Celebrity Bloggers

This one was so much fun to write but it was hilarious to read it in Hindi.

YOU DON’T have to browse long to find a small graveyard of Indian celebrity blogs. From Rahul Bose to Nandita Das, most of these writers seem to have given up after a few entries and their tight-lipped posts disappoint even as electronic curios from the past. But the handful who have continued to blog after their publicists’ early enthusiasm waned, are definitely worth the time of even a jaded blog reader. Blogs are cults of personality, read for the tastes, idiosyncrasies, lifestyle and preoccupations of the blogger. Frequent blog readers will tell you their routine goes this way. First they read the blogs of people they know and like, then the blogs of people they know and dislike and finally the blogs of complete strangers. 

Blogs and celebrities seem natural companions. Bipasha Basu’s blog, for instance, is slick and reaches for global cachet by mentioning her encounters with bold face names such as Ben Kingsley and Sienna Miller. Though she posts items about dieting and John Abraham, they read too much like the smooth nuggets of Bollywood gossip we read in the papers and online everyday. Bipasha Basu has not posted on her blog for some months and few will miss her online presence. (A qualifier. Though in India “celebrity” is generally a metonym for Bollywood, several Indian writers, an occasional politician and a few models have blogs too. The thriving blogs of authors such as Manjula Padmanabhan, Samit Basu and Amitava Kumar reflect their palpable fascination with the Internet. These writers also have websites and profiles on social networking sites but, of course, literary groupies are outnumbered by the great spectrum of people who follow the lives and times of Bollywood stars.)

AAMIR KHAN’S blog might have been set up to publicise the Lagaan DVD but it quickly became the strangely intimate space a successful celebrity blog can be. He posts frequently, discusses his vaunted acting technique and offers insider information about the films he’s involved in. His tone is friendly and warm, and he maintains a steady patter with dozens of individual readers. A sample. “Thanks Sushil, glad to learn that your younger brother recovered. Yes, I remember the time I spent at Leelavati Hosp. My manager Ashish was in the ICU for over 2 months. Thankfully he recovered and is doing well now. Wish you had come up to me then, would have been happy to meet with your brother. Please say hi to him.”

On July 26 he wrote, “Who was it that recommended City of Djinns? I seem to remember one of the posts had a mention of this book by William Dalrymple. I think maybe it was Mira. Anyway, just finished reading it, and it is such a great read! Absolutely smashing!!! ... Strongly recommend it to all lovers of books, and lovers of history.” Sales of the book shot up across the country. On October 8 Aamir Khan announced that he would be shifting from his makeshift Lagaan blog to a full-fledged one on aamirkhan.com. A big commitment for someone who has been blogging a mere four months. Aamir Khan, technophobe or not (In the June 24 post he asked, “What is this orkut.com?”) has really taken to blogging.

Indian celebrity blogs while they make no startling revelations but can be surprisingly engaging. Rahul Khanna, for instance, though a very infrequent blogger seems to take genuine pleasure in writing and even confesses to being a comments junkie. His blog is something of a one-trick pony where titillating titles are followed by completely innocuous entries. A post called “Playing The Field” begins talking about non-monogamy but is only about New York apartments he has loved. How astonishing it would have been if Rahul Khanna (who clearly does understand what we voyeurs want from him) had actually been different from other Indian celebrities
who show no more inclination to be confessional online than they do offline.

Another unlikely blogger, Suchitra Krishna moorthy speaks much less confidently but more sincerely about painting, her reactions to changing sexual mores and her unease with fame. In one post, she describes how she found out that her five-year old daughter was worrying about her mother not being thin enough. Krishnamoorthy is remembered largely as a celebrity consort or for her embarrassing pop princess persona. Her blog however is oddly moving for precisely that reason. On May 19 she talks about anger: “I want to yell, abuse, slap people, and tell a few others to go to hell where they belong. I also want to be extremely self indulgent/obsessed, belligerant (sic) and rabidly aggressive.”

Krishnamoorthy’s blog is interesting in itself. But if you read it alongside the news of her ugly split with husband Shekhar Kapur and Kapur’s own blog, which wanders between discussions on consciousness and poetry (his own), it is compelling. Without her blog, would one have ever known that Krishnamoor thy of the pink-teddy-bear music video was a sentient being or capable of rage? For a moment, you are forced to think of all the women who’ve been processed by India’s celebrity machine to emerge docile, with no trace of their selves evident.

The diametrical opposite of the colourless celebrity blog is filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s three-year-old blog at passionforcinema.com. Laced with his vinegary personality, it gets as many as 4,000 comments for individual posts. Unlike Khan’s deferential cinema fans, Kashyap’s readers are cinema geeks who treat him like a sweaty, smoke-reeking equal. When an excitable Kashyap talked about his love for film noir he was reprimanded for breaking online etiquette by posting in capital
letters. He took the scold meekly.

KASHYAP’S READERS are sometimes sarcastic, constantly annoyed and frequently enraged by bad movies, but they will not tolerate snobbery about Bollywood. (Passion For Cinema is a group of blogs by filmmakers. Here, battle scarred makers of popular culture rant about critics and fellowmakers of art. Sudhir Mishra, for instance, grumbles about Upamanyu Chatterjee for “pretending” in his second and third books.) Kashyap’s blog is rife with incident and drama. On the afternoon of September 11, he ranted at journalists who had been calling him all day asking whether the No Smoking trailer had been pulled for being incomprehensible.
He blamed critic and filmmaker Khalid Mohammed (with whom he seems to have a WWF grudge match relationship) for starting the rumours. He wrote, “Well, that’s it... but “mera detective dimag ek hi baat kah raha hai” (to quote from Dhamaal).. woh hai ki Mr Khamkha Mohammad wants revenge... but what a silly rumour to spread...” Readers leaped into the ring to support their man.

Kashyap posted stoic, rueful responses. By midnight the thousands of comments included someone who claimed to be a penitent Khalid Moham med. “Arre sorry yaar! ...last but not least, I will never be able to make good films. Sorry.”

Not surprisingly Kashyap gets four times the comments that Aamir gets. Comments are not necessarily a reflection of the size of readership, it’s just that Kashyap’s obsession with filmmaking brings him equally obsessed readers. In recognition of this, perhaps, last week Passion For Cinema announced an online film festival. Winners of the one-minutefilm festival will get a chance to intern with Kashyap and other PFC filmmakers.

For the celebrity blog reader of less-thanpure intentions, the charm lies in the spotting of wrinkles in perfectly ironed public personas. Read Deepak Chopra’s post on October 3. The distinct snappishness in the spiritual guru’s response to a reader who relentlessly challenged him about his beliefs in supernatural phenomena makes trawling his blog worthwhile. “P.S. Dear Skeptisch, please come to NY at your own expense and I will make sure you can experience spoon bending for yourself. If you can’t, or don’t want to do that, then stop talking over and over again about the same thing. It’s boring.”

Little boys run away every week from their villages in Andhra Pradesh because they feel they are sure to bump into Chiranjeevi in Hyderabad. After you have read all the celebrity blogs you can find, you find yourself browsing for the celebrities you wish had blogs. The unmediated celebrity is our holy grail and blogs may yet turn out to be the space in which this everyday quest is indulged.


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