Hindi Film 101: Fan Identities and Shifting Stardom

Bollywood Newbie brought up a really interesting topic in my post on Aamir’s birthday yesterday.  What identity does belonging to certain fandoms give you?  This is kind of a high level fan study/media meaning making topic, so I want to hear what you all think, but I also want to give you some framework for the discussion first.

Fandom, or anything we do as a public presentation of our identity, has two levels to it.  First there is the inner feeling, why we enjoy something within ourselves.  I already talked about that several times in terms of why I am a Shahrukh Khan fan.  I enjoy his sense of humor, I feel like he respects me as a woman, I am inspired by the way he approaches his personal life, and so on and so on.

But there is a second level when we are talking about fandoms as a community.  You can use fandom to identify yourself, to claim membership in a certain kind of group, or to make a statement to an “enemy” group.  It is a way of being in, or of being out.  Fandom as a public statement, not just as a personal feeling.

It might be easier to think of this in terms of appearance.  Think about dying your hair purple.  On the one hand, it might be about (for instance) purple being your dead grandmother’s favorite color and so you dye it in her honor and it has nothing to do with anyone else, you are blind to any public statement it is making.  On the other hand, you may only be dying it purple because of peer pressure, all your friends are doing it, you don’t really want to, but you pretend you do and convince yourself you do because you want to be part of the “purple” group.

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(Remember when Kat had the purpley highlights for New York?  That was both because it looked cool with her hair and skin tone, and because it signaled to the audience that she was a free-thinking western type of person, not a shy traditional Indian girl)

Most often it is a combination of the two.  You like the color purple, you are sick of your current hair style, but you also want to signal to other purple-hair people that you are like them.  And you want to signal to natural-hair people that you are different from them.  It makes a statement, it makes you feel like you are a certain kind of person that you aspire to be.

Fandom is increasingly become one of those “statement” options for people.  Doctor Who fandom, for instance, is one I run across a lot among in my age group in my city.  It indicates that you are smart, you are offbeat, you don’t care about traditional gender roles (if you are a girl), and you are beyond superficial sexual attraction (since you are attracted to the funky looking Doctor).  It may not necessarily mean you actually enjoy, or even watch, the show.

Marketing people are aware of this shift and are taking advantage of it.  You can buy Doctor Who shirts, toys, bags, blankets, everything.  It let’s you go out into the world signaling that you belong to a certain group, calling out to others who belong to the same group and proudly antagonizing those who “just don’t understand”.

 

What’s strange is when the identity of being a fan, the symbols and signaling, get completely removed from the actual personal connection.  For example, in my city, we have two baseball teams, the White Sox and the Cubs.  White Sox fans are fine, but I hate Cubs fans, as does everyone else I know.  That is, we hate the identity that goes with being a Cubs fan.  Wearing Cubs gear is essentially proclaiming “I am rich, white, and don’t actually live in the city, I just like coming here to get drunk and make noise”.

What makes it confusing is, everyone I know both hates Cubs fans, and is a fan of the Cubs.  But not a “Cubs fan”.  A Cubs fan is a loathsome terrible creature that vomits into mailboxes (no really, they had to remove all the mailboxes around Wrigley Field because they kept getting vomited into).  A fan of the Cubs is someone who sits at home and listens to the games on the radio, wears a tattered old Cubs hat while doing yard work, and saves up their money so they can afford tickets to one game a year. I have a beat up old Cubs hat, which I only wear on vacation or on the off-season.  Because in Chicago I don’t want to risk being considered a “Cubs fan” rather than a fan of the Cubs.

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(See, I will wear the hat in India, but not at home.  Also, Hey Swami Vivekenanda!  You were in Chicago before the Cubs, so my hat probably is meaningless to you!)

So, how does this work with Indian film?  Indian film is about Stars.  We all know this, right?  So your fan identity is primarily based on the Star you follow.

In the “olden days” fan identity for Indian film was a lot less performative.  That is, you didn’t wear your fandom in order to proclaim your identity in a particular group to the greater world.  Although it was still part of proclaiming a wider identity.  For instance, being from a particular neighborhood might mean you were a fan of the star who grew up near you.  You would talk about their movies, maybe put up their poster on the wall of your shop, and your neighbors and everyone else you knew would have a warm feeling of belonging together thanks to this shared fandom.  Or, you might put up a poster in your bedroom and argue with your friends over who is better (Shammi or Rajesh or Rishi, for instance), but it wouldn’t limit your entire social life.  You had your personal preference, but you didn’t expect everyone you knew to share it, you didn’t draw a social identity from it, it was just something that gave you joy and was fun to talk about.

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(The exception to this being of course the Tamil and Telugu industries where fandom and politics became mixed together.  Being a fan of a particular movie star also meant being their political follower.  A combined identity, fandom and politics.)

Now, I think pretty much every industry has divided in such a way that being a “fan” of a particular star does not only mean you like that star, but implies a particular kind of identity which you are claiming.  And, what is really interesting, that identity is often shifting.

For instance, being a fan of Akshay Kumar in the 90s might mean that you are a young man who enjoys wacky comedy and action scenes, or a young woman swooning over his good looks.  Being a fan of Akshay Kumar today means you are claiming a kind of non-threatening patriotism, an “invisible hand” version of social reform by the individual and corporations rather than by the State, and an identity as a mature man who is stronger and wiser and better than both women and younger men.  Today I find myself in an odd position of really liking Akshay-Kumar-the-person, and even liking many of his films, but disliking the people who claim the identity of liking his films.

Bollywood Newbie original brought up this discussion related to the 3 Khans, who are the 3 overarching fan identities for Indian culture.  You can ask anyone which Khan they prefer, and their choice will tell you what part of society they wish to be identified with.  Oh, and I should say straight out that any one reading this is excluded from these definitions, because if you are only a “fan” in an effort to identify yourself with a particular level of society, you are not going to bother tracking down internet blogs and reading long articles, so you won’t even be on this website.  I’m talking about other people here, not you reading this.

 

Bollywood Newbie (accurately, I think) identified Aamir Khan fans as the aspirational bourgeois, the ones who like to think they are “better” than the run of the mill Hindi film fans, but aren’t ready for truly challenging art cinema, or extreme political statements, and so fall back on the seemingly-intelligent, seemingly-radical, but actually kind of childish Aamir style film.  Which explains why his audience is growing and growing, with the rise of the urban middle-class, there are more and more people in this category, who aren’t going to be able to handle something truly different like Badlapur, but will go to an Aamir film and feel sophisticated and mature and “classy”.

Salman fans, that is easy, they are the opposite of the Aamir fans.  The ones who are proud of their lowerclass origins and reject the bourgeois.  Even if you are in some white collar IT job, being a Salman fan makes you feel like you are still tough (like the white guys in America who listen to rap).  And if you are actually lowerclass, being a Salman fan tells you that there is someone rich and famous and important who is still “just like you”.  It makes you feel like you aren’t missing anything by not having achieved middle-class status, after all Salman could be anyone he wants and he has chosen to remain a simple “Bhai”.

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Shahrukh fans, that is where it gets difficult.  It feels like, for a while in the 90s and early 2000s, being a Shahrukh fan was both the NRI and the female identity.  If you were an NRI, claiming Salman fandom would point you out as too connected to your Indian roots, and your lowerclass roots.  Claiming Aamir fandom would mean being a little too “western”, what with the Oscar nomination and everything.  You could be proud of him, but you wouldn’t be a “fan” of him.  But Shahrukh, that was a nice middle ground, still having a tie to the general idea of India without being part of any particular sub social group.  A non-threatening easy version of Indian identity that didn’t stop you from building a new identity in a new country.

And Shahrukh was also the star for women.  Being a Shahrukh “fan” was something of a right of passage, little girls and old women and teenagers all bonding together and giggling over his movies.  He also had a nice non-threatening version of masculinity, sexual and romantic but not so much as to aggressively challenge your vision of your life.  Not all women, of course, especially in the 90s.  Aamir and Salman were doing romances as well.  But by the early 2000s, it was just Shahrukh, Aamir had moved on to his intellectual rather than emotional roles, and Salman into his action phase.  Shahrukh got AAAAAALLLLLLLLL the girls.

But now, I don’t know, it feels like he is losing that “fan identity” part of it.  There are still new Shahrukh fans born every day, but it is no longer an identity you wear proudly and publicly, you use to bond with other people, that makes a social statement.  This is just me spitballing, but I feel like there are two different functions to it.

First, the NRI audience is dividing.  The fans who in the past might have gravitated towards Shahrukh because he speaks good English and wears suits and plays characters who are overseas successes ,are now either watching straight up Western films, or watching movies like Mersal in which the hero loudly proclaims his identity as Tamil and insists on wearing a Lungi even overseas.  Being a “Shahrukh fan” now means either that you are ashamed of your Indian roots and following someone who isn’t a “true” Indian the way other stars are, or it means that you are not assimilated enough and should give up the security blanket of Indian film and become a “real” American (or real British or real Australian or whatever it is).

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(Shahrukh is the wax figure in Madame Tussaud’s, no longer the star you feel the deep real connection to, who connects you to either India or the place where you currently live.  At least, that is the fan identity now)

And second, the female audience is conflicted in a new way.  From what I can tell, there is still a private special place for Shahrukh.  You might still watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and sigh at a sleepover, or be the Mom at that sleepover reminiscing with other Moms about the first time you saw DDLJ.  But in public, it is now a “bad” thing to say as a woman.  The public conversation around him has decided that his films are regressive, tired, that he is an old man who is out of touch with today’s women.  He is accused of “slut-shaming” in Jab Harry Met Sejal, of having a midlife crisis with Ra.One, of being (worst of all) a bad actor in bad movies.  Suddenly the public identity of being a Shahrukh fan has come to mean you are anti-feminist, foolish, childish, regressive, unintelligent.

The new public fan identity for women seems to be with female actresses.  Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt, these are the acceptable fandoms.  They proclaim your identity as a strong independent intelligent career woman.

Of course, this is the vocal minority of the public.  The whole concept of a “fan identity” involves being able to find your community and know what defines that community.  Going back to my example of earlier times, it is one thing to have a framed poster in your shop because you know your particular district is strongly for Kamal Haasan over Rajinikanth.  It’s something else entirely to know that anywhere you go in the world, saying that you “love Priyanka” will proclaim you as a strong outspoken woman, because that is the definition that has been decided through internet think pieces.

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We can see this in the box office.  Shahrukh’s box office is dropping, but isn’t dead.  And yet every article I read about him online seems to say he is horrible, out of touch, etc. etc.  There is a disconnect between those who proclaim a public disdain for him and the number of people who still see his movies.

There is an odd anti-fandom that seems to be rising in his case.  Any article criticizing him will receive dozens of retweets, of clicks, of comments.  It is more popular to hate Shahrukh, and more likely to make you part of a public community, than it is to love him.

 

Now, that’s a whole lot of thoughts and a whole lot of talk!  Here’s what I actually wanted to get at.  I am not in India, and I am not desi, so I am removed from a lot of the fan identity information for these Stars.  So I wanted to get a discussion going for us to talk together and learn from each other.  Here are some questions to start you off:

 

In the Telugu industry, who are the top stars and what does it “mean” to be a fan of them?  What would you know about a person if they said they were a Mahesh Babu fan versus saying they are an Allu Arjun fan?

 

In the Tamil industry, what’s the difference between Rajinikanth and Kamaal Hasaan fans?  Or Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi fans?  What does it mean to claim those identities?

 

Is there any deeper meaning between being a fan of Prithviraj, Nivin, or Dulquer beyond just liking one actor more than the other?  How does the Mammootty versus Mohanlal fandom work, is there a class or gender or any other interesting component to it?

 

In the Hindi industry, are there ANY young stars who have built up a specific identity for their fans?  Varun Dhawan and young women maybe?  Ranbir Kapoor and sensitive young men?

 

There are no wrong answers!  I just think it is a good discussion for us to have, to sort of unpack all of these meanings and go out into the world more educated and aware people.

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147 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Fan Identities and Shifting Stardom

  1. I’m going to be really interested to read the comments about this. I have been bombarded with this issue on my Youtube channel. The fans of different stars, especially the Telugu and Tamil stars, fight each other in the comments of my videos.

    I’m fairly neutral on the stars from those industries, except for my love of Prabhas. He does not seem to have the intense personal following that Allu Arjun, Ajith, Vijay and Rajinikanth have. You can either be a Vijay fan or an Ajith fan – the two seem to be mutually exclusive, but I’m not sure what the attributes would be for each, because like you, I don’t live in India and am not Desi.

    I don’t sense any consensus around any of the younger male Hindi stars yet. But I agree with you about the women stars having a rising identity around their fans. Those fans seem to be vicious towards each other on social media. The Deepika fans have a bad reputation for trashing other female stars and their fans. I don’t know that the female stars themselves have bad feelings about each other – Anushka vs Deepika or Kangana. Their PR teams may contribute to it, but I hear lots about wars on social media waged by their female admirers. It’s almost like the Belieber and Taylor Swift armies.

    Another trend I’m seeing is the INTENSE following for Diljit Dosanjh among Punjabi fans. He seems to embody their pride and identity as a fierce Punjabi who is also hip and cool.

    And if you dare to criticize Salman Khan, as I did in my Tubelight video, the Salman Bhai’s come for your blood. I had to delete many abusive comments using the F word at me, because I dared to say he should just play a father already. Then, what happened? He played a father in his last film, and it was great to see.

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    • I knew that Priyanka and Anushka and Dips and so on had devoted fans, that it was part of a fan identity and an attack on them feels like an attack on yourself (because I got some vicious hitbacks when I criticized Priyanka), but I had no idea their fans were now competing. I don’t think I have heard about that before for Hindi film actresses. Maybe a general preference for Meena Kumari over Madhubala, or picking sides in Jaya versus Rekha, but not that kind of attacking each other for no reason.

      One thing that surprises me is, on this blog, the only abusive fan comments I have received were related to Ranbir. Which really surprised me. I think maybe his fandom is a combination of more educated people who might read this blog, and also he has a surprisingly important role in identity shaping for his fans, the roles he plays onscreen are so similar to how his fans prefer to think of themselves that attacking his characters feels like attacking them. Unlike, for instance, Ranveer who has a very fluid identity onscreen.

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 2:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I’m not even sure I know. Priyanka feels like an older generation, that’s one difference, you would identify with her if you also wanted that feeling of “just because I am over 30 doesn’t mean I’m not relevant”. And of course she is also unmarried, and old enough now that it looks like a possibly permanent state. So if you are either unmarried, or want to identify as someone who doesn’t think women have to be married, she would be a good choice. Kangana is lower class, she worked her way up from nothing, and she plays that part of her identity quite a bit, the outsider who is ignored by the higher classes but makes it on talent. Anushka somehow feels a little less feminine, a little more casual. Less “girl power” and more “casual slacks and producing my own movies”. Not sure if that makes sense.

          On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 3:08 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • The difference is actually very little. Except that if you’re a Kangana fan, you actually like a mainstream gorgeous woman wearing glamorous clothes and makeup and acting like a mainstream actress doing totally women-centric roles and you’re ok with her scandals also.

          Deepika and Priyanka are though of as “classy” meaning they don’t make stupid statements and they haven’t been embroiled in scandals. Anushka is just the fun young, stylish, upbeat “classy” actress. And now she’s also Mrs Kohli so there’s that.

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  2. Also, I had to laugh about your descriptions of the odious Cub fans vs real Cub fans. I grew up as one of those suburban Cub fans who watched them on TV. But because of some neighbors, have shared season tickets to White Sox for the past several years. It’s a very different experience indeed to go to a White Sox game. The White Sox fans have a much more blue collar pride, proud South Siders. The Plumbers and Pipefitters Unions are proud sponsors with big signs displayed at the park. They also used Chance The Rapper in their intro video before the games start. Friendly Ivy covered confines it is not. But it’s very fun!

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    • That’s what I’ve always thought, White Sox fans just have more fun and are more serious about actually enjoying the games. And yet, I can’t not be a Cubs fan, because my father is one and my grandfather and my great-grandfather and so on. So odd, since my personal taste would lean much more White Sox, the fans just seem nicer, and yet I can’t go with it because my family history is so strong.

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 2:21 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Oh wow, I didn’t expect to see this! I hope more people weigh in because this topic fascinates me. A lot of my work is around building online communities and to do that you have to understand people’s values and personal identities and then align your community with that so that participating in the community reinforces and amplifies those identities. Fandom is just another way to express this.

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    • It’s not my area and I don’t know nearly enough about it, but the way politics and film fandom intersect in south India is just fascinating in this way! Both political parties and film fandoms work so hard to create an identity for their followers, and then when the two merge, it turns into this overwhelming unstoppable force. Right now the Tamil political/film world is looking at a really interesting period as the two top stars (and top stars for 3 decades, have both just announced they are about to enter politics. So 30 years of film fandom is about to be redirected towards supporting the political arena and coming in conflict with the opposing group that has another 30 years of fandom for a different actor. I assume some people will be voting on the issues as well, but I imagine they will be the minority 🙂

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 2:44 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • If one were to study this, one would really have to be on the ground or rely on the accuracy and biases of reporters such as myself simply because only a very small percentage of Indian films fans are a part of communities online and of that a very small percentage is interested in talking about it. Also, there’s the element of multiple identities in India which makes it very difficult to determine traits based on fandoms alone.

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  4. I feel both fascinated and apalled by indian fandoms. I think I will never be able to understand this desperate love and dedication people have for stars they don’t even know privately.

    I’m looking forward to read about southern fandoms.

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    • I find myself somehow trapped between the two. The way I feel about Shahrukh in particular does not fit within western definitions of fandom at all, it is much too deep and personal. But on the other hand, it is nothing compared to how the “real” Indian fans feel about their stars. If Shahrukh gets really sick, I may need to take a day off work and spend some time crying. But I wouldn’t fast for 30 days for his health, or build a monument to him, or anything like that.

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 3:34 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Yes, exactly. I don’t think that will ever come out about Shahrukh, by the way. He’s lived his life in public for so long, and he is strangely unprotected. That is, the media will jump on him and rip him to death if they get a chance. So the worst has (probably) already come out, the usual shady tax dodges, strong romance rumors with costars, rumors that his marriage is a shame, that he is gay, etc. etc. But on the other hand, all of the MeToo reveals so far, even people like Garrison Keiller who was a part of my childhood, I have a kind of “eh” feeling about. The American public figures never really gave me the kind of soul connection I have with the Indian stars, it’s a different kind of fan relationship.

          On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 4:18 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I hope you’re right. Al Franken was a pretty big disappointment, and I can never enjoy David Bowie’s or Michael Jackson’s music quite the same. But yes, it’s no where near the level of connection I have with Shah Rukh as a fan.

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          • Honestly, that feeling of betrayal is something I already had with SRK and got through, over his kiss with Kat in JTHJ. Which is so minor compared to the other things that people do! But he had always been so firm on not kissing onscreen, it felt like he was betraying his principles somehow. Not that I am morally against actors kissing, just that if it was against Shahrukh’s personal morals, I want him to stick with it and not give in.

            I also had a little bit of that feeling with AbRam’s birth, it was just so out of nowhere and different from the “average family” feeling of Aryan and Suhana being born when they were a young married couple and all of that. But I got past it! And came out the other end even stronger. But it gave me a bit of a clue of how (unhealthily?) intense my connection with him is, to feel this personal twist of knife over something that had nothing to do with me.

            On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 4:31 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • The kiss I could excuse because it was Yash-ji asking him to do it. I hear you about AbRam though. For me more the method than the timing. I have big problems with bodies being commodified–to me surrogacy isn’t that different from organ trafficking given the risks and permanent changes inherent in every pregnancy. So, I don’t think about it too much. And yes, having strong feelings one way or the other made me dial things back a little in my head. Or try to, anyway. 🙂

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          • It’s hard to explain now, when we’ve all gotten used to it. But the majority of his famous time he was known for being devoted to his wife and their two perfect children. He may have been super famous, but his family was like any other. And then right in a row his oldest was sent off to a fancy boarding school in England, he got in a drunken fight at a party, there were super strong rumors of an affair with priyanka, and this surprise late in life baby which isn’t something a “normal” guy would do.

            Of course now we all love Abram and have gotten used to the new Khan family, but it felt kind of like a slap in the face for a little bit.

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      • That’s because you’re not hindu. We fast for all kinds of things for our loved ones anyway. We fast for the wellbeing of our family members and boyfriends/girlfriends, to get a wish granted, to get good marks in exams, to get a promotion and what have you! So fasting for a beloved star or doing a puja for them is just feeling familial about them.

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  5. Interesting topic and I’m looking forward to hearing from others. Generally, Indians I work with (so educated middle to upper class folks from cities all over India) consider themselves, at least publicly, too sophisticated for mainstream Hindi films. There is a big nostalgia factor though among the over 30 crowd, and they are pleased especially when I say that I like Juhi, Madhuri, Rani, and the mom/aunty actresses from the 90s/2000s.

    My experience of the fandom of the 3 Khans comes from Twitter and the couple of months I’ve spent in Bhubaneswar, with more lower middle to middle class small town folks. There it seems like everyone is an Aamir fan, but not in a personal way, in a “he makes good movies that everyone likes, including foreigners” kind of way. I got 3 Idiots, PK, Taare Zameen Par, and Lagaan recommended to me over and over. In a similar way everyone is an Amitabh fan–Sholay, Black, and Pink were the big recs there. So the passionate, personal fandoms for actors over 40 were split between Shah Rukh and Salman (among those who were Bollywood fans at all). And that split in Bhubaneswar felt similar to how it feels on Twitter.

    I think there is a core of aspirational middle class young people who still identify with Shah Rukh’s “I came up from nothing”, “you can achieve anything with hard work” brand, male and female. Shah Rukh gets more girls for sure, and the guys he gets are artistic, and/or gay, and/or ambitious, and/or like hanging with girls as much as or more than guys. Salman gets the “rougher”, genuine crowd, but also maybe the more traditional and conservative I think? There’s a strand of Salman fans on Twitter who calls Shah Rukh a porn star, old goat, type stuff, while firmly believing that Bhai is still a virgin (!). Both Salman and Shah Rukh fans identify with their star’s “good works” and pet causes.

    The two Indian co-workers who have expressed real dislike for Shah Rukh said–“How can you like that guy–he just struts around everywhere and you can’t escape him in ads and stuff?” (she is kind of an Aamir fan); and “He just keeps getting more fair every year, soon he’ll disappear.”–so like, betraying his roots and his earlier, darker-skinned, more genuine self.

    I don’t get a feeling for under 40 star’s fandoms, whether male or female–online or offline. What’s the identity conveyed by Shahid’s fans? Kareena’s?

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          • I read a tweet from actor Siddharth(southwala, not Malhotra) which was a reaction to an article in Deccan Chronicle that speculated that Taimur & Shahid’s daughter was getting ‘close’ to each other at KJo’s twins’ party…his reaction was so on point-vomit pause,then vomit again.

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          • Ikr. Same with the coverage of “hot” pictures of under 18 star kids. I’m like why aren’t these outlets getting slapped with POSCO already?? I guess Shabana Azmi has recently stated that parents need to stop having their kids dance on “sexy” songs with “sexy” moves.

            I also read this anecdote a while ago about how Sunny Leone stopped shooting for this item song when a child walked onto the set while Kareena had a bunch of kids watching from the sidelines when she was filming for Fevicol Se or the other equally tasteless and misogynistic item song she did.

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          • Kareena herself might have grown up watching her sister do sarkai lo khadiya jaada lage & the like..is the Poo Kareena fans’ identity? The diva -who is her own biggest fan.

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          • I thought that’s who you meant! It was the first person who came to mind when I saw KwK and PDA. But then I thought that was just me. Yeah, that conversation was super uncomfortable to watch. Gave me flashbacks to times when I’ve been stuck alone in a room with a newly in love couple.

            On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 2:26 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Fandom and peer pressure does go together.When I was a teenager, our girl gang was firmly pro-Karisma and anti-Raveena.For all that I couldn’t find much difference between either, I would go along with the group opinion that Karisma was a better actress and better dancer and a better everything.And it was considered cool at that time to like Hindi films and to thumb your nose at Malayalam films(though we all secretly watched them with our family).Part of Shahrukh’s appeal with the middle class is that he’s the quintessential middle class Delhi boy with no connections who made good in Bollywood.To his credit he never dwelled on his outsider status for long in his interviews (unlike Kangana).

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    • Just curious, was the Karisma-Raveena divide something that felt bigger than your particular girl gang/school groups? Was there some sense of the national Karisma fan community supporting you, or just the thing your little group was into?

      Good point about Shahrukh, and that also feels like part of his appeal for the NRI community? The idea of coming to a city and building your own identity and your own family up from nothing, not being ashamed of where you came from but also being proud of what you have accomplished?

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 4:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • The Karisma fan was strictly our girl gang’s thing.Maybe we gangly girls associated her ugly duckling teenaged self morphing into a beautiful swan with our own selves/identities?Being a Karisma fan was an inclusive,half-hearted thing.But being Shahrukh’s ardent fan got me teased unmercifully by the male members of my family.It was well known that the best thing to get a rise out of me was to say loudly in my hearing “What’s the name of that ugly actor with caterpillar brows.I know his name begins with S…”

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  7. Just to quickly add, I’m not suggesting that Shah Rukh and Gauri were at all unethical as far as their surrogacy arrangement. But there is a LOT of unethical surrogacy going on in India, and so I think any Indian stars using surrogates without commenting on or fighting the unethical stuff happening, is unfortunate.

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    • I have a similar assortment of feelings about surrogacy. At one point it was rumored that gauris sister in law was the surrogate which made me feel better somehow

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    • Hasn’t surrogacy been made illegal in India, just because of all those unethical practices? At least surrogacy for pay. Surrogacy by a family member is still legal. I think this is one reason why all these film folk choosing surrogacy go outside the country for the mother.

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    • Actually the sentiment that I heard about this was “why does he need the third kid? Their family is complete already!” meaning they already have a boy and a girl. And yes it was a horrible example for a country with a population problem for over the childbearing age people to go out of their way to have another child. I would be OK with it if someone tells me Abram was a lovechild or something because seriously everyone judges people with more than two kids. It goes against our unofficial two kids only population control policy.

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  8. Lots of interesting stuff here, but I am tied up till Monday with various activities! Hope I can find some time to comment coherently, but if you don’t mind, I’ll just jot down some random reactions to what you and others have already written here.

    1. I’m not from Chicago. Duh. I totally got it backward about the Cubs and the White Sox. I always thought the Cubs were the working class team (sort of like the Yankees and Mets). This despite being a somewhat casual follower of baseball, living in the U.S. So you’re right to be wary of judging how people in India actually feel about any stars, by following what goes on online.

    2. Continuing with that thought — always, always keep in mind that only about 10% of the Indian population knows English, that internet penetration in the Hindi speaking areas is about 5% of the population (both statistics are significantly higher for South India), and that the English newspapers and TV channels have a miniscule readership/viewership compared to the Indian language media. So when we use those as our sources of information, we are really getting a very skewed picture, and this, even before taking into account the various political agendas pushed by these sources.

    3. I think you’re slightly off on your interpretation of SRK and Aamir fandoms. Yes, Aamir fans consider themselves to be intellectually superior to other film fans, and you got it exactly right about the kind of films they go for. However, I would say his fans (the vocal ones, anyway) are more upper class or upper middle class than middle class. But the more important point I wanted to make is, where on earth are you getting all the negativity about SRK, even “hate”? As far as backlash to his public statements, Aamir and Salman get just as much, so I don’t think he’s being particularly picked on here. The main difference I see in his public perception nowadays is that he used to be seen as a resounding success (as Aamir is seen nowadays), a “winner”, and now he’s more seen as a “loser”, because of his films not working. And his films are not working because he’s just too old to play the romantic lover as he used to, and which was his strongest onscreen identity, and he hasn’t really found a new identity that works. His films that have failed are seen as being out of touch with the common man — his fascination with VFX over story, for instance. If he used that fascination to do a truly innovative film, I think it would succeed. But the problem here is that I think he’s still chasing box office success. He wants a big hit. If he just said, hey, I’ll just experiment for fun, and to heck with the box office (the way Aamir did with Dhobi Ghat), that would be fine. But he promotes every film, whether Happy New Year of Fan, the exact same way, when they’re very different films with very different target audiences. This erratic messaging confuses the audience, and after a couple of disappointments, they are less willing to trust his promotions. So what I’m basically saying is that he still has a lot of good will with the audience. I think his actively trying to become part of the international celebrity circuit (and succeeding, too, with his wealth, etc.) has made him out of touch with what appeals to Indian audiences. So there may not be a solution pending.

    4. It is accepted by everyone inside and outside the industry that the really big fandoms (as in huge in number and highly passionate) are for Salman and SRK. Aamir never had that kind of fan following, either in the early part of his career, or even now, though he has a very universal audience who trust him to release good films (that might have gone down a little after Dhoom 3 and PK, but came back with Dangal). But it’s what I said about myself — they like his films, not necessarily him as an actor.

    5. This whole “Salman’s fans are lower class (also primarily Muslim)” is an image that the media tries to portray. I didn’t realize how unwittingly I had bought into it until I started to watch the first season of Dus Ka Dum, where all the contestants were fans of Salman, and I saw what a range of socioeconomic classes they spanned. Even the gender divide is not there. He has just as many ardent female fans as male. That said, I think the real point about people like the three Khans is that they can’t reach the level they have without appealing to all audiences, all ages, genders, social class, etc.

    6. With the southern stars, it’s not that the political parties merge with the fan clubs, it’s that the fan clubs are the political party! I discovered this when Chiranjeevi was starting his political party in 2007 or 2008. He wanted to get into politics, and instead of joining an existing party, decided to form his own. Then I started reading newspaper articles about how he was meeting with the presidents of his fan clubs across the state, to take their advice on what kind of policies this party should stand for (one example was, should they try to go after particular castes or not), even the name of the party! This was all news to me and quite fascinating. One of the reasons that the established parties like to woo film stars to run on their ticket is not just the name recognition factor, but the fact that the fan clubs form an already existing and deeply established infrastructure for running the “on the ground” type of political work necessary for winning elections.

    7. The only thing I can say about what being a fan of Kamal vs. Rajni means is again that Kamal is seen as more intellectual, while Rajni is “one of the people.” I am willing to be corrected.

    8. I have no idea what being a fan of a particular young Telugu star might mean, beyond knowing their obvious political affiliations — Prabhas is BJP, Mahesh Babu is Congress, Allu Arjun is part of the “Mega family” (Chiranjeevi’s family), who ally with different political parties depending on which is most advantageous to them at any given time. Note, though, that all these affiliations are inherited — the original choice of which party to affiliate with was made by the previous generation. And you really need to include NTR jr. if you want to look at stardom linked with politics. Again, his political affiliation is inherited from his grandfather.

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    • One thing which gets tricky is the difference between a fan identity that you feel for yourself versus a fan identity that you are performing for others. I think that is what you are getting at with the Aamir fans versus “fans”. If you ask someone who they are a “fan” of in a particular context (for instance, in the English language parts of the internet) they will say “Aamir”. But that’s just a thing to say because it is the acceptable thing to say, it’s not something that you actually act on or feel inside, you know? It just labels you as someone who is “above” regular Indian film.

      And in the same way, it feels like (thanks to the perception being sold by the media) you might be a guy who cries during Shahrukh movies, but you would still identify as a Salman fan because it is supposed to be the macho manly fandom. Or you might be someone who loves Salman but in some contexts feel like you are supposed to say “Aamir” or else you will be laughed at for being lowclass, or “Shahrukh” or else you will be laughed at for not being girly enough.

      What I’m noticing with Shahrukh, again in that 10% of the world represented by the English language internet, is a strange anti-fan identity that has started popping up. There seems to be a little of it with Salman as well, again in that 10% part of the world. While Aamir is strangely immune to it all. Thought pieces about Salman being too old, the rumors of his personal life dragged up again and again, and so on and so on, along with complaints about Shahrukh doing the same thing over and over again and not pushing the envelope and so on. Which seems strangely performative, it’s not just that people sincerely dislike these actors, it’s that you can gain some kind of confidence in your own identity by reaffirming that you are NOT a fan of these actors and can see them “honestly”.

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 7:00 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Yeah, I know he already got divorced, but there’s a big difference between divorcing your wife of 16 years who you married when you were both way to young to know who you really were in order to marry a woman only 9 years younger than you with loads of stuff in common with you, and divorcing your second wife who you are seemingly very much in love with and vice versa for a woman literally half your age.

          Anyway, I still don’t believe it, his first marriage was dying for a long time, he was barely seen in public with her, he and Kiran seem rock solid to me.

          On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 7:39 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • This is all fascinating, thank you for weighing in! One point about Aamir and his fandom: his Chinese and Turkish fans seem to react to him the way SRK and Salman fans do in India. There isn’t that remove that you see with Aamir’s Indian fans where they almost seem to intellectualize their fandom. This is based on what I’ve seen on social media so could be very skewed but for example Aamir is huge on Weibo and his fans refer to him as Uncle Aamir. There’s a reverence there you don’t see from Indian fans.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s really interesting! I wonder what makes the difference? That he is aggressively available to the newer fans? Or that he is both less available than other Indian film stars and more available than Chinese and Turkish stars? Or that he has a clear star identity for them because they have only seen his most recent movies and most recent public persona rather than the constant changes the Indian fans have witnessed?

        On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 7:35 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I have a question for you-is it true that the Chinese are strongly prejudiced against Africans/blacks? I’m wondering if Aamir’s pale complexion actually has an effect on his widespread welcome in China.

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        • Really not my area, but I would guess that Aamir’s lighter complexion might make him a slightly easier sell. If nothing else because the dominance of Hollywood, and before that of European colonialism, has gotten people all over the world used to watching “white” people do things while watching a distinctly non-white person on screen might be more difficult to get used to. Not that the audience would necessarily be consciously picking Aamir over other Indian stars, but someone like Prabhudeva might seem more threatening. But on the other hand, I think I saw somewhere that Black Panther is doing stunningly well in China, so it’s not an insuperable barrier.

          On Sun, Mar 18, 2018 at 1:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I don’t know any more than you guys about Chinese racial attitudes. I follow Chinese Aamir fans on twitter but there are a lot of cultural nuances that fly right over my head. And of course these are the folks who are fluent in English which makes them a narrow slice of the larger culture.

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    • The “hate” for SRK is coming from social media news sites looking at hindi hits retrospectively after Friends got a lot of flak from millennial, first time viewers. I know that made me really look-look at beloved hits from my teens and childhood. I think an article on The Quint recently dealt with it and ever since I’ve read about how SRK infantilizes his heroines and mansplains hard in every film, i cant unsee it.

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      • This quality is part of what I mean about him being a classical “liberal dude”. I think he genuinely likes women, but he has a paternalistic attitude toward them. Chivalry is not the same as treating women as fully human. I was encouraged by his talk at Davos when he said he realized the acid attach survivors he works aren’t looking for help, but for solidarity. Then he said he wanted to hire them all at Red Chillies though–which is sweet, but again paternalistic. But I straight up love his responses to male fans that say sexist things. I recall someone on Twitter asked him how he understands women so well. And he said, it’s a magical thing called—–listening. 🙂

        I see it in his movies, but I give him a pass. I think he is learning and progressing–and I think Suhana will ensure that he keeps on doing so.

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        • In all honesty, he gets the “pass” way too much for someone his age. Had he been someone everyone disliked, and he’s getting there because of his films, these not so pristine qualities would be highlighted even more.

          But that’s what fandoms do don’t they? They forgive their stars for qualities they’d judge other ones harshly for.

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  9. Being a Shahrukh fan and having conversations with fellow fans, I disagree with your view that people don’t identify themselves as his fans anymore. We all are his fans, we want him to do well, we want his movies to become box office successes. But, his movies let us down. He has to realize that the romances which worked in the 90s and early 2000s are passe now. We don’t connect with the new stuff he’s doing, even though we always connect with him in his interviews and public speeches. So, I disagree with your view that there is hate or anti-fandom. There is no anti-fandom, but there is a disconnect and disappointment with his recent movies.

    With Salman, there is also one more angle that I think you missed. The Shahrukh or Amir fans do feel that Salman fans are crass, but a more important factor is also the legal cases that he was involved in. Drunken driving which killed a couple of people and the later stories about him framing his driver and having threatened the constable who was a witness in the case. All this adds to the public anger against him that rich people can get away with anything. And, I myself and lots of my friends also see his being human campaign as a hogwash to clean up that other image. And, this creates an anti-fandom in the case of Salman.

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  10. When I was growing up it was SRK v/s Aamir and I was an SRK fan girl, especially in the 90s. Personally I did feel let down for many of the things you’ve just outlined in your comments , but what let me down the most was his choice of movies. Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Happy New Year, Dilwale were all terrible let downs. Esp HNY and Dilwale – they just looked like projects but with no heart or soul. He just took his fans for granted. By the time he woke up to it, it was too late.

    In Malayalam (and I could be wrong here), earlier on, it was just Mohanlal and Mammooty. It was slightly religious in the sense that Mlal was more liked by the Hindu community and Mammooty more the Muslim belt (hence the two endings for Harikrishnans, Mlal and Juhi get together in the TVM/Cochin region and Mammotty gets her in the Malabar area, seriously not kidding!) But now I guess, it has mixed up a little more. The fans also regularly engage in wars with people if they feel their star has been offended. Recently there was so much of cyber abuse against Parvathy because she criticized Mammootty. And the stars don’t even react, they need these guys to fill cinema halls on the opening weekend so its a mutually beneficial system as far as they’re concerned.
    For starkids, they inherit the father’s fan club as well. I hate that every actress is asked this question – How was it working with Lalettan/Mamooty. Its like it is the most important question one can be asked.
    For the newer guys like Nivin/DQ, I don;t think they have such an invested fanbase. Fahad is the only actor to refuse a fan club in my knowledge.

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    • I agree with you that he took his fans for granted. Happy new year and Dilwale were the worst. I would also add to the list rab ne bana di Jodi, jab tak Hai jaan. After these string of bad films, many of us SRK fans just got so disappointed with him. I hope he does good films. Raees and Fan were better films. SRK was the only good thing about Jab Harry met Sejal.. and that debacle is totally Imtiaz Ali’s fault. I think SRK looks really good in mature romantic roles or relationship dramas, like the one in JHMS, but in a better movie. I’m not too hopeful about Zero either. The teaser felt cringey.

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      • The more i think about it, the more I’m convinced that he takes his own persona too seriously and there’s definitely an element of overexposure with SRK. His real life self is almost indistinguishable from his film roles which makes it seem like we’re watching the same guy in ads, in interviews, in films from now and before.

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        • I honestly feel its because he stopped watching Hindi movies. When you don’t watch whats being made, how do you know what works and what doesn’t. It’s not about gaming the system, but understanding what people think. I think that’s whats going on with Saif too. They don’t watch what people are watching and are in their own bubble.
          I really did like Fan though, esp Aryan Khanna. I think the film wasn’t as good as he was .

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          • Fan was legitimately brilliant. I think you are right that Shahrukh is out of touch, but it’s important to understand that there is a difference between making a movie the audience hates and making a bad movie. Fan and Jab Harry Met Sejal were good movies that anyone should have been able to predict the audience would not like. Dilwale and Happy New Year were both out of touch with the audience, and also bad.

            On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 12:49 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • That could be a reason. I just wonder who and what exactly are they watching though? Because even the global hot favorites are setting the bar high. Maybe they stopped watching all forms of media completely and that would explain their distance from reality.

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    • Thank you! No idea there was a religious component to Mohanlal and Mammootty fandom. This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to learn!

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 11:10 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Not religious exactly.But regional-certainly.Mohanlal being from Trivandrum has fans in the capital city and the South.And Mammotty is popular in Malabar-the northern part of Kerala.The religious factor kicked in sometime this decade.The rise of fan clubs and cut outs are a recent thing though.In the 80s and 90s people would go for a movie based on who the director was.Nowadays it’s the star who is the deciding factor.

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        • Yes, religious factor wasn’t purposeful but it happened over time. Also, 70s and 80s had writers and directors who were well-read and educated like Padmarajan, Bharathan, KG George, Fazil, Sibi Malayail, Lohitadas. In the 90s, friends and fans of actors got into direction without any credentials.

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  11. I love it when you discuss Indian fandoms and fans!

    For years, there was a popular idea in Tamil films that you would always have a ‘Mass’ hero and ‘Class’ hero that would both be popular at the same time. They’re box office appeal would be neck and neck although the mass hero would probably end up with the overall bigger box office returns. The class hero would have the movies that withstood the test of time. Going back to the 40s, you had M.K.T. Bhagavathar who was the classical singer that acted in films based on mythological/literary epic/religious characters who was your class actor. And P.U. Chinappa who made action films as your mass actor. MGR was the mass actor and SIvaji Ganesan was the class actor. Rajini is the mass actor and Kamal is the class actor. You’ll still hear a lot of Rajini can’t act and made only senseless films or Kamal makes overwrought, awards bait films no one likes or understands. Being a fan of the mass actor meant (depending on who you ask) you weren’t educated, rural and easily fooled. Or it meant you were ‘one of people’ that understood the real world and (partly because of that) liked your films to be escapist. You weren’t putting on airs and were comfortable and proud of who you were and where you came from.
    Being a fan of the class actor meant you gave more thought to your films and expected more from them. You were educated, urban and aware of the larger world. Or it meant you were a snob who was so ashamed of your roots that you aped western ways.

    Of course, none of this was ever actually entirely true. There are people of all educational/socioeconomic divides among the fans for both Rajini and Kamal. Kamal and Sivaji made many a fun mass entertainer in their long careers and some of their ‘class’ films weren’t that good. MGR and Rajini gave lovely performances in quiet a few of their films and many of their mass films flopped. But the I don’t think people are ready to let go of the theory though.With Vijay and Ajith, it really doesn’t fit. They’re both broadly defined as mass actors but the divide among fans is still there. I still hear that kind of language with Vijay Sethupathy as the class actor and Sivakarthikeyan as the mass actor with the newer actors.

    As far as demographics of fans, with Rajini and Kamal, I think they’ve been in the field so long their fans are across a pretty wide swath. Generally, I would say the majority of fans (or at least someone who would identify themselves as a fan) for any actor are young men. Anecdotally, just about every Tamil kid I know likes Rajini and/or Vijay. Kamal, Ajith and Madhavan were definitely the heartthrobs of young women, especially earlier in their careers. This seems to have waned with age (although Madhavan of late is definitely getting back to that). I always hear that Rajini and Vijay bring in the family crowds which I take to mean they have wide fanbase age-wise.

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    • I love it when you give great answers!

      You got exactly what I was going for, there is the “assumption” of mass versus class, so choosing one actor over the other would be a way of signaling what kind of identity you want to present. But then the on the ground reality is more about women versus young people versus men, with young men always being the most vocal group.

      If there has always been this “mass” and “class” divide, and Ajith and Vijay both tend “mass” while the newer (yes?) actor Vijay Sethupathy swings class, is it possible the audience will end up adjusting and accepting Vijay Sethupathy sooner since there is this need in the popular consciousness for a “class” actor that he is fulfilling?

      On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 11:19 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Vijay Sethupathi was a struggler,extra actor who made it big. His performances are well received by both mass & class because the kind of stories he does -earthy, rural, middle class stories-always have some extra elements that strikes a chord with the upper middle class also. Vikram Vedha is an example. Also it could be a case of Tamil-Irfaan/Nawaz-in that he is chosen by the uber class for being the unlikely hero.

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        • Vijay Sethupathi is a bit of an odd case. I really don’t think he’s interested in stardom necessarily. He hasn’t really taken any of the steps – working on exclusively on higher profile projects, doing fewer film to limit over exposure- you might expect. He’s flat out said he like interesting roles and that’s all he cares about. He’s got something like 7 or 8 films he’s working on at any given moment and he still takes up smaller roles with new or unknown directors. He really hasn’t done a straight out big mass entertainer film yet which every Tamil hero does. Like Meenakshy said, his roles all have something quirky about them and he’s liked by people across spectrums. I think there will be a push to make him the class star but I’m not sure he’ll cooperate with his career choices.
          It’s interesting because a few years ago, people were really pushing the idea that it would be Vijay or Ajith as the mass hero and Vikram or Suriya as the class hero. That narrative didn’t really work out as expected

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          • In a way, that sounds kind of similar to what is happening in Hindi film. Everyone is looking for the “next” Shahrukh or Aamir or Salman, just like they used to be looking for the “next” Amitabh, trying to fit actors into an established narrative instead of accepting that they are different.

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  12. I think you have wayyyy overestimated SRK and Amir in this topic. First of all, there are no die-hard SRK fans in India. There are no die-hard SRK or Amir fans in india and no fandom, in the true sense of the word, exist for them. There used to be one for SRK but that was when cinema (on TV and VHS) had just exploded in the Indian market and of course with SRK the bounced back fandom from the NRI scene inflated his appeal a lot more. These two have always been middle class “heroes” as in the nice middle class people went to their films with their families and kids went to these films again with their college groups. But it was never frenzied and you would never get into a fight over SRK/Amir fandom being superior to that of another star.

    If you remember, I specifically asked if you could do a series of analytical posts for SRK’s birthday month. I asked for that because that literally doesn’t exist. And it didn’t appeal to you either because that’s not why you’re a SRK fan. His work isn’t that varied or intellectually appealing. It’s just that he’s a nice guy IRL and he makes non-heavy films and he seems like a nice, normal, scandal free middle class Indian guy who appears irresistibly sexy to you (and to others, and I don’t mean that in a bad way! I get his charm) BUT there’s nothing to the SRK fandom other than “Oh I love him and he’s so nice” is there?

    Amir never had the SRK-style mania and he was always very PG13. Ghajini shifted the focus of the male fans towards him but that turned out to be very superficial and of course everyone else also did the body thing and as Shahid’s career shows, just the six or eight pack abs do not a fandom make. At this point, his films are very watchable and a lot of people go watch his films in the theatre but that’s not because that’s Amir, it’s more because there’s a guarantee that the film will be value for money and you can take your entire family to it and those films are definitely rewatchable too. I think I’ve told you about my dad’s OMG excursion in the single screens where he went with a whole bunch of people a bunch of times and even fell asleep once because it was about relaxing at the films and not feeling the pressure of the high priced tickets and it was a nice family film. Amir’s films are like that. They’re like Home Alone.

    Salman, on the other hand, is the only guy with a proven fandom-fandom in the hindi industry right now. In the sense that people go watch a Salman film for Salman even if it’s absolute rubbish. And it mostly is. And even then his films are not doing too well. That’s because the tickets are priced higher now and the young, lower middle and lower class college/unemployed/daily wager male crowd a) doesn’t have the money to rewatch his films, b) has access to the same films on TV, c) has grown up and Salman doesn’t really make sense once you’re out of the “dancing and hooting in the cinema” crowd, and d) has other male stars’ bodies to dream about (or dream about having as thier own). His female fans also have a lot more choices in the eye candy department so his fandom, though still stronger than that of the other khans, is fading.

    That said, fandoms are truly alive in the south. I haven’t had too much interaction with them but I think I have a general understanding of them. They are basically the same thing only spun around different stars. So a Mahesh Babu fan likes the star for very mainstream things like how he delivers dialogues, how he dresses, his generosity IRL, upholding family values, his action sequences, his romantic sequences. But then again, that’s exactly what Allu Arjun fans like him for. And what Prabhas fans like him for and what Chiranjeevi fans like him for. And if you look at their films, you won’t be able to tell if one is any different than the other.

    Of course, in the south, they take fandoms a lot more seriously like they register themselves as societies and get involved in things like voluntarily promoting films and the star’s events. The stars too respond to it and often donate to their causes and support them and show up to these registered groups’ events. Of course, they also prove to be a voter base of sorts should the star choose to go into politics. After a while, the public persona takes over and then you’re making films as a public persona rather than an actor. The intensity of the fandom is driven more by the legend spun around the actor. I am still a part of the Prabhas fandom and I still get bombarded with “omg did you know Prabhas did a gazillion takes for his entry scene for Saaho because he wanted to get it just right OMG OMG OMG” from fanbois. I thought that was extraordinary till I learnt that that is exactly what was happening in the other camps also.

    It is effectively the same in Tamil except Rajnikanth fandom went national and the fandom of the fandom became a thing. The Malayalam industry, I think has the most sophisticated fans who do the registered society thing though they too have the hating on other camps thing.

    The most interesting and impactful fandom in the history of Indian cinema has of course been that of Amitabh Bachchan! Amitabh made people run away to Mumbai to become actors. 99% of all the north Indian taxi drivers in the city went there to meet Amitabh and never returned!! There still are mimicry artists that made careers out of sounding like Amitabh. Comedians made careers out of made up Amitabh anecdotes. Raju Srivastav owes his comedy career to looking a bit like Amitabh. Admakers still use the Amitabh voice and it still gets the ad noticed. You still go to an Amitabh film and he really is leading the way in terms of variety in roles.

    In terms of fan identity, I think it solely an attraction thing. You get attracted to either that person or the idea of that person based on their film roles and what we think are their real life personas via interviews and stuff) just reinforces our beliefs. At least in India, there is a great homogeneity in the persona of an actor and they rarely deviate from it. Remember how Farah spoofed SRK in OSO in the awards scene. It was a great spoof because it was totally true. At this point you can make an entire film using clips of his “usual bits” (the wide open arms, the neck sniffing bit, the misty eyed closeup) from older films. Which is what they tried to do with Dilwale. Same with Salman. And the stars are reluctant to move away from these personas because of their fans. I know it seems like SRK is trying to do something new with sort of gritter roles in Raees etc but they’re really the same roles and you never not see the SRK you love in them. BUT as a fan, that’s what you pay to watch right?!

    This is why there are almost no actress fandoms in india right now. Women in india are discovering their own identities and our current lot just look and act and speak like they’re one of us and sometimes they’re even too bland for us so why would we look up to them for anything?

    Compare this to Madhuri and Sridevi in the 90s. Madhuri made non-classical dance popular and girls in school and college wanted to do Mohini both in college functions and family functions and society functions and it wasn’t considered vulgar. Same with Sridevi. She made otherwise docile and submissive “good, homely” girls be the star of their own stories instead of being the sidekick in their men’s stories.

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    • So, let me take a step back and see if you can go further with this and take it to the second level of fan identity.

      If you are not a fan of anyone, not really a fan-fan, and you are put on the spot at a dinner party and asked who your favorite actor is, why might you lie and say “Amitabh”? Would that make you appear classy? Old-fashioned? In touch with the people? What does being an Amitabh fan tell other people about yourself? Again, assuming you are in one of the situations where fandom is more performative than real, that 10% that Moimeme talked about who are removed from “real” fandom.

      (oh, and just in terms of analysis of SRK’s films, it’s funny you bring that up, I was just talking with a friend who is a college professor and she was moaning over having to show K3G in class AGAIN. Every semester she tries to find another film to show, but there is no other film that has enough serious academic scholarship on it to be able to assign her students a varied group of readings. Truly, SRK has been analyzed to death in academia. I tend to analyze him in depth film by film partly because there’s been so much written about him in general analysis already that it’s hard for me to find a new angle and avoid plagiarism)

      On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 12:42 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • In the same way that all Hindi actors, when asked who their favorite actor is, say, “Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando, Mr. Bachchan”? 🙂

        Re your friend: Seriously, K3G has academic writing on it?! Maybe she can try MNIK. I think there’s a lot written about that, too, though I personally don’t like the film. And of all SRK films, I thought DDLJ would have the most written about it?

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        • She’s looking for variety over quantity, and I think K3G released at just the right time when academia was paying the maximum attention to Indian film, and there were minimum number of films to talk about. So there’s a ton on the NRI identity, the growth of the new kind of family film, stuff like that. And then later films like MNIK, there were just more movies available to analyze, so there’s one article on that, and one on Sarfarosh and one on Fanaa and like that. Instead of everyone focusing the analysis on just the one movie that was easily available.

          On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 2:40 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Amitabh is in a league of his own because his legendary roles had an actual impact in society and across generations. So when someone says they’re an Amitabh fan, chances of them saying that to be polite are rare to nonexistent. And his fandom also cuts across classes so you can share that fandom with your maid and the auto driver on the street and the high level bureaucract and the MNC executive and not feel ashamed of this shared space.

        In terms of academic material being available on JUST SRK, that’s just the struggles educators deal with everywhere. And just because THEY have limited material provided by others to work with doesn’t mean that whatever they’re presenting is THE preeminent bit of work from the industry. It’s like what you said about your own experience of this course- you worked with and on a topic that you made the effort to research on your own and people went like “really?!”

        And that is exactly what I mean when I ask for original analytical pieces on SRK alone because what we have so far is dated and almost not serious enough in its analysis. As a non indian, you’ve had to also learn about India and the culture when you were first exposed to SRK but you’re much further ahead in your understanding of the context now so NOW, you must he able to look at his work more critically.

        Let me give you an example I had with a rewatch. The film was KANK and when the scene with Kajol and her white neighbours came on, I cringed real hard. For one, the xenophobia was unbearable. The fake patriotism even more so and I don’t even want to get started on the toxic style of parenting on display in that scene.

        I watched that and I thought “was it this bad always? How have I not noticed this before?!”

        I had the same feeling about Friends and I must have watched the entire thing at least ten times over.

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          • Oh yeah. After a while they all feel the same.

            Also, god I dislike KANK. I cried in theatre because it was raining so bad I couldn’t leave. And I didn’t understand why she needed to vacuum in a dress.

            I was also rewatching DDLJ the other day and I was like why won’t he let her talk and the Europe trip is basically harassment. After that I was a little afraid of watching Sholey because I thought it would have something similarly unsettling but it didn’t. And I wondered why that was.

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          • Yeah, it’s not a movie to watch early on. I mean, it worked for me, but I would never tell someone to watch it sooner than a year after getting into Indian film. Or in that tricky first few months of having your consciousness raised to feminist film criticism. There’s a lot there which is unspoken about Indian culture, gender issues, NRI identity, and so on that is under the surface of a really terrible relationship and which makes it a really wonderful and, yes, empowering relationship. At least, in my reading of the film. Which isn’t necessarily “right”, but is a reading that exists and which, I think, many audience members share. Try coming back to it a couple years from now, maybe after reading some analysis, and you may be surprised by how different you feel. Or not, you may come back to it and say “yes, I see what other people are seeing, but it is still wrong”.

            On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 9:19 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • The cringe just hits you harder every time. Gawd I even hate Farida for being a wimp. Also, the non-plan he just goes with is arrogant and disrespectful. Because he’s an NRI, he can shit on this family IN THEIR HOMETOWN. Like how does that make you a hero? And then, he just leaves. The girl has to run after him. He could have just jumped off the train but nooooooooooooo!

            Raj, I know I loved him then, but if this film released today, he’d get hated on so bad for that arrogant attitude, for disrespecting this family, for all the misogyny and just really really bad decisions he takes and also the harassment.

            It makes me feel really bad for who we were as a society back then!!

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        • And also I cringed at those scenes the first (and only) time I saw it in the theater. In fact, I had unwittingly read spoilers ahead of seeing it, and so knew about the Jana Gana Mana scene. I sat there cringing away, and thinking, “I’m so glad I read about this ahead of time. If it hit me unawares, I would have walked out of the theater!”

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          • It’s one of those films where Kajol feels louder every time you watch it again. She’s shrewish and unbearable. IRL too. And that’s why it’s hard for me watch her.

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        • Notice that I have not actually covered K3G here in depth, and that’s partly why. It is just, overall, a flawed movie. I could write about Shahrukh’s bad movies if you want me too, I just don’t like saying mean things so I tend not to talk about them. I don’t like being negative. I’m more of a “call out the good parts” or “dig into an analysis of why this thing might have been included rather than talk about how bad it is” kind of person.

          One of my favorite articles on K3G, or at least which highly references K3G, is Priya Joshi’s “bollywood or bollylite”. She uses K3G as an example of “bollylite” the fake and packaged version of Hindi cinema sold to the overseas audience which waters down real social struggles and conflict that were present in earlier films.

          There’s another one that digs into the Hindutva present in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, specifically the treatment of “Raghupati Raghav”.

          I mean, if you want, just for you, I could do a post on Happy New Year, I haven’t done a full one yet, and that film has ALL KINDS of problems. But I can’t promise that I will see or talk about the same problems you see or talk about, because I may not find them interesting or useful to discuss. If you go back to my “feminism versus feminist film criticism”, that’s what I am talking about. The scene with the white neighbor, and the “Jana Gana” scene in K3G are so obviously terrible as to be harmless, or at least so obvious that I don’t feel the need to point them out. But the toxic patriarchy in how Amitabh assumes it is everyone else’s responsibility to work around him and his wishes, or the hidden class/caste message in the adopted son marrying a lower class woman and the possible message of Amitabh’s “you have proved you are not of my blood” around that, or the way the Kareena being raised in England and turning out terrible until she is taught by a Indian boy to be a proper Hindu woman, that would be interesting.

          On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 2:48 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I’m not judging you for sidestepping glaring problems in these films. I know you’re nice about everyone. Just that as someone who’s fast approaching the go-to expert status on at least SRK if not most things Indian films, not talking about these things presents your audience with an incomplete picture. I know we’re all capable of understanding the problems on our own but that would he true for us also understanding the good parts on our own. But we’re here to talk about everything.

            I don’t want a review just for myself of the super terrible films. Just that maybe it’s time the super good films also got put through the scanner for the problems.

            But I get the sentiment that finding out that the God isn’t perfect would feel terrible to most SRK fans here. I guess as a Hindu I’m more comfortable with having flawed gods.

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          • Hmm. I’ll think about it. I honestly don’t agree with most of the criticism around Shahrukh, I find it vapid and shallow and easy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t sincere criticism to make, as you point out there is criticism possible of everybody, I just don’t agree with what has been presented up to now, which is why I haven’t bothered to directly address it. It seems odd to write a “hate” post, I haven’t really done that for anyone (although I have done plenty of “love” posts presenting the most sincere positives). But you make a good point that if people are coming here for analysis particularly of Shahrukh (and it is true based on comments and view counts that the majority of my readers are Shahrukh fans), that maybe part of picking him out for special attention is also calling out what is wrong with him in a way I haven’t done with any other star.

            On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 3:22 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yup. And if you do decide to do this, prepare to have your heart broken a little. Noticing those first few hints of imperfection in him and his films shook me up and I hadn’t even been a huge fan of him since the 90s.

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          • Sorry to say, Margaret, that all of those points you identified have also been written about to death. 😦

            OK, here’s something to mull over, that maybe hasn’t been written to death. When K3G released, a gay American friend of mine loved it, and was gushing about how it really reads as the “coming out” struggle faced by so many gay people in the U.S. To be clear, he wasn’t saying any of the characters in K3G were gay, just that the struggle that Rahul goes through with his family to love who he wants and to be accepted for that, was very similar to the struggle faced by gay people. I didn’t agree with that reading and told him so, and we had many interesting discussions about it.

            So when KANK released, after reading the reviews (and not having watched it), I asked him if he thought this was KJo’s way of telling SRK to leave Gauri and be with his real true love, namely himself. He disagreed rather vehemently.

            See if you can make something of that. 🙂

            And now I think both of us should sleep!

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          • Yeah, stupid dog woke me up whining outside my door for more water in the middle of the night, so for once I get to reply to comments on India time, but I was wondering why you were still up!

            On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 3:29 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I have to disagree with you, Asmita, that Margaret’s liking for SRK is coloring her analysis of his films. Yes, she does gush as a fan, but, as she has pointed out, it is mainly in her fanfic and TGIF posts. OK, I did think she gushed in her review of JHMS, but it wasn’t blind gushing, it seemed to be her genuine reaction to the film, so that was fine with me.

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          • Margaret, re sleep: This is unfortunately my normal schedule, which I am trying to reorient (not very successfully). But it was fun to have this conversation in real time. If I had been reading all this tomorrow (or later today, I guess), I couldn’t have kept track of who was responding to what. 🙂

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          • Oh I forgot, Raghupati Raghav is a secular prayer associated with the Gandhian sect so that’s really very middle class non-convent English medium school than hindutva. Hindutva had Gandhi assassinated.

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          • Yes, the article pointed out the entire sequence. The disdain for the Hippie version, and the exclusion of the Britishized camp director, even the way the little non-Hindu (can’t remember if he was Sikh or Muslim) boy was excluded. It was the culmination of all the “good” progress made towards turning the camp into an Indian/Hindu paradise. Yes, the majority of the message was anti-British, not pro-Hindu, but then that is the slippage, between the definition of “Indian” as Hindu versus as secular.

            On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 11:06 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • The anti British thing, as I saw it, wasn’t anti British so much as a Sholey reference. When the film was shot, nobody anywhere in India had that attachment to the Raj. The little sikh boy, I have no idea why they wanted to make him sikh apart from the fact that the dialogue he says “tusi ja rahe ho? Tusi na jao!” was in punjabi and to have Mumbai kids say that would have been a pretty far stretch. And there’s no way to tell a regular punjabi speaking kid apart from a non punjabi kid. Hence his little turban.

            Since sikhs technically fall under Hindu laws, the hindu-ization of the camp was nothing more than a granny doing what grannies do, according to the sensibilities of middle class family values, ie teach kids about our sanskaars.

            Also, the hippies were also out of place. Maybe they’d be spotted if he was traveling to Goa or Hrishikesh but why would he meet them en route to shimla is beyond me. Or maybe that’s what mumbaikars think of when they think “shimla” or rather Simla which is a very urbane, Upper class pronunciation.

            Considering that the prayer itself is secular, the sequence was more aimed at again NRIs and their vision of what India is/was/should look like.

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  13. As for the flak SRK is receiving, well, his films really aren’t progressive at all. It may hurt to hear the criticism as a fan but it is all true. He hasn’t evolved as an actor neither have his roles. It is one thing to intensely like his sexiness but no one can accuse him of artistic innovation or brilliance anymore. And he wasn’t “brilliant” to begin with. He was something different in a time when no one else was. Now he’s just caught up in his own fandom (I mean Fan was disliked because people could see that it was narcissistic and it was). I don’t think he will pass the test should there be deep analysis of his work. And none exists because there’s nothing to analyze. But that seems ok because that’s how it is with most Indian films. The truly interesting films are very few and far in between. Of course, maybe you should give us the analyses just so we can see if we’ve missed something.

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    • Not sure what more you are looking for? I do an analysis of two Hindi films a week, and the Shahrukh list is steadily growing. I could do more Shahrukh, but then people complain that I am focusing too much on one actor, so I try not to do more of him than anyone else. I tend to weave themes and social statements and so on into the body of my reviews, because that’s just how I write, but they are there.

      I agree Indian film tends to follow certain set patterns, especially in terms of star identity, which leads to a different kind of analysis, but you can still analyse within that framework.

      On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 12:51 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Well we’re already getting a lot of SRK content but much of that is without analysis. And I know for a fact that we need more hard hitting analysis on his work. Not just fandom pleasing content. Actual critical pieces because it cannot be that he is above criticism you know. Even on a fan blog.

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        • I’m still at a loss. I always give good primarily positive reviews, because I always like almost anything I watch. I’m not going to say he is a bad actor or does the same movie over and over again, because I sincerely don’t believe that. I will say that the marketing and release of JHMS was a disaster, and that he is overall over-valued at the box office right now. And I’ll say that Raees was flawed (I just went back to my review to check, I called it “lazy” “choppy” “confused”).

          Sorry, normally I would just let comments like this go, but it sincerely bothers me when someone thinks I am not able to divide my fan brain from my critical brain. I try so very very very hard in my serious writing to treat Shahrukh honestly and analytically (not in fanfic or TGIF, that is just for fun, but in the other stuff), and if I missed the mark, I want to know where and how to fix it.

          On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 2:34 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • That’s alright. You’re a fan. And you share this with fans of other stars too. I’m not going to penalise you for it. Just saying that by not being able to see an important star’s obvious shortcomings you might be missing out on a huge shift in the way India watches films now. That in turn might impact your analysis of what isn’t working for him anymore.

            And it is entirely possible to love someone and be a fan while knowing what they get criticised for. Like I do with Putin.

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          • I think that Margaret is good at distinguishing “fan hat” from “analyst hat”. Her Raees review and her recent analyses of box office trends for different actors show that.

            The scene by scenes are more of a mix of fan and analysis, especially for Shah Rukh movies, but even within those I think it’s clear from tone, etc, which hat she’s wearing at a given time.

            There could be an interesting conversation about which criticisms of Shah Rukh made by English speaking critics and fans Margaret and commenters believe are valid, and which aren’t. But of course it’s up to Margaret what the content here is, as it’s her blog and it is a voluntary blog, not something she’s getting paid for as part of a wider editorial mission or a publication or something.

            I’d love to discuss Farah Khan’s flaws and strengths as a director and storyteller. She’s such an interesting mix.

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  14. What a fun discussion topic.

    I remember reading a newspaper article in 2013 that the fans club of Asif Ali bullied some girls for posting bad reviews of his movie.My first reaction was wondering how did Asif Ali manage to have a fan club.What I gathered is that pretty much all the fan clubs of the younger generation is a mutually beneficial paid service with some caste,regional considerations thrown-in.And I think thats true Tamil,Telugu also.None of the younger generation in any language has an established body of work to inspire the kind of faithful following commanded by the older generation.But for the newbies to survive in the industry,they need to maintain the ‘fans’-their personal cheer leaders,marketing tools-who create trends,views,likes,following counts and so on which seem to be the new markers for popularity among the internet crowd.
    In Tamil-someone above has already compared Kamal,Rajani.Vijay Sethupathi is every struggling actor’s dream come true.What people perceive as true talent that was destined to make big.He has equal amount pull among mass and class.The hero-Vijay is the neighbourhood saviour-massy,dancy,funny-who can take down the rich inevitably and be the leader of the community.Ajith is charming,sauve,smooth saviour who also LOOKS super cool doing it. Allu Arjun and Mahesh Babu are their couterparts in Telugu.Also more women following for Ajith & Mahesh.Suriya in Tamil tries to strike a balance between massy & class which is what Jr NTR seems to be doing in Telugu.Only Jr NTR seems to be more successful & I still cant figure out Jr NTR.Vijay Devarkonda is hte new poster boy for teh 20-something crowd who want to rebel,talk-back and generally show a finger to the others for no good reason.I could be wrong,but there are more caste considerations among Telugu audiences?All these guys have squeaky clean,family men,humble image which is a must have for any south Indian fandom.People love the actors for their offscreen persona more than their films and performances.Someone rightly pointed out SRK/Salman’s charity while Aamir is not known to be that charitable.He tries to doubles up as the conscience of the society via Satyameva Jayate or his movies.He makes others do charity.Aamir is more free from the trapments of fandom that the other two because his films and roles are more varied.I cannot associate an true identify with Deepika & Anushka’s fandom yet-apart from super confident,independent,outsider women who made their way up and has good taste in men(yes Ranveer is a better choice than Ranbir).Kangana is the struggling starlet gone big without really meaning to.Ranveer is fluid and Ranbir is rich little boy with daddy/mommy/gf issues.Others are yet to form identifies that inspire true fan-following.NayanTara/Anushka Shetty are the south Indian inspirations for women wanting to be unmarried,working and independent past 30.
    In Malayalam-.Priya covered just about most of what I wanted to say about Mammootty/Mohanlal,Nivin,DQ etc.Fahad & Prithviraj’s fandom exploration will reveal some fan identity.They are both mid-30’s and those born after 1980s identify strongly with them.I have seen Prithviraj being the breakthrough hero,handsome,cocky,arrogant,talking back to older generation,storming out of Malaylam,experimenting in other languages and then coming back to home turf wiht a more matured and grounded personality.He has truly grown-up with us the post-80 crowd-who also went through similar things and are now settled,have families,little kids and doesnt have to be part of a fan-club to identify ourselves.Fahad had a disastrous debut,but boy did he grow-up on his own.He is the intelligent,sophisticated,non-bragging guy who openly discourages fan clubs-something the pre-fanclub non-resident Kerala generation will identify with.There are also fan-clubs of other language actors like Vijay,Suriya,Allu Arjun etc in Kerala and I dont see what a Malayali guy will identify with Allu Arjun & his films.
    For the rural crowd who does not follow the internet driven fandom & still rely on TV as their main source of news & entertainment doesnt really bother about fandom,cults & identifying themselves with the hero/heroine.They are too busy making a living and films are only a means of entertainment.They will go for a movie,if it entertains them,they will spread the word & rewatch it.Dileep’s movie Ramaleela came out when his popularity was at an all-time low for any actor in any language possible and still managed to win the audience.I identify with this crowd and also why my favored actors/exciting actors keep changing.Even if Dileep is convicted I will still watch his movie and if Prabhas doesnt deliver in his next two films,I will chuck him out without any remorse.My fan-identify is only has good as the last film that entertained me.I will still drool over Prabhas though..:)

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    • Thank you! This is all fascinating.

      I like your point about the fandom crowd, at least of the kind we are talking about, being primarily urban and online discussion driven. Would the same have been true in the 80s-90s with the Mohanlal-Mammootty fandom? Would it have been more about urban areas where, even if there wasn’t internet, there still would be people gathering in public places and discussing versus rural where there just wasn’t the population to create this kind of discussion and divide?

      And thank you for explaining fan clubs! I had read about the semi-organized and coordinated twitter campaigns and so on, but only in terms of big stars where the “payment” was meeting your hero and getting personal thanks. Knowing that for smaller stars the “payment” is literal payment makes a lot more sense.

      On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 1:49 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Actually I’ve read that even the “big” stars of Hindi films now have actual paid people posing as fans online. Several have been “outed”* by fans of other stars (non-paid). This seems to be born of the genius of PR companies/managers, which all the stars have now.

        (*I mean this person literally posted on Twitter, “Hey, I didn’t get my payment for that last set of tweets I posted about the film. Can anyone tell me how to get my money?”)

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      • In the 80s-90s, there were no fans. Period. Malayalis used to scoff at the hero worshipping in other languages. It was similar to your explanation of male/female fandom of America in that it was beneath your intelligence to be known as a fan of an actor or to consider films as a topic of discussion. My parents would ‘like’ Mohanlal or Mammooty, but not be a fan. The theatre going crowd was more of family-women & children and the younger/thinking men were more driven to plays , books & politics. The directors & script writers were the true heroes in that they were part of the thinking men’s club. My dad still pretends he doesn’t enjoy movies & would rather listen to news while mom misses the old ‘family’ type movies with some story. Being a fan is quite an alien concept to them. When Prithviraj started out, most of his films were hooted upon in theatres by established actors’ fans(Dileep’s apparently). So he realised the need for having someone to hoot back.And lo-the rise of fan clubs. There’s a scene in a Sathyan Anthikadu movie where a crowd is gathered in a van to be taken for hooting at the cost of 1 biriyani & 100₹. The next day they are taken to the rival actor’s movie for the same purpose. It’s a kind of side income for those struggling to meet ends.

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    • That’s fascinating – didn’t know that’s how fan clubs came to be in Kerala. But I remember watching an old Prithviraj movie in a theater – they were like 15 ppl in the audience and even then folks were hooting, I was like why??!?

      Also Dileep fan base is on a different level, don’t even want to get started about it. I think he has caused maximum damage to Malayalam movies, he controls everything from distribution to production and can arm-twist people into doing anything!

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      • Dileep may have started the star centric trend but every other actor with the exception of Fahad followed it. They saw how much power they can wield via this system-especially the big Ms. They could have easily checked Dileep’s unethical ways when he started changing the course of film making. But by choosing to look sideways & hiding behind him, they are equal part complicit in this. The actors association is the whip to control all the artists, the technicians association is the whip to control the directors & technicians & the very recent new exhibitors association to control the theatre. Dileep, until the abduction case was Mammootty’s right hand man & ofcourse Mohanlal has his erstwhile driver acting on his behalf. Mammootty also is pushing actors with zero thinking into becoming legislators, members of parliament, head of the KPCC etc. He is the hidden strategist which is probably why he can’t make good films these days. All that string pulling must be keeping him busy to give any serious thoughts to scripts & films. Mohanlal has left the politics & backroom manipulations in the capable hands of his driver to concentrate on films solely.

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    • Just pointing out that Margaret and I had a detailed conversation about this interview when it happened, that wasn’t all “defending SRK because we are fan-girls”.

      We and others also had fairly analytical conversations about the negative JHMS reviews. For example, those who said the movie slut-shames Anushka or is out of date because they aren’t having sex as they travel together–both of these criticisms were responded to in an evidence-based way–not just saying, “Oh, why are people so mean to Shah Rukh and/or Imtiaz?”

      Then in the JHMS scene by scene, we really let our fangirl flags fly, but also retained some criticism–it’s far from a perfect movie, but really gets some things right about relationships, pre-conceptions, and growing out of those pre-conceptions.

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      • It was an odd interview, because she had the right attitude of wanting to dig deep and get confrontational, but her questions were truly nonsensical and her research was laughable. For instance, I looked up the University of Louisville study because I didn’t remember reading it and it is within my research area, so I should have read it if it was at all substantive. It was a student thesis that was based on a random selection of films specifically about women’s issues, decent work, but completely inapplicable to Shahrukh’s career or even a broader statement on Indian film. It was like she had some intern spend 15 minutes getting her background and then just went with that. And asking a couple random people at a conference what they think of your interviewee and basing your questions on that? Who DOES that????

        On the other hand, Anupama certainly has the background and the analytical ability to get at the issues that are relevant to Shahrukh’s career, but chooses not to. And most western interviewers seem to choose the easy questions rather than risk making a fool of themselves by not having the correct background to ask the hard questions.

        On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 9:45 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I originally meant to comment on the tone/attitude of the interviewer only. But now that you brought up the questions asked by her, I watched the whole interview. The research may be done by an intern or by random sampling but there’s no denying of the fact that 80% of Hindi films and SRK films specifically have the women portrayed as the ‘love-interests’ only who are easily interchangeable. And why isn’t taking about pay, working conditions in Bollywood not related to SRK’s field of work? If anything I felt she kinda applied the idea of a Hollywood actor being truly passionate about a particular cause & their body of work/way of working & loving reflecting that passion in SRK’s case and found it lacking. Yes, he helps the acid survivors-but does what else and how can a champion of woman encourage a regressive portrayal of women? I think the context of this interview is what made her asks these questions which otherwise he could have sidestepped as ‘I’m an actor, why would you expect me to be a saviour for women’.

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          • If that’s the attitude he carries,then the Davos award seems a bit far fetched. The Meer foundation then seems like a nice, respectful hobby & it’s only 3 years old. Why not give it more time to grow, be more impactful before recognising it. That was the thought I had when watching the grilling. How exactly did you choose him for this honour if you had all these concerns.

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          • There honors are honorary. I don’t doubt that his heart is in the right place but then again, as an actor, he has the opportunity to shape society with his work. When that doesn’t happen, whatever he does in the real world changes little. Not that he’s changing much anyway.

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        • i was completely thrown off by her high pitched giggling. And SRK looked weirded out by that too. The tension on his face and his reluctance to look at her face was just so funny. i totally get why men don’t take women seriously when they do this. i couldn’t take that woman seriously either. Kudos to him for powering through that!

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    • Thank you! This was my point! Okay, ignore the question of whether or not the articles are accurate. Because we aren’t talking about fandom in terms of reality, in terms of actually liking an actor. Focus on the fact that there is a consistent series of articles coming out criticizing Shahrukh, providing a framework for building an identity as a non-SRK fan. If you are at that same dinner party and someone puts you on the spot and says “what actor do you really hate, are you a non-fan of?”, saying “I hate Aamir” is going make people go “what? Why?” and you will have to explain, because there is limited stuff out there providing a definition for why someone might hate Aamir. Saying “I hate SRK” will make people nod in understanding, because there is a growing definition available for what that means and what that says about you as a person.

      And, as Moimeme and others pointed out, the same is true of Salman. You can say “I hate Salman” with minimal explanation, because there is already an accepted definition of why someone might hate Salman and what that says about them as a person.

      On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 1:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s also the phenomenon (present everywhere, but more so in India, I think) where, if anything or anyone gets very popular, it’s cool to downgrade it, to prove your superior taste of intellect. So it’s cool to say “Salman can’t act”, “SRK hams”, and “Chetan Bhagat can’t write.” And of course whenever any Hindi film takes a slightly different direction, or is actually innovative in some way, hordes of people immediately show up to tell you it’s just a copy of a Hollywood/South Korean film that nobody had ever heard of. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yep, seen that. And exactly the sort of thing that fan identity is about, you seek out the really obscure thing and proclaim your fandom for it not because you like it, but because it counteracts the “everyone pretends to be better than the popular option” dialogue. Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui are the actors I think of as that kind of choice. Not that you couldn’t actually be their fan, but it seems like there is a bit of the “I am aggressively not choosing the popular option” in the mix for some people.

          On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 2:47 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Liked by 1 person

          • There’s a character in this series of sketches by AIB called “pop culture pandey” that is a bit like this. I guess in the US he’d be a hipster. AIB are also classical liberal dudes–they pat themselves on the back so hard for being progressive and feminist that they are incapable of seeing their own internalized biases. Still funny though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3DppNiAGNo. My fave bit is the generic political debate in part 3 of this.

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        • except Chetan Bhagat really can’t write! lol

          i hear you about it being cool to hate on anything that gets too mainstream. But if you read these articles, they’re less about hating what SRK is doing now (god knows that hate isn’t baseless) but more like looking at his greatest work retrospectively and finding them wanting and being disappointed. There is no great concerted effort to build a i hate SRK club. There is no denying the problems that exist in his body of work. Like I imagine Varun Dhawan doing a DDLJ reboot changing nothing and I want to vomit.

          And people are turning to these articles not because they hate SRK (nobody cares about him enough now to go out of their way to hate on him) but because they have revisited his old films that they loved as kids and teens and given how we’re moving towards a liberalisation of values, the dichotomy that exists in today’s SRK’s words and his roles from when he was the age as his viewers today is kinda unsettling. that’s where the judgement is coming from. Like I’m 32 and if I look at his roles from when he was in his 30s, I feel my eyebrow raising on its own. A 30 year old actor doing exactly the same roles today would get called out for the problematic bits. And that’s what you get when you try to act younger that you are. You get judged by young people according to the standards of morality.

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      • I guess SRK is fast getting bundled in the same category as Salman. You no longer need to explain why. That’s the problem. These articles aren’t written by zealous non fans. They’re but actual former fans who figured out why they dislike him now.

        There’s no I hate Amir sentiment right now because his recent roles and his recent public persona aren’t the same anymore. That’s the shift i’ve repeatedly said I want to see in both SRK and Salman. I want their roles to be less them and more like roles remembered as those characters.

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  15. More random thoughts:

    In Telugu films, I think the real fan club era started in the 1970’s, and it was mainly for the younger stars of that era (i.e., not for NTR/ANR, who were both already too huge to need any clubs to promote them, though obviously they had a humongous number of fans). Things got really ugly toward the end of the decade, because the “fans” weren’t just going to their favorite’s movies again and again, or doing arati in the theater or throwing flowers at the screen (all of which behaviors were seriously annoying for the regular movie goer who just wanted to relax and watch a movie), they would actually vandalize and disrupt screenings of their “rival’s” films — they would rip off posters around town, pull down hoardings advertising the movie, harass people buying tickets to the movie, and I think in a few instances, even set off something like a smoke bomb in the theater to stop the screening. By that time all the stars were speaking out, condemning that kind of behavior. I had a lot of respect for Chiranjeevi at that time because he was one of the first to say very firmly that he doesn’t approve of this kind of nonsense, and also to tell his fans that, if they want to show their affection for him, he would prefer to do so by doing something constructive for society. It was at that time that he started his blood bank (which supplied something like 80-90% of all blood transfusions in the state, and it was maintained entirely by blood donations from his fans), and later his eye bank.

    Now last year, there was a fracas in Bhimavaram (Prabhas’s hometown) where there was a clash between Prabhas fans and Pawan Kalyan fans because (I think) the Prabhas fans felt that the display banners for Pawan’s new film were deliberately covering up a huge poster of Prabhas as Bahubali that they had erected. Or vice versa. At any rate, while the two groups were struggling to pull down/keep up the banners, somebody got hit with the pole holding up the banners, and then a near riot ensued. The police had to come and break it all up, and then the police called both Prabhas and Pawan Kalyan and told them, “Hey, get your fans under control!” The next day both of them issued public statements saying that one doesn’t show admiration for one star by trying to demean/destroy the other, the stars themselves have no animosity toward each other, the film industry is one big happy family, blah blah. But also, both of them called and talked to the presidents of their state level fan associations to get the message out to the fans to cool down and not indulge in this behavior again. I was surprised, because I thought this sort of thing didn’t happen a relic of the past.

    There are many points of interest to you in the above incident, I think.

    1. Stars are held responsible for their fans’ behavior. I’ve seen this in a general way among the public, where someone says, “Oh, his fans are so unruly/rowdy/downmarket, that’s why I don’t like him” — i.e., the fans are of a type that the person doesn’t want to associate himself with.

    2. Stars are held responsible for their fans’ behavior by the authorities! That for sure is something you won’t see happening in the U.S. Or even the UK, I think. There it is mainly fandom for the various football clubs, and yes, some football teams have a negative image because of the behavior of their fans, but nobody ever calls up the team manager or captain and tells them to get their fans under control. What’s really fascinating about this for me is that the stars accept this responsibility, instead of saying, “Why should I be blamed for what some random stranger does, just because he also goes to my movies?” No, they accept that this is the flip side of the mass adoration they get from their fans (which translates into hard cash at the box office), and is all part of the territory of being a star.

    3. So here’s another advantage to belonging to one of these fan clubs. You can work your way up the clubs’ hierarchy, become president of your local club, then the District club, then the State club, and at that point you can have regular and personal contact with the star directly! It’s quite a career path! 🙂 And the fans at that level do develop actual personal relationships with their star idol. I read an interview with the president of Prabhas’s fan club in Bhimavaram who talked about how caring Prabhas was about him, that when Prabhas found out he had some major health problem, Prabhas paid for all the treatment, and still checks up on him regularly to make sure he’s doing well, etc. I’m sure other stars also do similar things.

    While on the topic of how the fandoms can be utilized by any Southern star who has political aspirations, I wonder why the same isn’t the case with the Hindi stars. The most famous example is Amitabh Bachchan himself, who was not able to parley his unprecedented fandom into a political career. In fact, I think he even had trouble getting elected, until the Congress party machinery stepped in to make sure he would get enough votes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow, this is all fascinating! Your point about stars being held responsible for their fans behavior is, indeed, really important and unusual. So it’s not just that fans are gaining an identity through their star, it’s that stars are being forced to take on a certain identity through their fans’ behavior. It goes both ways.

      I am similarly puzzled by why Hindi political careers don’t seem to go the same way. Obviously people get elected, but it seems like it is more a basic name and face recognition bump at the beginning, and then they have to actually campaign and work hard to get elected just like anyone else. Maybe because they don’t have that kind of fan club structure in place already? But then that just brings the follow up question, why don’t Hindi stars have the kind of formal fan club organization that southern ones do?

      On Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 2:25 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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      • That would be because the hindi belt covers pretty much the entire north. And each of the states under the belt has its own regional language industry. that’s why bhojpuri film stars find an easier entry into politics than a bollywood guy. The exception of course would be Shatrughan Sinha. And you can attribute this to aspirations of local politicians who like bollywood guys as star campaigners but not as people with actual power. Also, hindi stars that left for bombay almost never came back and maintained a base in their hometowns so why should people vote for them?

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    • How can the actor make a public statement disowning his fans’ activities when he needs them for ensuring openings, putting up posters, generally do all the things that fan their egos & make them feel like a hero. Even this fight would be an ego booster in that it involved real police and law& order situation.If charity activities done by fans association are portrayed as the idol’s generosity, the misdeeds are also the idol’s burden to carry. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

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      • The actors didn’t “disown” the fans’ actions. Rather they “owned” the fact that the fans behaved this way in their name, however misguided that show of loyalty might be, and so asked them not to behave this way, because there is no fight or disagreement between the stars themselves. So the public statements were a plea to their fans, not distancing themselves from the actions.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I got it..just saying that the idols won’t have the guts to condemn the fans for something they may personally find distasteful or unacceptable. Cos it’s all borne out of luuuuuuv for the idol & the fans will not listen to anyone but their idol. I know of only one actor who has said that ‘love me only for my movies & don’t watch my movies if you don’t like me’.

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  16. AARGH! Trying to type a long comment before going to bed results in garbled syntax. 😦

    “I was surprised, because I thought this sort of thing didn’t happen a relic of the past.” should read, “I was surprised, because I thought this sort of thing didn’t happen any more” or alternately, “because this sort of thing was a relic of the past.”

    Now I’m going to quit before making any more foolish remarks.

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  17. Tovino in a recent interview said he is a mammootty fan just because his brother is a mohanlal fan and that happens in most of kerala families, if one of the siblings is a mohanlal fan other will automatically turns to a mammootty fan. its true for a lot a families i know. beyond that i dont think there is any class or religious component to their fandom since both of them do all kind of films, from intellectual arthouse films to crass masala and both of them work with the same bunch of writers and directors…
    now a days online fans are becoming very
    intolerant . But i dont think its because of their love for the star. People are looking for an excuse to troll some one. online malayalees are notorious for cyber trolling. all people who trolled parvati are not necessarily mammootty fans. and they may request for an autograph or selfy if they meet her in real life. Mammoottys last film streetlight was a disater in boxoffice even after getting decent reviews. if a portion of the people who trolled parvati internet had reached theatres,it would have been a profitable film.i dont think online fans activity is reflecting in theatre box office.

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    • Thank you, fascinating! Especially your line between online fan activity and box office. That is what I was saying about Shahrukh, but the opposite. I can’t remember the last time I read a wholeheartedly admiring article about him, the internet world (not his twitter fans, but the bloggers and opinion makers) are increasingly turning away, and yet his box office has not dropped off entirely. It’s dropping, but not at the same rate as the public face of his fandom.

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  18. This is the liveliest comments section I’ve seen in your blog since the orientalisn post and the bahubali coverage. So much new information here. Just want to thank Margaret and everyone above for their time and efforts in sharing their thoughts opinions and wealth of knowledge on this topic. II feel like I’ve had to pull some brain cells out of retirement to soak up what I’ve learned from all of you today!

    Liked by 2 people

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