Page 3 addicts—now converted to Rage Free addiction– always want to know how ‘normal’ the superstars are. “Does Shabana really scrub her own floor? Does Raakhee cook entire meals? Do the Bachchans actually see their guests right to the main gate of their homes?”
Yes, they do! The stars are as normal as you want them to be. Most of the time the problem is in the onlooker’s head and ego. Either he acts too awestuck or too familiar.
Anupam Kher tells me about the on-flight syndrome where the person next to him keeps looking furtively and finally asks Anupam, ‘Have I seen you somewhere before?’
Anupam chuckles over that one. “Strangely this kind of disparaging snobbery is prevalent on airports only…some unwritten law whereby you are not supposed to recognize celebrities. On railway stations even the smallest star gets mobbed. I suppose the middleclass isn’t inhibited about its fantasies. They’d rather gawk than smirk.”
Gawking can get gloriously embarrassing for a star. Urmila Matondkar once told me about why she ceased to take dinner invitations from fans. “You can’t put one morsel in your mouth without the flash popping in your eyes. You begin to feel like an animal in the zoo.”
I recall a conversation with Mr Bachchan on this topic. He once spoke feelingly to me about how difficult it gets to keep a public face in place while hordes of people clamour for your attention. “Before you know it, someone from the crowd comes forward and gets his picture taken with you. And then before you know it the same picture appears on front cover of thousands of exercise books for school children. How do you avoid this?”
“You can’t give up the joy of interacting with your fans just because some of them get over-enthusiastic,” said John Abraham who on a visit abroad, had a taste of over-zealous adulation when a hysterical male fan bit him hard in the shoulder. “And when I say hard, I mean really hard. I was in a daze. My shoulder was wounded for days. But I’d still go out there and mingle with the people who love me.”
Stardom and adulation are addictive both for the star and the fan.
The problem of being treated normally exists across the line. Stars pine for the human touch in their social interaction. Why do you think Madhuri Dixit married Dr Nene? Far away in the US he was completely untouched by the Dixit wave that swept Bollywood. I think Madhuri enjoyed the fact that the man who swept her off her feet wasn’t swept off his feet by who she was.
Stars often end up not marrying because they aren’t sure if the person loves the celebrity or her power wealth and empire. Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Parekh had plenty of admirers. But none they could marry.
“I had no dearth of proposals. But how was I to be sure that they meant business….or rather they didn’t mean business, ” chuckles Asha Parekh “I’ve my work…and I’ve my friends . So I don’t miss having my own family. Fans can cool you. But they can’t keep you warm for a lifetime.”
Today I find Ekta Kapoor facing the same dilemma. Whom can she marry? And how would she know it isn’t for her money….
I had heard stories about Ekta’s high-handedness long before I met her. The real Ekta is a far cry from the image that she carries around, almost like an armour.
In her position she’s got to be a warrior. Ekta keeps herself well shielded from the world of favour seekers that surrounds her.
But catch her with her closely-knit group of 5-6 friends…and you see that at heart this television tycoon is just another city girl who wants to have fun and who laughs loudly at the silliest joke .
“The problem is often in the other person’s head. He’s come to you with an agenda. And he has a problem relating to you as a person,” confessed Karan Johar to me once. “So he convinces himself I’m stuck-up and impatient when all I’m doing is sitting quietly and smiling patiently at him. What do I do? Should I be apologetic about being successful? They make up all kinds of stories about me.”
The problems don’t end around the bend. They hound the celeb to his home.
Hrithik Roshan once told me, “Everyone listens to you patiently when you talk about the unrealistic demands on your time. And then at the end of it he or she asks for a favour….release my book, dance at my wedding, plug my boutique…whatever. But that one favour is the one that I need to do. The rest are inconsequential.”
The uneasy relationship between the star and the fan lingers. What also lingers is that feeling of the star looking for the human touch amidst the glitter glamour and giggle of people pointing at the icon and gasping.
“Sometimes I wonder if these people who scream my name when they see me would remember me six months from now,” sighed an actress who had just got married.
Ask Mrs Nene.