Page 3 addicts always want to know how ‘normal’ the superstars are: “Does Shabana really scrub her own floor? Does Raakhee cook entire meals?”
Yes, they do! The stars are as normal as you want them to be. Most of the time, the problem lies in the onlooker’s head and ego. Either he acts too awestruck 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 in airports alone…some unwritten law whereby you are not supposed to recognise celebrities. In railway stations, even the smallest star gets mobbed. I suppose the middle class isn’t inhibited about its fantasies. They’d rather gawk than smirk.”
Gawking can get embarrassing for a star. Urmila Matondkar once told me why she had stopped accepting dinner invitations from her 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,” she said.
I recall a conversation with Mr Bachchan on this topic, when he once spoke 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 the 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 overenthusiastic,” 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. 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, ” said Asha Parekh. “Fans can cool you. But they can’t keep you warm for a lifetime,” she added.
Today, I find Ekta Kapoor facing the same dilemma.
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 five to six 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 has 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.
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.