Last week, all roads leading to Bandstand, Bandra (W), were clogged with thousands of Salman Khan fans who had gathered outside his home, as a verdict was delivered in the 2002 hit-and-run case. One of the fans, Gourango Kundu, even tried to commit suicide by consuming poison outside the session’s court. On Friday (May 8), when the Bombay high court suspended Salman’s jail sentence, there was mass hysteria outside the actor’s home as his fans rejoiced, danced and burst crackers for hours.
Earlier this year, when singer Zayn Malik of the pop group, One Direction, announced his exit from the band, fans all over the world took to the Internet to express their disappointment. A form of an obsessive-addictive disorder, Celebrity Worship Syndrome, exists among fans across sports, cinema and music personalities.
A research conducted by the British Journal of Psychology studied the behaviour of 600 people, and found that about a third of these suffered from the aforementioned condition. Riddhish K Maru, psychiatrist and relationship counsellor, says, "People have always been fascinated by the lives of famous people. The increase in the number of entertainment outlets and rise in the use of the internet may explain the rise in hero-worship in India."
Once, after returning home from a shoot post midnight, I was surprised to see three boys waiting for me in my building.
They had entered the compound by fooling the building security.I briefly spoke to them and asked them to go home as it was too late.
Going the distance
Sadik Sheikh (name changed), 24, is a die-hard Salman fan. He was among the hundreds who had gathered outside Salman’s home during the recent court proceedings. "For me, Bhai (as Salman is fondly called) is everything. I don’t know what would have happened to me if he was sent to jail," says Sheikh.
Fans outside Salman Khan’s home during the recent court proceedings.
Tauseef Khan, 21, a die-hard fan of Shah Rukh Khan, has been following the actor since his school days. He used to bunk classes to watch the actor’s movies. Recently, when a movie featuring SRK was being shot outside Mannat (the actor’s house in Bandra West), Khan was present for all the days of the shoot. "Every year, on Shah Rukh’s birthday (November 2), I take my friends out to the best eateries I can afford. I save money for this day throughout the year. He is the most important person in my life," says Khan.
Shah Rukh Khan waves to a sea of fans outside his Bandra residence.
While shooting in Patiala, Punjab, a group of young boys would chase my car from the location to the hotel and back, for days, even at odd hours. They even blocked my car a couple of times.
Usually, I love interacting with my fans as they have lovely and encouraging things to say to me. But this time around, their approach made me a little uncomfortable.
Fan and idol bonding
Gone are the days when fans would struggle to acquire their hero's address to send him a handwritten letter. Today, social media has brought the stars closer to their fans like never before. Almost every actor has an account on social networking sites these days, and sending your message to them is just a click away. Also, thanks to several promotional activities, fans can now easily catch a glimpse of their favourite actors. Stars often head to cinema halls post the release of their films to meet their admirers.
Because of the internet and several media events, the relationship between a fan and his idol has indeed come a long way.
Amitabh Bachchan interacts with his fans through Twitter and his blog. He also appears outside his house every Sunday to greet fans.
Amitabh Bachchan waves to his fans.
Actors such as Ayushmann Khurrana, Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor recently chatted live with their fans on Twitter. Kangana Ranaut bonds with her fans on her website. And these are just a few examples.
I was flattered by a fan who would make my sketches and post them on Instagram. I was so touched and happy with this gesture that I got in touch with her.
Later, she mailed me one of the sketches. In fact, I found a friend in this fan. I guess, we all strive for this kind of love.
Maru says that the bond between a loyal fan and his idol is long-lasting. "Despite having no personal contact with celebrities, fans build a connect with them through media exposure. Such relationships are called parasocial, and the bond that fans share with their idol through such relationships is like the one they experience in real life with their family members," says the psychiatrist.
One such example is that of Sheikh, who has gone to the extent of skipping family functions, in the hope of catching a glimpse of Salman. "I once missed my cousin’s wedding so that I could wait outside an event that was being attended by Bhai. My parents came to know where I was, and warned me to change my behaviour," says Sheikh.
Celebrity love or psychoticism?
Riddhish K Maru psychiatrist and relationship counsellor: Celebrity worshipers are people with an extraverted persona. Their behaviour involves reading about and keeping tabs on a celebrity all the time. This type of idol worship may involve empathising with a celebrity's failures. But some fans go to extreme levels, and this affects them emotionally as well as mentally. Such celebrity worship shows traits of psychoticism, and may often lead to them stalking their idols, or on a more aggressive level, even making attempts to harm them. Such die-hard fans can be treated with medication and counselling.
On one of my visits to Bangkok, Thailand, a woman kept visiting my hotel with vague excuses to click pictures with me. I obliged twice. But eventually, she started lying to the receptionists, and told them that she was related to me.
On one hand, it’s very reassuring to see that I have such crazy fans, but beyond a point, you have to stop obliging fans.