As Poonam Pandey pops up from ‘dead’, questions swirl on ethics of stunt
New Delhi: Controversial actress-model Poonam Pandey has yet again made headlines after she said she “faked” her death to start a national conversation on cervical cancer. In the bargain, like she always manages to do, she has left behind a trail of polarised views on social media.
When Poonam’s social media account released a statement on her having succumbed to cervical cancer at 32, the industry was left in a state of shock, while many grieved several felt it was a publicity gimmick.
Kangana Ranaut, whose show ‘Lock Upp’ gave Pandey her reality TV star status, was the first to ‘mourn’ her ‘death’.
The actress wrote on her Instagram Stories, “This is so sad. Losing a young woman to cancer is a catastrophe. Om Shanti!”
Now, after Pandey’s re-appearance, her critics are accusing her of engaging in a publicity stunt and being insensitive to the feelings of people living with cervical cancer.
They are asking if the “awareness campaign” was worth the hysteria it created among her fans and the media.
She had written on her Instagram stories: “This is so sad. Losing a young woman to cancer is a catastrophe. Om Shanti.”
Sambhavna Seth, who featured alongside Pandey in the reality show ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, had said her co-star “never mentioned” to her that she had cervical cancer.
Seth was left quizzical, but actress Payal Ghosh was unsparing. She said on social media that Pandey’s tactic to get attention, even for a matter of grave concern, was “unwarranted and insensitive”.
Writing on X, Ghosh said: “Some find it funny to use such unwarranted and insensitive approach in the name of ‘so-called’ Awareness. People suffering from #cervicalcancer go through living hell but some find it entitled to use it for PR! Sad state.”
Poonam’s friend and designer Rohit K. Verma, who had earlier expressed his grief at her sudden ‘demise’, dropped a scathing comment on her latest video, where she is seen looking healthy dressed in a white T-shirt and appearing without makeup.
Verma wrote: “It’s important to address cervical cancer awareness genuinely. Faking one’s death can be misleading and counterproductive, Let’s encourage more responsible methods to raise awareness and support those affected by this serious health issue.”
Pandey’s ‘Lock Upp’ co-contestant Saisha Shinde said she has lost a friend.
Saisha wrote angrily: “You can NEVER GAIN AWARENESS BY GAINING FAKE SYMPATHY. U have lost a friend forever. Shame on you Poonam.”
Former ‘Bigg Boss’ contestant Sreejita De also lashed out at Pandey’s tactics.
She said: “This is not creating awareness. This is simply heinous. I cannot believe someone can stoop down to this level for publicity. Shame shame shame. There are so many people who are actually fighting cancer. This is disgusting.”
After the spate of angry comments, Pandey shared another statement on Instagram, where she wrote she understood the news of her “supposed demise due to cervical cancer has taken a minute to digest”.
She also admitted that this has been perceived to be in “bad taste” but she urged everyone to “consider the greater cause”.
She added: “The sheer lack of awareness surrounding this issue was the mere reason that compelled me to take this compelling step.”
Pandey concluded by saying: “It’s intriguing how much vital information was in the forefront yet failed to capture the attention of the press ntil the narrative took a dramatic turn with the news of my death to cervical cancer.”
Coincidentally, it all started just a day after the Interim Union Budget 2024-25 was tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who put the spotlight on the health of girls aged 9-14.
Sitharaman announced that the government will promote the vaccination of girls aged 9-14 for the prevention of cervical cancer.