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January 30, 2002
In a recent interview, Salim Khan, father of Salman Khan, defended his son's alleged violence against actress Aishwarya Rai -- widely reported in the press -- and accused journalists of hounding his innocent son.
Excessive media coverage of this episode, the arrest of Fardeen Khan on charges of drug possession, the fracas involving Abhishek Bachchan and Delhi photographers, Sanjay Dutt's many misdemeanours, the infamous black buck case, Puru Raaj Kumar's drunken driving -- all bring to light the uneasy relationship between the press and the new breed of bratty stars.
Earlier, the star-media relationship was cordial, if not overly friendly, but during the last few years, even the mainstream media's overdependence on films has ensured the scales tilting towards the stars. It is not just coincidence that most of the stars who keep getting into scraps with the media and the law are star kids.
Their parents' talent may or may not rub off on them but the haughtiness certainly seems to. No matter what they do, daddy/mummy are there to rescue them.
As industry kids like Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav, Aamir Khan, a few years later, Salman Khan, Bobby Deol, Ajay Devgan, Karisma Kapoor, Kajol, Raveena Tandon, Twinkle Khanna and now Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Fardeen Khan, Kareena Kapoor -- poured into the film industry, the media profile was also changing.
Films were being covered in great detail in news magazines, daily newspapers, television and the net. Stars were in demand like never before. And with increased demand emerged the worst of star nakhras.
There have been spats between stars and the press in the past -- Anupam Kher leading a ban on film magazines and several instances of stars taking magazines to court for defamation. But by and large, it has been a 'mutual need' kind of situation.
However, stars now decide when they will talk to the media and about what. Usually, there is a spate of interviews when a film is due for release, when a star is in some kind of trouble or simply passing through a low phase.
Some of them are conceited enough to demand covers and are often obliged by publications who need them for events or other 'return' favours. Today, a star -- especially a star kid with his father's backing-- can kill a story that is embarrassing for him/her, summon a friendly scribe and dictate a story full of lies and get it into print/TV/net.
They can deny in one publication a story reported in another -- even if it is true. They can misbehave with one set of journalists and get another set to support them. Competition between publications, TV channels and internet portals is so intense, that they willingly become part of star machinations.
A star bans and welcomes the media at his/her whims and no one seems to have the nerve to say, "We can do without you, thank you very much." The star snaps his/her fingers and the media jumps. Fake publicity stunts are merrily be planted in the papers and really scandalous stories toned down.
It has come to a point where comments on a film's quality or star's performance (or lack of it) can be manipulated, trade figures fudged and a dud declared a runaway hit. They might succeed in boosting their already inflated egos, and fool the masses, but everyone in the inner circle knows the truth.
Salman Khan might, as people vow, be rude and arrogant. But at least he sticks to his stand. He does not cultivate the media when he needs them. If they think the worst of him he gives a damn. (That's why his father's defence of him came as a surprise.)
Aamir Khan makes it clear he will talk only when a film is due and the media accepts him on his terms. Rekha speaks to a select few. Ajay Devgan says he is uncomfortable giving interviews and talks only as much as he needs to. Sunny Deol refuses to talk about his personal life.
The hypocrites are the ones who have PR people for image-building exercises, supplying fresh pictures and gossipy tidbits, then pretend the media doesn't matter.
Brats will come and go but if ever there were a vote conducted among mediapersons for the most gracious star, Dev Anand would win hands down. He personally answers telephone calls, sportingly accepts both criticism and parody, is unfailingly courteous and charming.
The first runner-up would be Amitabh Bachchan, whose staff is efficient about returning calls and answering queries and he sends delightfully self-mocking letters to those who write about him. These two have lasted with star auras intact for so many decades because of their talent and goodwill in equal measure.
The brats are experiencing increasingly short careerspans.
Perhaps here's when I should recall that old, oft-repeated showbiz saying: Be nice to people on your way up because you have to meet them on your way down.
E-mail Deepa Gahlot
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