Private jets, Biserli baths:Anupama Chopra on the escalating A-lister’s wishlist
As moviestars look to outdo one another, demands are ballooning. Some want an entire food truck on set, even when they’re fasting. Others will only travel via Boeing, not Airbus.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that movie stars are spoiled. They are showbiz gods placed on a pedestal by the industry, media, brands and the audience, and all too often, tantrums and idiosyncratic whims become par for the course.
Ram Gopal Varma touched upon this in a hilarious scene in Rangeela (1995), in which the heroine and her mother interrupt the director’s story narration to ask for “sitafal milkshake”. Today, producers would be grateful for such an affordable ask. I chatted with executives and technicians about what current Bollywood stars want. Here are the most common demands.
* Private planes: Blame it on Instagram. Nothing proclaims one’s status like photos from inside a private plane. So actors are increasingly demanding chartered planes for domestic travel, particularly when promoting a film. One large-hearted producer even paid close to ₹2 crore to fly his superstar hero to London, on a private jet, for a shoot. A streaming platform executive said demand has risen so much that planes can be hard to find at short notice. In fact, the executive added, stars are now squabbling over the model of aircraft. “For domestic, it’s usually VistaJet and Legacy,” they said.
* Food trucks: Once upon a time, actors brought their own meals to the set. Shared home food was a way to bond. Veteran actor Rakhee Gulzar was known for cooking for the entire unit the day a film wrapped. She is said to have made 70 kg of biryani on the sets of Rudaali in 1993. Producer Ismail Merchant was legendary for using his culinary skills to seduce actors into signing films; he is said to have successfully wooed Paul Newman, Vanessa Redgrave and Helena Bonham Carter in this way.
Then home food was replaced by “A-level catering”, essentially meals from a five-star hotel or fancy restaurant. Now, it’s gone a step further. A-listers are demanding personal food trucks manned by one or two chefs who can create customised meals. Leasing these trucks can cost up to ₹1 lakh a day. The real tragedy, a harried producer told me, “is that most of the stars are doing intermittent fasting and barely eating. So the chef is making coffee or one slice of grilled salmon through the entire day. But having your own food truck is a big status symbol.”
* Star treatment for managers too: Star entourages routinely range from six to 12 people; even the assistants have assistants. Now, the manager has become a kind of star too. Not only must they be flown wherever the star is going, they must be flown business-class, and put up at the same hotel. As one producer said: “The manager then becomes the mouthpiece for all the grievances of the star, from the hotel room to the costume to the airplane seat. And they must be taken along because ‘Instagram Reel kaun banaega?’”
* Miscellany: One A-lister sometimes likes to spend the night before a shoot on location, so his vanity van is kept ready, on site, cooled by a generator, in case he shows up. Another wants showering options on set, but won’t risk swallowing unpurified water. So the tank of his vanity van is filled with Bisleri water. And my favourite: One actress reportedly specifies not just which airline she prefers but which aircraft too. She prefers Boeing to Airbus.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.