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Amitabh Bachchan is seen on television and print advertisements endorsing a new car or a soft drink brand.
Hrithik Roshan is raking it in with commercials, same goes for Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Sunil Shetty.
Govinda is selling pan masala, soap and underwear, which looks rather infra dig.
Now, reportedly, even Sunny Deol - who had been resisting all this while - will be endorsing a brand of vests.
Obviously, the money was too much to refuse.
We condemn cricketers for modelling and attending functions all the time - when do they play? The same rule is applicable for our film stars too.
They are busy modelling, endorsing brands, doing TV promos, dancing on stage or at rich brats' weddings, attending functions where their presence is required (and often paid for), when do they have the time to do their real work?
Today stars are more accessible than ever. They have practically entered people's living rooms via television. Even daily newspapers devote a lot of space to them, the level of exposure is alarmingly high. They make huge amounts of money, reach dizzying heights of fame, but isn't this all in some way strangely counterproductive?
It is easy to get nostalgic like a yesteryear's star and say, "Hamare zamane mein it was not like this; we were never seen in public in casual clothes or without make-up; we never went too close to the public". But didn't that aura of mystery somehow add to a star's allure and longevity?
Doesn't the term 'star' describe a popular film actor automatically signifying someone who is high up above the commonplace - one who can't be seen, touched, reached easily?
If some of those supernovas, instead of commanding their fan's admiration and awe, kneel down and exhort them to buy softdrinks, noodles, soaps, pens, cigarettes, tea, booze, mosquito coils, underwear and paan masala, aren't they afraid of losing their glitter?
Forget Hollywood where no top star needs to stoop to sell ordinary products to the public or dance on stage (though some of them do ads in Japan hoping nobody at home will see them), some of our own older stars would be neck deep in debt, but they'd never ever do an ad film or demand money to do a charity show. Pride and dignity were key words in their vocabulary.
The fact that they were so distant, almost divine and glamorous ensured that their careers lasted for a good many years, because fans never got tired of seeing them.
Instead they waited anxiously for a Dilip Kumar or Dev Anand film, as they came out so infrequently.
People may idolise today's stars, and the media may puff them up, but who waits with bated breath for any of their films? Switch on the TV and there they are! Talking, dancing, twirling about.
Perhaps there are two ways of looking at it. The march of time and technology cannot be halted, so it was inevitable that cinema would one day be available at the click of a remote control or mouse.
Any star who did not participate in new technological developments missed out on a major promotional opportunity. Let's face it, today nothing can be done without promotion.
But by this participation, they automatically reduced the enigmatic star aura lessening a career span at the very top from, say, twenty to six years. (In the case of Hrithik Roshan his iconic stardom is already considerably diminished if a film starring him can't even last three 'housefull' days in the movie halls.)
So, it became necessary for the stars to take advantage of that shorter reign at the top and, to use the cliché, 'make hay while the sun shines'.
If advertisers think that endorsement of a product by a major star would help sales, they willingly offer unheard amounts of money, that cannot be turned down. According to reports Hrithik Roshan got seven and a half crores for the Coke commercial, it would be foolish to decline.
If Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Govinda also get paid in crores for commercials, why should any of them refuse? They are being offered that much because their name sells.
Who would run after a flop or fading star with suitcases full of banknotes? However, an Anil Kapoor who never did ad films, has lasted longer than any of his contemporaries.
There is still a mystery about Rekha, which Hema Malini and Sridevi lost when they endorsed mundane products like detergent, tea and mosquito mats. A screen 'goddess' selling masalas, mixies, washing machines, refrigerators and detergent is undeniably shoddy.
Although it cannot be denied that this is the best time to be a celebrity. Stars-second and third rung ones too -- are needed to generate interest in print publications, TV shows, websites, charity events and even weddings.
The Indian public -- especially NRIs -- is crazy about stars. There is huge demand for them all over the place. Whether the demand is because the media has fuelled it, or the media chases stars because there is a demand for them, is a debatable issue. But the short-term benefit in terms of money, exposure and popularity goes to the stars.
Mind you, the same star-crazy public is also fickle. Every time there is a new star on the horizon, loyalties tend to shift en masse, leaving yesterday's superstar baffled and insecure. To get back the fan's love and adulation, he gets into desperate overdrive, which often backfires.
It happened to Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, though, over-publicising their films didn't help either to succeed at the box office.
The public is not that dumb. They are able to separate their craze for a star from the issue of spending money on a ticket to a movie starring one.
In these hype driven times, there is also a problem of out of sight being out of mind.
If a star does not have an in-your-face presence all the time, he or she is likely to be forgotten. Two of our biggest stars Dharmendra and Rajesh Khanna, and a fine actor like Rishi Kapoor are cases in point. If you don't stand at the street corner and tom-tom your achievements, nobody else will do it for you.
There is a fine line between feeding fans choice tidbits about your life, and living your whole life in the public eye.
Stars talk of privacy, but run to the press to spill out their intimate secrets. If everybody who buys newspaper or glossy magazine gets access to a star's bedroom, the star becomes ordinary -- like you and me -- with ordinary loves, hopes and fears. But then discretion is not a big word in anybody's vocabulary any more.
Overexposure is never good for any star's career, but underexposure is equally dicey. However, it is tough to gauge when the public's curiosity turns to boredom. Somehow, only Aamir Khan has got the balance right -- maybe he has a career waiting for him as a hype counsellor.
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