Beg to differ
Aghdashloo vs. Googoosh
March 3, 2005
Indian superstar Aishwarya Rai barely registered a blimp in casting
after starring in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice last year.
Mighty Bollywood has yet to claim a Hollywood star. A year ago, however, Los
Iranian exile theatre boasted an Oscar nominee from among its ranks.
Today as a middle-aged, Middle Eastern woman, it is remarkable
that Shohreh Aghdashloo is where she is -- inside a lily-white
institution where most female leads are offered to women 20 years
So it was jolly good fun when DreamWorks, maker of House of
Sand and Fog, took a one-page ad out in Variety,
urging Academy voters to tick ‘Aghdashloo’ for best
supporting actress, and not Renée Zellweger. (A move that
got the company censured.)
Magazines are stuffed with stories of showbiz rivalry, how refreshing
it was to see one “our own” -- from the Diaspora --
pitted against the best of the West.
One year on, however, Shohreh makes an aside or two about another
of her contemporaries, the Iranian “diva” Googoosh,
on a satellite TV talk show, and the knives are out. Is it not
perfectly acceptable to have rivalry among celebrities? Is it not
Reaction from one or two of Googoosh’s fans suggests
not. Feathers have been ruffled with vicious, if incoherent, insults
being hurled at the actor. “How dare she take a swipe?” Aghdashloo
is jealous, they say, that she will never be as popular as ‘La
Goog’. In fact, that doesn’t add up. In career
terms, Googoosh has already spent her best years. Shohreh’s
are just beginning.
After leaving Iran and caving in to her craving for adoration,
Googoosh admitted her mortality. Just as Michael Jackson lost living-myth
status after that Oprah interview, so Googoosh did when she quit
Iran. The magic and enigma of existing solely in the imagination
of her fans was lost.
But although Googoosh is no longer a god, exceptionally talented
pop singer she remains. The worst Aghdashloo might have done is
to point this out. Some, I remember, were similarly protective
about Khatami when he came to power in 1997. To criticize him was
to blaspheme. Now everyone’s doing it. Perhaps history might
at least credit Aghdashloo with tickling Googoosh’s disciples
-- over which she has no control -- into realising that idol worship
gives you blood pressure.
Meanwhile, Shohreh herself has been lambasted for landing a role
as the mother of a terrorist in the forthcoming TV show 24,
and perpetuating stereotypes [See: "Performer's
mother should she be playing?