Popular and looking for love: The perils of being a 'famous' dater
Well-known, recognisable faces with decent social media clout, are now wooing dating apps. Does their celebritydom help them, or make it harder to find love?
In 2016, when actor Ranbir Kapoor mentioned in an interview that while in London, he was on a UK app that resembled Tinder, this writer resented the fact that she was married and could never be lucky enough to get RK's face to swipe left or right. But, had he been on Tinder, who'd have believed that it was really him? Much like the experience American actor Zac Efron had, when he went on Tinder: "Nobody swiped me! They thought it [my profile] was fake."
Unlike America, where famous, well-known people usually log on to celebrity dating app Raya (which has clients like Demi Lovato, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and Drew Barrymore), Indian celebrities still like to fraternise in their own set, away from prying eyes. But slowly, dating apps are seeing an influx of recognisable influencers, who are out and about looking for love, and want to diversify their dating pool. Ranbir Kapoor may not log on to the Indian Tinder, but stand-up artistes like Rohan Joshi, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Kunal Kamra and Ashish Shakya have been spotted by keen eyes. Many more, who are Google search worthy, are now on apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble, trying to have "real" conversations with "real" people.
Theatre actor Shivani Tanksale, who has had unpleasant online dating experiences, says she prefers meeting people over long-drawn texting on apps
"Though, when they recognise you, the conversation stops being 'real'," says theatre actor, emcee and RJ Rohini Ramanathan. The 35-year-old, who had a small role with a big line in the movie Gully Boy, has been on all the apps for a couple of weeks now. The Juhu resident, who was married once, says that she thinks the apps are a way people meet people now, and so it's natural to be on them. But the general public seems to find that amusing. "Once, this guy told me 'RJ ke bahut bure din aa gaye', and some friends told me that their friends have spotted me on the apps, and are very tickled about it. Why is that though?," she asks. "I think it's because we build this larger-than-life fun image of ourselves on social media, and people think we don't need love. But it's only about dating. That doesn't mean I am getting married to someone. It's just about meeting people."
Tech writer Ankit Vengurlekar feels that decently well-known faces on dating apps could either impress people or spook them
Many well-known faces also have to live with the fact that most people who have seen them on social media or TV, think they already know who they are. Actor and Band of Boys member Karan Oberoi, who is 39 and trying to meet different kinds of people on dating apps, says that most people who he talks to, have already decided what kind of person he is. "They can't believe you are down to earth!" Some react with, "What the hell are you doing here?" Oberoi, who says he is on the apps to meet diverse people that he won't otherwise meet in his circle, also says he isn't there for casual hook-ups. "For me, as a writer, it's about anthropology. I have met bored housewives, people who just want to hook-up [I thought it was fishing terminology] and some who are in open relationships. It's all kinds of beautiful colours."
Le15 head chef Pablo Naranjo Agular says his curiosity to meet new people got him to sign up on dating apps
He has had his share of stalkers who call him in the dead of night through Facebook caller, and have just not been able to take rejection. "They call me gay, if I say I am not interested in them. But it's true. I am there because I am asocial otherwise and want to step out of the confines of the film industry."
Tech writer Ankit Vengurlekar aka Gadgetwala, who used to host a tech show on TV for nine years and has often been accosted in bars by women who want advice on what phone to buy and more, feels that being decently well-known could either impress people or spook them.
"If they don't know you and Google you and see that you have 35,000 followers on Twitter, and 50,000 on YouTube, then they are like 'who are you?' Then they see your Instagram feed, and decide you are that. But you aren't. That's all curated, right? They shouldn't take it as the be all, and end all of the person they are talking to. They should meet, and get to know me better," says the 36-year-old.
Much like Le15 Patisserie head chef and Mumbai's sweetheart Pablo Naranjo Agular, who has been on the apps for three years, and says he always likes to meet people who seem honest "because you can't tell from texting" and understand his weird sense of humour. He has also got a mixed bag of reactions. "Most people don't know who I am, some think I'm a fake profile, while others swipe because they've recognised me or seen me at the café. I don't think there are a lot of differences in my experience from three years back when I got here and no one knew about me. Now, maybe it works as an ice breaker when a girl feels like texting before I do!" He does admit he is bad at replying to messages as he is busy, but that doesn't mean he is not interested.
For a world that's vastly different from the one we lived in a decade ago, where you either met probable dates through your friends, or people asked you out in a bar (at least in Mumbai), the apps could be the only platform left to meet new people, and start over again.
Theatre actor Shivani Tanksale, who was once married to actor Sumeet Vyas, used Tinder for a while. "I didn't think most people knew who I am, and that's humbling..." she laughs, downplaying her recognisable face. "I never indulged in too much chat on the app. I preferred to meet people and once I did, it quickly become clear that this is not going to go anywhere. There was a guy who came to watch my play, on a complimentary ticket, but did not come to meet me backstage. He just messaged saying he liked the show. He wanted to chat endlessly, and also sent me a picture of his privates. So needless to say, he was blocked."
It would seem then that the dating apps have managed to blur the lines between ordinary dating folk and influencer/celebrity daters. In the end we all just want to find love and companionship. As Vengurlekar puts it succinctly, "one needs to have honesty of purpose". "If you want to be a dishonest f*** boy, you won't want to be here, as people will eventually find out. But I am here for a genuine reason. And that's why all is good."
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