Too Close To Lensmen


Paparazzi culture is bad but it’s not as bad in Bollywood as it is in abroad


Paparazzi culture is new neither to the Bollywood nor to the rest of the world but now, this industry of sorts is spawning new digital ventures which thrive on celebrity gossip. Social media is a monster that needs to be fed 24X7 and that’s where content providers, creating as per market demand, play an important role. Videos of celebrities on social media platforms go viral regularly and the numbers suggest that consumers are hooked. Fans can’t stop sharing pictures of movie stars snapped at the airport, outside gyms and restaurants. Now, even celebrities are using this platform to their benefit, sometimes just to make a style statement. Mumbai’s international airport, where celebs take off and land every hour, is now a hub for photographers.

The ‘airport look’ is now serious business for stylists and fashionistas. Kareena Kapoor Khan, trolled for wearing a cap and dress at the airport, recently said during a magazine photoshoot, “We should dress like normal human beings. Why should we dress up to go on a flight? But there’s pressure. There has to be. Fine. But we should be as normal. You should allow us to be normal. Jeans, T-shirt… whatever!” Other celebrities are ambivalent – some show up at the airport dressed for the cameras, others make it a point to dress for comfort. Karan Johar recently told Alia Bhatt live on Facebook that he enjoys getting clicked at the airport. In a wry tweet earlier, he predicted that the ‘airport look’ was already on its way out and reminded stars that being photographed was a function of fame.

As per Karan Johar’s forecast, Alia declared that the ‘gym look’ had eclipsed the ‘airport look.’ “Gym is the new red carpet,” she said at a recent event. Not so long ago, on the last season of Koffee With Karan, Alia had said, “I just want to know where Kangana is going,” citing Kangana Ranaut’s frequent airport photos.

The ‘gym look’ is now exemplified by Kareena, Shahid Kapoor, Malaika Arora, Jacqueline Fernandez and other stars who are pictured almost daily at their respective gyms in Bandra. Paparazzi stake out the various exits of these landmarks and actors, now used to seeing them on their way in and out, oblige with a pose and a smile.

Saif Ali Khan recently spoke about his discomfort with having to look a certain way, telling Filmfare, “I don’t like dressing for the gym in a gym look or catch flights in an airport look. I want to be normal and not a fashion victim… I will not ever dress for the paparazzi.”

Increasingly, it’s not just celebs but also their kids who are trailed by photographers. Sara Ali Khan, Jhanvi Kapoor and Navya Naveli Nanda are all person of interest and weeks ago, Shah Rukh Khan’s 17-year-old daughter Suhana was mobbed at a screening of Tubelight. SRK later said to News 18, “I am okay with them getting photographed… I have told (my kids), if photographers come, give the pictures and ask, ‘Can I go now’. They’ll all listen to you because I have known them for 25 years.”

SRK’s DDLJ co-star Kajol was less circumspect, telling mid-day, “If something like this were to happen with Nysa or Yug, I’d be infuriated. It’s sad that the Indian paparazzi has reached a stage where it can do this to a kid. What happened with her sounds like bullying to me.”

Internationally, stars like Sienna Miller and Lily Allen have taken legal action against paparazzi — George Clooney’s Lake Como home is out of bounds for cameras. Back home, celebs seem to enjoy being photographed — publicity agents often tip photographers off on their whereabouts and even flight details.

Sections of Bollywood appear to have an uneasy truce with the paparazzi — but not all celebs are tolerant of cameras. Last year, superstar Hrithik Roshan confiscated the camera of a photographer with a tabloid who clicked him filming the climax scene of Mohenjo Daro; he said he would return it only after the tabloid apologized — which he eventually did.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan lashed out at photographers crowding the airport after her mother tripped and fell in the crush. Rani Mukherji also yelled at airport photographers when they tried to take photos of her then eight-month-old daughter Adira, whose privacy Rani and husband Aditya Chopra guard fiercely. Pulkit Samrat lost his cool with lensmen who showed up at the Mumbai court, which was granting him a divorce from Shweta Rohira.

Saif and Kareena appear to have made peace with the interest in their seven-month-old son Taimur. “He gets clicked wherever he goes, even when I’m not with him. All those flashbulbs make him blink,” Kareena told Mumbai Mirror.

The writing, however, is on the wall. Cameras here may not be as intrusive as they are abroad, but it seems to be just a matter of time. “The paparazzi culture is getting really bad. They are always outside our home. But it isn’t as bad as it is abroad. It will only get there for sure,” Saif told DNA.

Famous last words.