Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Amitabh Bachchan's Illness & Fan Moments

Every media outlet here is going to town with the Amitabh Bachchan story. For those who don't follow Bollywood on a regular basis - Amitabh Bachchan was hospitalised two days back ("severe stomach ache"). Doctors did the needful, tests were conducted, and the superstar's condition was declared to be normal. Now Amitabh falling ill worries the nation. And the media, saturated as they are with Bollywood coverage, have done their bit in reminding everyone of how close India came to losing Hindi cinema's greatest hero. Again, for Bollywood non-observers, Bachchan took a near fatal punch on the sets of Coolie back in 1982. As everyone loves to recall, Indira Gandhi (prime minister back then) visited him in the hospital. It was that big a deal.

What is interesting to me here is the public expression of fandom. Fans, in the Hindi film context, have never been organized like they are in Tamil and Telugu film cultures. And when you talk to film journalists, publicists, producers, critics, and so on, you realize that where Hindi cinema is concerned, the notion of being a "fan" is very diffuse. But everyone will agree that the word "fan" is tied to the activities of the front-benchers in cinema halls around the country (the gandhi class, as it were).

The Bachchan moments, however, are interesting because fandom, for a few days, becomes a defining element of public culture. Stories of excess, naturally, are recounted with much glee. There is one story I've heard, of a fan who ran backwords for more than 500 kilometers as a devotional gesture for Bachchan's speedy recovery in 1982. Such acts of devotion aside, looking at media coverage during these moments says much about how fandom is less a subcultural realm and more an integral part of Indian film culture.

Let me recount what Jerry Pinto told me a few weeks back when I explained what my project dealt with. After the Coolie accident, when Amitabh was recovering from surgery, Mid-Day used to publish his breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu. Everyday, for almost a month. And when some "discerning" readers complained about this, Mid-Day put out an editorial saying sorry, but we're doing this simply because our reading public wants to know and be assured that their superstar is recovering and will soon be back in action. And remember, Mid-Day's readers aren't front-benchers (discounting college students without money). The closet is thrown open ever so often.


  • Dying to watch BLUFF MASTER on 16th December. Looks rocking! and the music is brilliant!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/01/2005 8:16 PM  

  • Anonymous - yes, the promos for Bluffmaster do look wonderful. I'd love to talk about the movie once I get a chance to see it. And it'd be nice to start a conversation with someone with a name instead of "anonymous".

    By Blogger Aswin, at 12/02/2005 2:16 AM  

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