Hindi Film 101: Star’s and the Masks They Wear and How to Talk About Them

I just got in trouble again, some more, for discussing and critiquing a star persona which was seen as critiquing the person behind it.  Which made me start to think about how I define for myself the star persona versus the person behind it.

A couple years ago we had a lesson plan in my Sunday School class to have the kids build masks.  It was supposed to help them talk about their emotions and their internal lives, we discussed how sometimes you may feel sad inside but not want anyone to know it, you might need to put on a happy face instead.  The 8 and 9 year olds in the class understood this concept immediately.  But the one 6 year old little girl was confused.  Why would you ever want to hide what you are really feeling?  Her thinking was “if people know you are sad, they will help you”.

At 6, it hadn’t occurred to her yet that some people may react to knowing you are sad by taking advantage of your weakness.  Or that you may have a kind of sadness that you want to keep within yourself and not share with others.  That there is a private personal internal self which must be protected by the masks we wear.

(Masks like this)

That’s part of growing up, finding your own “mask” and making it comfortable on your face, discovering a need for something inside which is just for you, just for your most intimate friends.  And eventually building several layers of masks, the “you” with your friends, the “you” with your family, the “you” with your intimate partners, and the secret “you” deep inside that no one else knows.  None of them are “lies”, not exactly, they are just different aspects of yourself that come to the front depending on who you are with and what you are feeling.

This is also something that is part of Hindu philosophy, the many “faces” of the Gods.  According to some extreme beliefs, Hinduism is actually monotheistic.  There is one all powerful force, who is too immense to be grasped by human minds, and so different names and stories and aspects have been created to help understand it.  Even the most commonly understood versions of Hinduism accept that, for instance,  Durga, Parvati, and Sati are all the same in some way.  Christianity has the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who are all somehow separate but the same.  Classical psychology has the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. They are all different ways of getting at the same truth which we know in our hearts, that each of us contains multitudes.

(Kartik Calling Kartik was also going after this concept, with mixed results)

If you are a celebrity, there is an additional challenge.  All of your multitudes of masks need to be sharpened, polished, and magnified.  You need to create a face that can be easily replicated over and over again, that will be comfortably close to, but not quite the same as, the real you.  That has blunter features, a cleaner look, that is pleasingly simple to the eye.  But at the same time, it has to fit closely enough to the “real” you beneath that it will stay on your face without being knocked off, so that you can move easily underneath it.  For every mask a normal person has, the one for business, the one for friendship, the one for being charming at parties, there has to be created a second over-mask, that same version of yourself but for public consumption, the version of you doing those things for the cameras.

This isn’t something celebrities necessarily sit down and plot out in detail right at the start.  You sort of ease into it.  You learn what kind of answers get a good response from interviewers and/or fans and head towards those answers in every interview.  You unconsciously borrow lines and mannerisms from your characters (if you are an actor).  You borrow looks from your photo spreads (if you are a model).  But eventually you reach a level of fame where this IS something you are consciously crafting.  The same way someone going to a Halloween party builds their costume, on top of their real self.  And this is what I call the “star persona”.

(Shahrukh playing himself in this movie, using his real life roles to do it, and revealing that ultimately even “himself” in reality is a bit of an act, a combination of past roles and public appearances)

The “star persona” has many parts to it. Every time you step out your door you are contributing to it in some way, every casual line in an interview, every haircut, every clothing choice, every photo posted on instagram, every sentence on twitter.  It is a combination of real and fake, a “based on a true story” version of a person, not completely fake and not completely real either.

There are essentially 3 ways celebrities present themselves.  The first is the carefully crafted and rehearsed version.  The planned interviews, the promotional appearances, the places where they are playing a role of being themselves complete with scripts, costumes, and rehearsed gestures.  The second is the improvised version of it, the unscripted interviews and the candid photographs, working with a framework of what they want to present as established in those scripted appearances, dropping in and out of previously used rehearsed lines and mixing in whatever feels natural to the moment.  And the third is something close to the “real” person, the person as they are to their co-workers and friends when the cameras are turned off, something that can appear when they are surprised by a question they are not prepared for, or when they are simply in an emotional state that makes them unable to protect themselves, as can happen to all of us from time to time.

(Shahrukh’s speech here, playing himself but saying words written by someone else, that would be the first instance)

The greater public, the fans and the casual observers, we are their “audience”.  And we can choose how to react to this performance.  We can enjoy unquestioningly the created version of themselves, accept it as “reality”.  Or we can reject even those small moments of honesty that bleed through as an act, say that there is nothing real, that everyone is faking everything just to please us and the reality could be anything.

For myself, I choose the path of constantly trying to identify which of those moments I am seeing, and enjoying them for what they are.  The crafted moments, the planned appearances, those are a work of art.  I can admire the craftsmanship, and try to place them within a larger narrative, why this message at this particular moment?

For the semi-crafted, the improvised, I can admire the skill of it, the way the celebrity turns it into what they need it to be, the thrust and parry of the duel between the star persona and public that is trying to break through.  It’s fascinating to watch, and exciting.

And then there are the third elements, the moments of something closer to “truth”.  When the public mask drops off and the private one replaces it.  No one can ever see the real person, the “you” you are inside.  A few people can see something close to the real person, your closest friends and family.  But the “you” you are at work, at parties, that is someone who can sneak out when you don’t expect it, break through the celebrity mask and surprise you.

(This is why Koffee is so addictive, it is mostly for that duel as Karan tries to surprise them into being real and they tried to avoid it, scattered with those exciting moments when the truth breaks through)

That’s the goal of all celebrity media.  The interviewer who tries to ask the question you aren’t expecting, the game show that forces you to play silly games, even the new media that makes you limit your thoughts down to 40 (or 120) characters, or try to tell a story in cell phone photos, it’s all about tricking you into revealing the “real” person.  And that’s why we watch, because we want to feel we have found that “real” person, we have made an actual connection with this person we worship from a distance.

 

The best celebrities, the people who are beloved of their fans for years and years, they are very good at this game.  Which doesn’t mean they lie more than others, it means they have found a way to come closer to the truth than the others.  The public can spot a lie, a blatant lie, but a truth that still keeps some part of your life private, that is much harder to see.  The best celebrity narratives are the ones that are their true stories and their true lives, made just a little simpler and easier to believe, a mask worn lightly and easily over their true face.

Related image

 

So, how do you tell the difference?  Between the real, the improvised, and the scripted?  Well, no outsider can ever really know if someone is lying or not, but you can make an informed guess in two ways.  First by watching what they do instead of what they say.  And second by being aware of the narrative that they are trying to create, and therefore the moments of truth are the ones that do not fit in that narrative.

If Salman Khan talks about loving his family, that is probably real because be still lives with his family.  If he talks about wanting to get married someday, that is probably false because he is 52 years old with several serious relationships in his past and never so much as an engagement.  If he talks about being scared of marriage, afraid of making that commitment, he is probably being extremely real because it matches his behavior but does not match with his happy traditional family man persona.  A moment of truth breaking through.

 

Why does all this matter?  Besides a general fan urge to understand and know our heroes?  It matters for the same reason any powerful narrative matters.  We need to understand its power over us, the public, in order to better understand ourselves. To understand the lies we want, and the truths we want spoonfed to us, made simple.

 

Here is a simple example from Shahrukh Khan’s star persona.  The public loves his narrative of loving his wife, and always has.  He steered into that, it began as something “real” in his earliest interviews back when he was just a TV star, and then as he saw the response he kept it up, something which is true in his life, but which he also learned to simplify and play up as part of his fake face.  The moment of truth comes in an interview a few years back when he talked about how he and Gauri hardly talk any more, they are more co-parents than anything else.  So, no, they don’t have the fantasy perfect marriage, they are like any other couple with three kids and busy lives, they love each other somewhere in the background but it isn’t roses and chocolates all day every day.  And yet Shahrukh keeps that truth covered, hidden under his mask most of the time.  Because he knows how important the fantasy is to his fans, and now we know this too.  And we can understand that his audience craves not just a dream lover, but a dream husband, one who will remain forever passionately in love with them as the years go by, the fantasy of the love marriage that must be loving forever.  A sign of how few people in India actually have that marriage.  This is something worth knowing, something beyond mere celebrity gossip.

 

More exciting is when the star narrative and star persona tries to lead society instead of following it.  When they push on what the public finds acceptable and try to move it, forwards or back.  Not by changing their own truth, but by changing how that truth is presented to the world.  Choosing to talk about their religious identity, or sexual identity.  Or the unusual way they live their family life.  In order to fully appreciate what they are doing, it is first necessary to understand how they are doing it, the means they are using to create this narrative.  And then the good deeds they are trying to keep hidden will burst forth into sight.

 

What can be hard to grasp, is that you can praise a star persona, or criticize a star persona, the invented character a star is performing, the “based on a true story” but not really true version, without meaning anything about the true version.  They are two different things, one is a fictional character created by a real person in their own image, and the other is the real person.

There is a general taboo, an appropriate one, over judging someone else’s personal life.  Whether they are unfaithful in their marriage, how they parent their children, whether they choose to marry, or divorce, or remain single, their relationship with their own parents, all of it is off limits for the public domain.  But if someone creates a slightly fictional version of themselves and presents it to the public, then that can be discussed, the fictional version, without any insult given or intended to the real version.  I can appreciate that Aamir Khan presents an image of a marriage of equals, two artists with their own talents and interests, without making any statement on the actual status of his marriage, just how he is presenting it.  And I can be angry at Aishwarya Rai for presenting an image of a happy wife and mother, not because she shouldn’t be a happy wife and mother, but because it is a created image and it can have damaging effects on society to deny that she also has career ambitions.

Image result for aishwarya rai abhishek

 

A star persona, the way a public figure presents their life, is a mask.  Only a little different than the same mask I built for myself when I was a little girl and first discovered that other people won’t always want to help me when I feel sad.  But it is an important mask, one that tells us how they want to be seen, and how we (the public) want to see them.

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56 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Star’s and the Masks They Wear and How to Talk About Them

  1. Since the only fandom I am part of is the Shah Rukh one I don’t know if the fans of others including American personalities are as rabid. I frankly was shocked at the vehemence you faced. Fandom and “he can do no wrong” are not the same. As a long married person myself, I too am invested in the image of his happy marriage. However one of the things I love is that it is does seem real. He didn’t say “they don’t talk” he said they talk about the kids. Yes, when you are in the thick of raising them that’s what happens. Yes!they spend a lot of time apart and don’t hide it. You can do that when you are married to your childhood sweet heart and now you are older and independent. I was in India for three week with out my husband. Others may have been critical but he was fine. You have good spells and bad. Do we know the real them? Of course not. We don’t really know what it’s like inside our best friends marriage even if we think we do. All this by way of saying: keep up the “mask” analysis. It’s fascinating. The other thing to remember about Shah Rukh he is very often way smarter than the person interviewing him. And the thing you can’t mask or fake is how much those kids adore him. Kids will be polite but not that. Aryan may look glum but when his father climbed up on the railing at a KKR match, he put his hands up to protect him even though Ravi was there too. Do we know him? No. Is his mask similar to his true face? In many ways yes.

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    • Thank you for commenting! And I am so glad you appreciate my analysis. And understand it! This is exactly what I am saying, that high wire act of “yes, all evidence indicates that his marriage is solid and his kids love him and are loved” but on the other hand “we can’t really know what the truth is beyond that, all we can do is appreciate the story that is being told to us and the intelligence that went into crafting it”.

      I don’t think it is limited to SRK fandom, because I faced similar backlash with discussion of Priyanka, criticizing her for how she presented herself which was seen as criticizing her for who she actually was instead of just the image she presented of herself. And in the grad seminar where we first had to do this kind of analysis, discussion got pretty heated over Jennifer Aniston versus Angelina Jolie! Again, just in the effort to make the difference between “this is the image they are presenting of their lives and lets discuss it” and “lets critique the actually people”. The fan connection is a powerful thing, it can be easy to think that a discussion of a star image is a discussion of the star and the discussion of the star is a discussion of you, the fan, and a judgement on you for being a fan of them.

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  2. SRK went from saying “we talk only about kids” to now posting selfies with Gauri . Don’t think it is not-intentional. But also worth discussing is Ash-Abhishek. That family is definitely wearing a mask the minute they step out. Maybe another 101 for them?

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    • Yeah, exactly, the “we talk only about the kids” feels not-intentional because it is scarily truthful, not what people like. So the corrections of being a little more public about spending time together, that is on purpose and worth discussing. And neither of those things mean anything about what their marriage is actually like, it is just interesting in terms of how they choose to present themselves.

      The Bachchan’s are fascinating for how they wear the mask! Just the basic level of selling that Aishwarya is the “Bahu” who is part of the family and Aaradha is raised in their household and so on, while Shweta is married out of the house. But you only have to dig a little bit to see that Amitabh is maybe closer to Shweta than Abhishek and definitely closer than to Aish, and all 3 of the grandkids are in and out of the house equally. Like, I don’t even think this is a bad thing, “oh no, a man loves his daughter as much as his son!”, but the Bachchans still try so hard to sell the standard family structure even if it is not what they are living.

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    • 1. Nick is gay and Priyanka is desperate for popular press, they got a good reaction to a photograph a year ago and are running with it.

      2. They are both desperate for coverage, got a good reaction, etc. etc.

      3. Priyanka has something to hide from the press and is using Nick as a cover.

      4. Priyanka is trying to position herself as a saintly traditional girl just in time to return to the Indian market.

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      • 5. Priyanka is unhappy and insecure about her future life and Nick wants some distraction from whatever doesn’t work in his life and when they got a public reaction to an interaction they had, they…etc.

        In any way interesting that all five points don’t involve a genuine love for each other – beyond the public eye 😉

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        • I just…Nick Jonas? He’s so….Jonas-y. I can’t imagine anyone dating him for real.

          On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 1:23 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. A very interesting read. Your words accurately express what has been scattered as thoughts in the back of my mind. I love actors for their talents for conveying emotions & making me experience a new world through their eyes. But in most Indian actors’ case, the line between real & reel self becomes so blurred and everything starts to seem like a show put out for consumption. But the need for common man to tear down even the smallest and sometimes the most private folly of an actor is disturbing. The media also builds up someone to be the epitome of virtue only to tear them down for the slightest crack in that mask. So actors have to put up the facade or they will be labelled as yet another morally corrupt person from the dirty film world. There’s an inherent loathing(misguided fascination?) & suspicion for film world that makes ppl look for the worst in film actors & people associated with films. I’m glad that in case of Hindi actors, the cultivated persona doesn’t really impact the society(noone’s marriage is perfect)adversely in a big way-except maybe Salman’s. Most want to do their job & do whatever else that’s needed to aid it. If it’s presenting a slightly polished version of themselves & their families-so be it. In Kerala though, Mohanlal & Mammooty’s cultivated image of the righteous hero is at such odds with their real life actions like performing a skit mocking the new women’s organisation at a stage show. I was truly appalled at their audacity. All the masks are off & they are literally shouting out that women know nothing better than meaningless bickering & dressing up? And that it’s up to the wise men to show the woman their true place which is of course in the kitchen. And there are the million fans who lap it up as the ultimate truth.Their actions are not just about themselves but putting the whole section of a community as not worth listening to.

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    • Yes, exactly. Celebrities have a perfect right to provide a slightly polished and public view of their lives, if it is the only way to avoid being torn down, to allow themselves to keep their heads down and just do the work instead of being dragged into pointless stories over and over again. I just saw this again, there was some story about Trishala “hating” Sanju, just because she hadn’t tweeted or instagramed about it yet. None of our business how she feels about the film, but because she didn’t provide a perfect obvious boring canned response, suddenly it is a story.

      Which is completely different from what you are talking about with Mammootty and Mohanlal! That’s what feels like lying. How can you make movies that goes so far against your beliefs, if these are your true beliefs? Or, how can you present a public image that is so far against your real beliefs as shown in your films? It’s the same issue I’ve tried to express with Kamal playing these regressive relationships on film while being so progressive both in his public statements and his personal life off of film. It’s hypocrisy, not just putting on a mask to hide your private life, but being a whole different person onscreen and off.

      On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 1:06 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Mammooty and Mohanlal (and most of the Mal actors) don’t want the WCC to be effective because that would mean women would question and call them out – which they don’t want happening. The local media is extremely lenient towards them too. But I do feel they’re very misogynistic in their movies as well. Unlike say Fahad, Prithviraj or even Kunchacko Boban, the women in their movies don’t really have any agency.

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      • I’m not surprised about the Malayalam industry’s views on women but I have hope when it comes to the younger lot. More than any other industry infact…I feel like the younger stars in Malayalam have not yet proven to be too disappointing in their statements or behaviour or the people they choose to work with. As for Mohanlal I thought most of his mid 90s to late 2000s work have questionable values when it comes to women. I thought that period wasn’t a great time for Malayalam cinema overall. If I remember correctly, Suhasini Ratnam once mentioned that after getting married, not many of the stars (including M&M) were cool with working with her. It was the heroes in the Kannada industry that continued to work with her.
        I think M&M’s generation of actors have fallen into the group think of all the regressive entities within the AMMA with regards to their equation with WCC.

        Here’s a nice interview with Parvathy on the WCC:
        http://theladiesfinger.com/parvathy-interview-mammooty-kasaba-feminichi/

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  4. Well that last video by SRK was cringe. The acting was so artificial, so is this heralding a new completely-in-control SRK who will do/say exactly what people want him to? Anyhow with Alia-Ranbir and PC-Nick Jonas, I think celebrities just want to give people what they want.

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    • I don’t want Alia-Ranbir! If they are just giving me what I want, can I return it and exchange for something better? Like going back to Ranbir-Mahira? And Alia-single life and career focus?

      Glad to know I’m not the only person who cringed a little at that last video. It really felt like one of his ad campaigns, which are a little cringey, but at least he knows and we know he is being paid for them, and he knows we know. But this time, are we supposed to actually buy that as a “real” video?

      On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 2:13 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Haha , Alia’s mask would be interesting to decode. Cos here is a girl who has it all (apparently). Why are they building this version of her then?
        Also, nobody asked for PC-Nick Jonas! What an odd pairing – what was she thinking when she signed up for it??

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        • The only thing I can think of with Alia, assuming this isn’t a real relationship, and assuming it isn’t purely to promote the movie but also to promote them, is that it might help us see her as a grown up. She was launched so young, and has such a baby face, that it is a little hard for her to move into a more mature kind of position and a fake relationship with an older man could help that.

          On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 2:32 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I’m inclined to think the Ranbir Alia story is more for Ranbir’s benefit than Alia’s. Alia could be dating any of the multitude of good looking guy-young or old. But for Ranbir, who has such terrible reputation with girls, any other girlfriend will not be taken serious enough by the media or audience(we are not even taking the Alia relationship seriously). It’s seen as a relationship of two equally talented, successful ppl & such relationship stories always inspire the biggest coverage & fandom. After Bragelina, Saifeena, Pranushka , now is Ranalia?

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          • My vote is for Albir. Put Alia first, and make it easier to say.

            On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 5:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Albir maybe reserved for their first born child. Albir Kapoor. Ranalia otoh sounds like something the tabloids will use. Undignified, fake sounding. What will be Nick-PC called? Prick? Or Nip.

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          • I vote for Prick. And they clearly did not think this fake romance through by allowing such a combination of names.

            On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 8:49 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Albir sounds like an old man. What else? Alir? Ranbia?

            But, still better than PC and Nick Jonas with “Prick”!

            On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 3:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Since I work in communications I’m hyper aware of the different personas and “real” vs. “constructed” and how a constructed persona can still be real (it came up on Shah Shahid’s podcast when we discussed the timing of Sonam’s wedding coinciding with the release of Veere Di Wedding). I’m always surprised that people fight this concept so hard since we ourselves are constructing our personal identities all the time, every day, in different contexts. I think young people who grew up with the internet and social media grasp the concept on an intuitive level that eludes older people.

    If you really want to geek out on this topic, I highly recommend you read Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” by Erving Goffman. It’s an academic book written way back in the 50s but it explicitly discusses how all people, not just celebrities, are constantly constructing their identities.

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      • His kids are so beautiful! This photo is making me think less about fame perception, and more about our “What if Shahrukh is a Vampire and his whole family is a beautiful half-human group of all powerful beings?” discussion.

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    • You can really see it in the celebrities who grasp social media and leap into it versus the ones who resist. Its the same ones who are the best at giving interviews that feel real and not real at the same time. Shahrukh and Varun and Priyanka do it perfectly. But the ones who are uncomfortable in the interviews and stuff, like Hrithik or Aamir (unless he really psychs himself up for it), have a hard time selling themselves online too.

      And I will totally track down that book! I love academic books.

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      • I went and tracked down the negative comments on Twitter and all I have to say is those people scare me. I appreciate that you balance your devotion to SRK with an understanding of the industry and the star marketing machine.

        With regards to Aamir, he’s someone who obviously dislikes being in the media spotlight as “himself” (though he clearly enjoys attention, just wants it in a venue he can control) so he’s created the persona of Mr. Perfectionist, someone devoted to craft, above silly frivolities like social media promotion. So when he does do it, it tends to be weighted with solemnity and a sense that this is An Event. I think it mostly works for him because when he does have a “candid” moment it doesn’t land well, either because he’s too much of a control freak to do it well or because the public isn’t interested in the real Aamir.

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        • What I’ve noticed in his few public appearances is that Aamir comes off as kind of hyper. Which makes me think he gets himself really revved up and then goes over the top. I like it because it is super entertaining, and he is kind of cute and tiny and sweet, but I can see how it wouldn’t be something he wants to let loose that often. It would start to feel fake if he was always that high.

          He also got some backlash for his talk show, because he cried in every single episode and people stopped believing it. Or else believed it too much and wrote him off as way too sensitive.

          On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 8:45 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • That was a very cool thing to do. He also tweeted out the announcement of Rajesh Vivek’s death. I think he does it right when he feels like he should “make a statement”, there is something really important to say. But otherwise he prefers to just be quiet.

            Really, I am much more like Aamir than SRK in terms of interacting with the public! Aamir seems to have a strong sense of “if it’s not absolutely important, then way waste people’s time by saying it?”

            On Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 11:40 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • OMG dude people loved his show!!! That show basically prepared the ground for the Anna movement and the launch of AAP. That show was targeting civil society and the middle class that wants to be a part of CS. it rarely gets represented in film and TV. I think after a while it was taken off air because they couldn’t afford Amir anymore and there weren’t enough spectacular stories for the next season. You also have to account for the fact that the show’s target audience has been busy learning to do social media for the first time ever and they’ve barely gotten over the fact that WhatsApp forwards from their friends may be fake news.

            Amir is a shrewd businessman with a keen eye for what works for Indian audiences. It’s such a baniya instinct he’s got.

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  6. Those aren’t hired kids. They actually ARE Gauri and Shah Ruhk’s kids; they actually are on vacation (with the mother in law, brother in law, sister in law, first cousins and some more relatives; not exactly a press junket). Why post it now? Yes, helps the family image but more importantly it feeds the machine so they aren’t being chased all over Europe. If they hide in plain sight maybe they can actually have a vacation. As to his post with Gauri: I think he does some of that to tease her. He LIKES posting. He LIKES pretending he knows us almost (I did say almost) as much as we like pretending we know him. She probably does stop him from posting pics of them together so he got this one out there. Again, feed the maw so it doesn’t swallow you.
    The Alia Ranbir thing has me completely baffled. I hope to heaven its not real or if real VERY temporary.
    As to Nick/Priyanka: She needs the clics. Then she can have a sad break up which she will channel into her ‘art’.

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    • There’s the flipside too. If he posts a picture, they won’t chase him all over Europe. And at the same time, it’s proof that they are on a family vacation and he won’t have to chase rumors that there is some problem in the home. Which is to say, I agree with you! He releases a small carefully selected image and it gives them cover so they can go on and live their real lives. It’s much better than releasing nothing and letting everyone fill the void with rumors, or with releasing so much that it starts to fill fake, or the message he wants to sell gets blurry (everyone obsesses because there are 20 photos of him with the kids and none of him with Gauri, or vice versa).

      And yeah, they are his real kids. And personally, I think it is a much smarter way to protect them than some kind of insane hiding them away. No one is running after photos, because there they are. And they can live their lives without fear, they are going to be chased for photos no matter what, but now their parents are teaching them not to be afraid to just live their lives on camera. Or some version of their lives, building up that same mask for themselves.

      On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 7:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I don’t think SRK is as comfortable with social media as you say. He’s had many issues with it over time. He initially started using twitter and was very frequent, posted a lot of random thoughts and personal comments – silly family things like how Gauri was yelling at him for his messy closet and threatening him that silverfish would take over. In those days, he had mentioned that Gauri doesn’t let him post her pics and that even the kids don’t like it but he can bully them but can’t dare with Gauri.

        His twitter use was resulting in lots of negativity and disgusting comments and he got angry and left twitter for quite a while. When he came back, he announced that he would not talk about personal things anymore nor give out any random thoughts. He later mentioned that he barely uses any of the platforms and his team manages it most of the time.

        My guess it that both him and Gauri realized that trying to keep things private is just leaving room for people to spread rumors and gossip so they’ve changed the way they function. For example, they go on vacation every year – occasionally some pics leak out but they don’t make it to the media. But this year, they’ve made it public themselves. People are so obsessed with posts and likes now that if you don’t provide them, they automatically assume something is wrong even if there isn’t.

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        • His early twitter, I thought, was perfect. So long as he blocked out the trolls and so on, it was a great balance of revealing the little things about himself, his thoughts and cleaning the closet and stuff like you said, without necessarily going really deep. He never posted, for instance, “I am heartbroken and upset that Karan is making SOTY without me” or “I just had a major fight with Aryan because he won’t clean his room and I am worried he is growing away from me”. It was all the same kind of “mask” he had always had for the public, just more of it.

          But then it got beyond just sending a nice image of himself out into the world and turned into the world trying to tear apart the image he had created and get through the mask and hurt the “real” him.

          What makes me nervous about his last few public appearances, is that I am worried that the same barriers he has put up on social media are now going up in other areas, his interviews and videos and so on becoming less revealing and more canned and processed.

          From what little I do on social media, I never feel like it is revealing any more about a celebrity than an old school interview would, it’s just in a new format, not new information. But then the new format allows for people to attack them and it ends up being LESS access than before. Like, Shahrukh used to give way more interviews and he would say the personal stories and things in them. And then he switched to putting it all on social media. And then he left social media, and didn’t go back to the interviews, so now there is just a void.

          Same with someone like Aamir, he hardly ever posts on twitter or anywhere, but he also hardly ever gave interviews, so it’s not that big of a difference.

          Amitabh is the only one where I really feel the difference, and that is because he had that press feud for years. When he does give an interview, it feels like what he puts out on Facebook and stuff, no more or less intimate, it’s just that the interviews are so infrequent that the twitter and blog and so on feel like they are filling a gap without actually giving different content, just more of it.

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  7. One last thought on this. I saw the pics of Shah Rukh returning to Mumbai with his sister. We don’t know if the rest of the family came back or not because they go in separate cars and leave from other exits. But, I was thinking about his sister. He is VERY careful to shield her from intrusive cameras. Sometimes a photo is taken and they don’t even know it is her. When AbRam was in that school function, she was pictured walking in with a group but not named (made me laugh!) Anyway, there are probably many things that happen that are to protect her that we don’t know about. All the speculation about Gauri not arriving with him places or not going at all, may often have to do with her. She is fragile and Gauri, Shah Rukh and the kids keep a close protective eye. On occasion she comes out (those Eid pics) but not often and they go NO WHERE without her.
    Anyway, enough. Its sad that we lost him to the trolls, but you can’t really blame him for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, and Shahrukh’s relationship with his sister would be the kind of thing that is so private and personal that you must always keep a mask in front of it, even in front of your closest friends. Which is fine, it is none of our business. But it is a reminder that we can not (and should not) ever know the true face of a celebrity, because they are also a person, and every person has those hidden things that they don’t want to show the rest of the world. No matter how open and personal it feels, it isn’t really personal, there is a bit of yourself that must be held back to remain sane.

      From my far different level of public life, I can tell you there are all kinds of things I don’t mention in the blog, no matter how many cute dog stories I put up or personal comments I throw into posts. Which I am sure you all know, because everyone has those things, it’s how you remain sane in the world, keeping some parts of yourself private. The trick of a public persona is making us forget for just a little bit and think we know the “real” person, have an actual connection with them.

      On Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 12:46 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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  8. Nothing about SRK that is known publicly is “real”. He got too big when he was too young. He got too big at an age when superstars are supposed to start fading out. He started to fade out at an age when former superstars accept their former superstar status and accept their lifetime achievement awards with dignity.

    The last genuinely amazing truly SRK film was OSO and that was nearly a decade ago. I look at his career and his public persona and this image that he’s tried to create and I’m compelled to compare it to Anil Kapoor.

    He too is sort of trapped in that stylish 90s My Name is Lakhan persona but so is every uncle in India who hasn’t changed his hair since 1995. BUT Anil never comes off as desperate. Not as desperate as SRK. And yes, that nagging feeling we all have when we think about SRK and his “real” self, that’s his despair showing through the publicity material he’s used. That’s his mask that’s making us wary. And we can’t know know the real SRK. because he hasn’t figured out who he is himself. Remember Zoolander having an identity crisis? That’s where SRK is at.

    As for the abusive fans and trolls on Twitter, well, they’re the great unwashed masses and the previously unheard population that have just gotten a voice and they’re not really caught up with internet etiquette just yet. Much like what regular middle class people were doing from behind fake profiles back when regular internet was anonymous.

    I’m actually surprised that you’re surprised that Indians are rude, conservative and narrow minded. What on earth made you believe the majority here is liberal?

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    • Oh, I’m not getting trolled by Indians! They only show up when I do something horrible like criticize Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Or the sensitive educated young men whenever I criticize Ranbir. No, critiques of Shahrukh get anger from educated white ladies.

      And mostly I love educated white ladies! But they are the majority of the people reading Shahrukh news on sites like mine, so statistically it is likely that a subset of them will be the ones that get angry. They are the opposite to your thinking that everything is fake, that everything is real and nothing is fake. Where as I go in the middle, some things are real and some things are fake and it is up to you to use your own common sense and judgement to choose between the two.

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