Wednesday, June 23, 2021
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The ‘charm’ factor of film folks

Several rude people exist in our country. Right from ‘andha hai kya?’ to someone who bumps into you to the trolls, the politicians issuing threats and their raised fingers (reminds you of cane wielding, frustrated school teachers in some village paathshaala), the discourteous auto rickshaw drivers, cabbies, cops, the pushy crowds in the trains, buses and even in the aircraft (as if the plane would fly away, leaving them behind holding their boarding passes!) and rudely overtaking, lane cutting drivers who fly off the handle at the slightest provocation… you’re interacting with a frustrated lot.

While this kind of aggressiveness is a way of life with the lower middle class, it has become a habit with the regular Indians too. The queue outside the banks and the arguments between the pro-demonetisation crowds and the anti-demonetisation crowds on the social networking websites have added a new dimension to it. The exception is the charming people in the film industry. Film folks. I notice it when I go to Starbucks for  having my Cappuccino. Everyone is polite to a fault. If someone wants to sit on a chair next to you, he politely asks you whether someone is already sitting there. “May I….?” with a charming smile is constant refrain.

Everyone is polite with the staff. No ‘shh’, ‘ae’ and snapping of the fingers at the waiters and no rude stuff. Not that everyone belongs to Bollywood but their polite presence ensures that even others remain as nice. I am talking about the not so famous faces and even the faceless strugglers. May be they want to leave a good impression. After all, wasn’t it in a toilet that Pahlaj Nihalani spotted Chunky Pandey ‘politely’ asking the boy for two napkins?
Anything can happen!
Anything can happen on a coffee!
But there is more to it. The actors are seducers. They learn to seduce the camera with their warmth, smile and an eye connection. They make it a habit to win over the people with their charm. Wasn’t it Rajesh Khanna’s phenomenal charm, which he could switch on easily anytime at his will, that he defeated Shatrughan Sinha and almost defeated a veteran like L K Advani? Khanna’s charm was the stuff of legends. He was known to become violent and even used to thrash his secretary under the influence of alcohol but would call his ‘victims’ the next day and use his charm and some lavish gifts to win them over.
Why, even Raj Babbar went and touched the feet of Atal Behari Vajpayee before contesting the elections opposite him. He may have lost the elections but won the heart of Vajpayee with his charm.

My first experience of seeing the charm of a star at work was with Sharmila Tagore. She wouldn’t even know about this little incident and I have never interacted with her after that. I think she was shooting in St Dominic Savio High School.  She was moving along with a stretcher on a trolley for a shot. I was in the way and the wheel went over my shoe. I didn’t sustain serious injuries. But the charming concern Ms Tagore showed in those brief minutes lasted with me for a long time.

She didn’t know me though she could have guessed that I was a journalist. But there was no attempt to befriend me or even to get acquainted. It is this charm that works for the stars. You can see their efforts to win the audience, the media, the fans every time the film folks are in public.

It was this charm factor that worked when Amitabh Bachchan was facing the biggest crisis of his life – Bofors scandal. He got the entire media to become a platform to project his version. All he needed to do was to switch on his charm and ask the ‘friends in the media’ to carry his version. Today, with almost every newspaper carrying paid articles, this exercise would have costed him more than the publicity budget of a big film with A grade stars but Amitabh simply used his charm and charisma.

The stars know the value of charm. Shah Rukh Khan may have been a little sore with his fans for the tepid response to his film ‘Fan’, may even had momentarily ditched them on his birthday which he celebrated at Ali Baug but he didn’t have the heart to disappoint the thousands who gathered outside his residence ‘Mannat’. He came, waved and won them with his charm.

Sanjay Dutt has always been in trouble but his friends and admirers have always stood by him. The reason, again, is his charm. Sanju Baba is everyone’s friend. He may share a cigarette with one, a drink with another and warmly hug the third one but goes on winning more and more friends and fans. No wonder Raju Hirani is making a bio-pic on Sanju’s life.
Jackie Shroff may have a packet of Benson & Hedges in his leather jacket but he’d still ask a security guy or spot boy for a bidi. He doesn’t let you forget that he hailed from a middle class background and was not very ambitious. Lighting a bidi along with the spot boys creates a bond. They love their Jaggu Dada. This is why Jackie has friends everywhere and that’s why he has survived in the industry. It is this charm that, along with personality and presence, becomes charisma and makes the stars out of ordinary actors.


My latest poem

Day = Life

What is life cycle but a scaled up version of a day,
The morning representing the birth of a day,
The beginning,
The preparation,
The heavy breakfast to energise you to meet the demands of the day,
The excitement of a new day,
It’s challenges,
It’s novelties,
The hesitation before plunging into the water,
The flexing of the muscles at the noon,
And the war of the youth,
Collecting the spoils of the war,
Assessing one’s strength,
Winning over the friends and allies,
Looking warily at the line up in the opposite camp,
To recognise the faces and abilities of the enemies,
And the war,
The victory or the wait for another day,
Another chance to settle the score,
And the end of the day comes with regrets,
Regrets of things undone,
Of failures,
And great memories of successes,
Of things done with aplomb,
Of victories,
Pleasure and times to retire,
To welcome the darkness,
The scary clouds,
The heavy downpour,
The leap into the unknown world of sleep,
To re-energise oneself,
To get up afresh,
On the new day.
The new day could have been a new birth,
The sleep,
Death and
The waking up,
A start of a new life.
What if we were unsure of waking up in the morning?

(Mohan Deep is an eminent novelist and Bollywood biographer, based in Mumbai.)

Mohan Deep
Mohan Deep is an eminent novelist and Bollywood biographer, based in Mumbai.

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