Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's new son underlines importance of managing star-fan relationship
Fans earlier asked for autographs. But now, they want stars to pose till they get the perfect picture on their mobile phones.
It takes all sorts. We now have a 'fan' (more like a too-fan) claiming he is the biological son of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Ah, the elder brother Aaradhyaa never knew about. Neither did her mother, for that matter.
Really, could we just laugh over this kind of grotesque idolisation, where hero-worship is turned into an obsessive disease? Didn't we have an elderly couple claiming to be Tamil actor Dhanush's parents? Dhanush, poor chap, had to spend crores worth of money and time in the courts proving the wizened imposters to be nothing but gold diggers.
Stars should by now know how to deal with persistent fans. But sometimes they are at a loss as to how to fob off attention without seeming rude. Once, I was with my dear friend Mrs Jaya Bachchan for lunch at the Marriott. Normally, she invites me home. But that one time the house was being renovated. So, we went out.
Soon, two amiable women saw her smiled and made bold to approach our table for a picture.
Mrs Bachchan froze. "Can't you see we are having our meal? Could you grant us some privacy, please?" The women moved off hurriedly with an apology. But I am sure they ceased to be Jaya Bachchan's (and probably the other Bachchans') fans thereafter.
I remember earlier, at the same venue years ago, when Kareena Kapoor (then not a Khan) had brought Shahid Kapoor to meet me. Every few minutes, kids would show up asking for a picture. Every time, the couple (yes, they were a couple then) would oblige. But then the kids went away and came back with their parents, and their parents' friends, and so on.
We hardly got a chance to talk. The entire evening we spent with Shahid and Kareena getting clicked with strangers.
Is this right? I remember seeing Meryl Streep talk about fans on a talk show, where she said they would earlier come for autographs at restaurants, but now they want pictures on their mobile phones, and they expect you to pose until they get that PERFECT PICTURE for their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
I once saw singer Anuradha Paudwal travelling alone being hounded at the airport. Just why she was travelling alone and why she should get mobbed was beyond me. But here's what happened: she was approached for a picture by a well-fed man, and she obliged. Then the same man came back with his family of (well-fed) wife, parents and children. She smiled and obliged them with pictures. Then others who were watching the click clique, began to crowd her. That's when she got up and left. I don't know where she went.
It's not easy being a star… unless you are Lata Mangeshkar. She is the only public figure from the entertainment world who gets treated with the distant reverence she deserves. When she entered a restaurant, everyone in there got on their feet reflexively… everyone. And then they kept standing until we sat down. Not one person approached our table for a picture or an autograph.
I've seen admirers and devotees of the Melody Queen stand for hours outside her home, Prabhu Kunj on Pedder Road in Mumbai, just to get a glimpse of her. They never try to come near her or to talk to her. They just look at her as devotees do at an idol of Mata Saraswati in a temple.
But that's what makes her Lata Mangeshkar. Thanks to constant interactive exposure, stars have lost the aura that separated them from their fans. Today, a Salman Khan or a Shah Rukh have fans screaming at them with infuriating familiarity, calling them by their nicknames 'Sallu' and 'SRK' (they both hate being addressed that way).
The solution is to let fans come near, but not to the point of taking over the stars' lives. Mr Bachchan's Sunday 'darshan' at his residence, where he greets (never meets) fans in the compound of his iconic bungalow, Jalsa, at an appointed hour is the closest a superstar can get at solving the problem that has plagued the star-fan relationship since the time Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand would get chased down, even to the loo, with no bouncers to cordon them from getting mobbed.
But then those stars were never mobbed. They were worshipped.
(Subhash K Jha is a film critic and movie expert)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)