradeep is just 29. He should be allowed to have his own opinions, make his own mistakes, and carve his own successes. 

We are kind to the mistakes of people we know, including ourselves. Why not extend kindness to the people in the limelight too? Why put them on a pedestal only to trample them at the slightest provocation? In a world where celebrities are super accessible, and there is nothing sacrosanct about them, meme-fying Pradeep is par for the course… but it shouldn’t be at the expense of negating his potential to evolve.

Well…let's introspect a bit and ask ourselves a few questions. Why do we call open season on celebrities like Pradeep at the slightest misstep? Why do we succumb to the pressures of those five minutes of fame to incessantly troll someone? Why do we cross the invisible threshold and make criticisms personal?

Basically… why can’t we just believe that yesterday’s hate can become love today?

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