Fanning the frenzy: What drives fans of Bollywood film stars?
Where there is a star, there is a fan. Diehard fans can go to extremes - from obsessive loving to threatening an icon. Bollywood film folk and mental health experts offer answers
Shah Rukh Khan's upcoming film, 'Fan', revolves around a die-hard fan of the star who displays his dangerous obsession for him. There are multitudes of such fans of cinematic idols who resort to extreme measures to display their love for their them.
Shah Rukh Khan
Letters in blood
Yesteryear legends like Rajesh Khanna and Dev Anand had female fans write letters in their own blood to profess their undying love for them. In today's era of social media, letters written in blood may have stopped, but now fans profess their love for their stars by posting messages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Rajesh Khanna, who was fondly called Kaka, had filmmakers also as his fans. They would often say, "Upar aaka, neeche Kaka." It is said that when Rajesh Khanna was operated for piles, several producers, like fans, had camped outside his hospital room waiting for a chance to narrate their story to them and hoping that Kaka would show interest.
Dev Anand was told to not wear a white shirt and black coat, as female fans would go berserk seeing him. The evergreen star had been told that as girls screamed for his attention, it could prove to be hazardous to onlookers.
Amitabh Bachchan, during the shoot of one of his films in the 1980s, to his astonishment, had a female fan enter his hotel room. She not only managed to enter the room, but also refused to budge from there. It took the Big B some two hours to pacify her, but the youngster refused to go. She had to be literally removed from the room's doorway to enable the Big B to make an exit.
Hrithik Roshan got a taste of a huge fan following after his debut film, 'Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai' (2000). Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan have managed to sustain their fan following since decades.
Psychiatrists feel that fans are blindly in love with the stars because they weave their own world of fantasy around what they see the stars do on the silver screen. Their larger-than-life screen persona carries the fans away. Also, those fans who don't have any experience of seeing stars, tend to go overboard in their affections for them.
Explains Vichitra Darjan Anand, a New Delhi-based psychiatrist, "Such fans are referred to as protective fans. They are concerned about their idols including their market value and their ups and downs. We cannot refer to them as strange people, as everyone is a fan of someone. In India, sports personalities and film stars are considered gods. While in the US, they go crazy for rock stars."
What drives the fans
So what determines a fan's psyche? A fan feels an emotional connect with his idol. There is also that feeling that he is a demi-god. According to American writer, Wayne Dyer, fans make film stars demigods as they consider them flawless who do no wrong. Also, the PR machinery around them, keep this persona intact. Often, the younger audience strikes a chord with them as a star can do things they are unable to do in real life. They emulate them. Several stars, on their part, make it a point to not smoke in public in a bid that fans do not blindly ape them.
The long journey
Psychologists also feel the real-life struggle of the actors and how they made their way to the top makes the fans love them even in a bigger way. For example, South icon Rajinikant was a bus conductor, SRK began as a TV actor, Deepika Padukone was a ramp model and Priyanka Chopra made her mark without a godfather. A constant replay of their days of struggle and how they survived only enhances the love the fans have for the star.
South stars are treated like gods and temples are built in their honour. Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra explains this phenomenon. "In the South, there is a lack of cosmopolitan culture instead a homogenous culture prevails, unlike the north. Due to this, the fans worship the stars. Also, stars are into politics and other endeavours like social work, so they are considered messiahs. Art is considered a divine calling and the fans accordingly give respect."
One more reason for fan frenzy is escapism. The hero takes them away from their mundane, daily existence. Most stars, however, do not want their relations with their fans to that being of a God and his worshippers. Alia Bhatt says, "Fans should not make us demi gods, but instead shower us with love and admiration." Shah Rukh Khan says, "Who are we to tell fans what to do and what not to do? Fans have a right to express their love for their idols. I consider them as my admirers. This is ishq, pyaar and mohabbat. They become Raj and Rahul in love. We cannot stop them."
Katrina Kaif adds, "I am in this position due to the love of my fans. But as we respect their outpouring of love for us, they too should respect our private life."
At times, stars fall prey to mob fury. There are occasions, when instead of respecting the star, they turn violent in a bid to get close to them. This is when they cease to be fans, but become obsessive, leading to untoward incidents. They then become threatening and often a hindrance to the star.