Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Just let the Bollywood stars be — some IIFA memories
Gauri Khan looks askance at me. She is dressed in white and clutches a shopping bag in either hand. As I move towards her on a street in Amsterdam, she takes a step back and frowns. I don’t take the hint. As I start to mumble something, the wife of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan hurries past me and disappears into an alley.
No, I wasn’t trying to assault her.
The 2005 International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards were being held in Amsterdam and I was a cub reporter let loose in the city of canals .
Celebrities from the Indian film industry had been spotted in the Netherlands and I had been pacing the sunny sidewalks hoping to catch a glimpse.
I have better luck a few minutes later. Chunky Pandey is rummaging through a stack of colourful T-shirts at a shop around the corner. We exchange pleasantries but I don’t harass him further, sensing he wants to be left alone.
I walk past alfresco cafes and Gothic churches, stopping only for a glass of hot chocolate (they call it chocomel here). As I pause to admire miniature windmills for sale at a roadside stall, ex-cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin walks past with his actress wife Sangeeta Bijlani. I leave them in peace and walk back to the hotel where the stars are cloistered.
There I find Boman Irani at his entertaining best, waving to a clutch of NRI girls waiting outside. Aftab Shivdasani is in the lobby too, looking dapper in a black suit. Ayesha Takia is wearing a brown ensemble which seems to add inches to her waist. I notice several security guards at the hotel’s entrance, ensuring no eager fan gets too close.
Bollywood stars — hounded at home and abroad. I could understand their predicament. Their need to feel free. Their need to walk unmolested through crowds who didn’t care who they were. And why stars viewed reporters with suspicion.
It’s not that the Bollywood fraternity was being mean to us. Things are bad enough for celebrities in Mumbai . In the relative sanctuary that Amsterdam provided, it was understandable if they just wanted to be left alone — at least while shopping or sightseeing.
One might argue that celebrities don’t have any right to privacy. After all, it’s the fans that make them famous. And fans have a right to know if an actress is getting married, is pregnant or is divorcing her husband. Do you agree?
If I spot a Bollywood star buying a trinket in an Amsterdam market, do I need to find out who she is buying it for. The fans might want to know but should I really go and ask her? Or should I leave that part to the paparazzi.
The 2008 IIFA Weekend begins in Bangkok on Friday and I feel things will be a lot worse for stars this time around. The number of Indian television channels chasing celebrity quotes is at a peak and Bollywood is a bigger brand than ever.
Reporters and paparazzi would be crawling all over the Thai capital . I just hope the stars are better prepared.