The fault in our (Bollywood) stars

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Rayon Magazine founder Salva Mubarak on why it pays to lighten up and laugh at Bollywood

Journalist Salva Mubarak was spending her last week in the Elle India newsroom in Mumbai when an article she wrote on the nepotism controversy went viral. It was undoubtedly bold, but the last thing she expected was a reaction from actor Saif Ali Khan in his open letter. Suddenly, she was ‘the girl from Elle.’ And she loved it.

“The entire situation was rather silly if you think about it. But it also made me realise that in some capacity, people were reading my work,” she says. The tag went viral, serving as the final push for her to leave the mainstream media market for her passion project: parody media.

Mubarak started Rayon Magazine (@rayonmag on Instagram) two weeks later when she moved back to Delhi. The name is a play on the now-defunct Nylon magazine, but also hints at the statement she’s trying to make. “Rayon is, after all, an artificial silk fiber,” she says, deadpan. Modelled after the likes of The Onion and Reductress, the 100% digital platform uses Bollywood memes and parody headlines to create a dialogue about the way Indians consume media and, largely, Bollywood.

Sample this: ‘7 siblings of Bollywood celebrities who are actual human beings’, inspired by Deepika Padukone’s sister appearing on a chat show with her. Others include ‘5 Things You Didn’t Know About Anushka Sharma’s Pari’, ‘This curtain is fed up of being mistaken for Ranveer Singh’ and ‘Alia Bhatt shows us the right way to blink, and it’ll blow your mind’. These images are accompanied by tongue-in-cheek captions that explain the headline in detail.

There is the occasional celeb quote as well, like Varun Dhawan saying, “I love collecting unused band-aids and seashells.” She also posts videos on YouTube — ‘7 Surprising Facts About Priyanka Chopra that Will Surprise You’ — and in the past couple of weeks, the e-zine also extended to Twitter and Facebook.

Mubarak’s obsession with the industry started when she was 13. “It’s what led me to join Cosmopolitan, then Elle. Yet, being in those newsrooms also shed light on the vicious cycle created by that obsession when you plug it into society,” adds Mubarak. The public’s adulation and fascination for Bollywood have become part of today’s social fabric. It has created a market of its own, one that she uses to fuel her project.

“We take Bollywood so seriously, myself included. When Virat and Anushka got married, or when Taimur Ali Khan was born, I was glued to the Internet. I still am, in fact,” she admits. And yet, she has seen the obsession being taken too far as well. “We’re so influenced by it when in all honesty, we just need to lighten up. Bollywood still sells. It always will. But with Rayon, I want to use that to create a culture of kindness: to the public, to the media, and to the actors and actresses who end up on pedestals that they never coveted,” she says, explaining why she comes up with such ludicrous headlines.

Tapping into the philosophy of popular media enterprises like All-India Bakchod and The Viral Fever, Mubarak hopes to work towards changing Indian media culture. With an upcoming website, she’s staying true to her digital roots, curating a space of casual conversation, with plans to become self-sustaining in the future and expand to other verticals, including merchandising. But suggest that she move away from Bollywood, and she only has one answer. “I still haven’t met Shah Rukh Khan,” she says matter-of-factly. After all, it’s only a matter of time. “Never say never.”

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