Sunday, 24 May 2009

Bollywood's blog bubble

Sneha May Francis takes a journey through Bollywood’s virtual world

Wouldn’t you love to become part of Amitabh Bachchan’s extended family? Barring a few genetic glitches, establishing a familial bond with the legendary actor is just a click away. Enter the virtual world of blogging, an area that opens up a whole new dimension of communication, threading thoughts and opinions on a personal level.
The image of having a conversation with an actor of such legendary stature will definitely see millions nod in the affirmative. But do bear in mind that chances of actually meeting the actor in flesh and blood or even being invited to his family parties may be remote, or non-existent. However, the mere thought of communicating with him one-on-one is nothing less than extraordinary.
This virtual reality eliminates scouting around for gossip magazines or watching entertainment shows on the telly. Now, all you need for your daily dose of Bollywood gossip is to log on to the blogs and read about it all, first hand!

The Bollywood dream
There’s this inexplicable charm that the world of glitz and glamour entices millions, leaving them with a desire for a large chunk of Bollywood. And it’s this craze that prompts the stars to setup these connections. Hollywood’s been there, done that; but virtual communication is still a fairly new concept in Bollywood.
The reasons for the need to establish such a deep link can be many. Some might look at it as the Indian gliteratti’s most befitting gift to their fans – an extension of themselves, in their own words, floating on the web for their followers to soak in. Or the desire to express their views could be an indication of the poor media projections actors are often subjected to. The postings, mostly personal with huge undertones of narcissism, work on many levels as the actors’ propaganda to shut off the media and communicate straight with the public. Also, it makes for cheap and good marketing stratergy. Actors can play their PR personnel and promote their films and themselves through the mere click of a button.

Meet the bloggers
One of Bollywood’s first to hit the blogging radar wasn’t an actor. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap wrote about his initial struggles and how he finally succeeded in finding his spot in Bollywood with interesting tales like Black Friday, No Smoking and Gulaal. His blogs take a dig at film critics who’ve applauded or ridiculed his films, producing apt response for each comment. He’s a talented filmmaker, no doubt, and his writings speak of his incredible understanding of cinema.
Another filmmaker who’s creating quite a stir on the web is Ram Gopal Varma. A man buried in pointless controversies, his blogs too reflect his confused state of mind. And when there’s no topic of relevance, he pops up pointless reactions to vague questions. His blogs, most often, are engaging, but not of any consequence.
Sudhir Mishra is another one from the creative fraternity who takes a potshot at his critics. A filmmaker who has effortlessly blurred the line between commercial and meaningful cinema, Sudhir refrains from writing about his personal outings and restricts his views only to his films.
For a man of ‘many talents’, what with his ability to juggle effortlessly between TV talk shows and films, Karan Johar finds the word game a tad too demanding. Looks like the man has way too many obligations to invest time in his own blog. His last update dates back to an outburst after the Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, 2008.
There are numerous other filmmakers who are regulars on the blogging circuit, namely Santosh Sivan, Onir, Revathy and Kunal Kohli. Even the acting brigade isn’t far behind.
Leading the gang is Amitabh Bachchan. He’s impressionably regular with his writings. Barring a few pompous notes about his family, he opens up to his readers, whom he affectionately refers to as his ‘extended family’. There are personal photographs, tales about his pet dog, links to his recent interviews, etc. He also uses his virtual power to spit venom at the media, stressing the ‘inefficiency’ of the Fourth Estate.
Aamir Khan’s infamous blog about naming his dog after his contemporary Shah Rukh Khan, made for hot news a long time ago, even triggering a war of sorts between the two. But looks like all the bad publicity has forced the man to slow down on his thoughts. His posts are few, and sometimes consist of no more than four lines. His most recent blog, however, is a detailed description of a day out with his kids.
The beefy Salman Khan has been on a mission to try out different professions. After an attempt at painting, the actor takes on blogging, albeit for his TV game show. The only hiccup being the blog hit a limbo after the show went off-air.
Little known actor Rahul Khanna too had a shot at the written word. He started a blog in 2005, added a few thoughts till 2007, only to give it up completely. His namesake, Rahul (Bose), who might prefer to be known as an intelligent actor, has made little effort towards maintaining his blog. There’s one post for the year 2008 and none for this year. He also began writing in 2005, but his posts dried up soon after.
We even got an itsy-bitsy glimpse of DevD-starrer Abhay Deol on the web. His writings proved as entertaining and unconventional as the actor himself. But the portal’s poor design made navigation difficult and reading tiresome.
The word game extends to the female fraternity as well, even though the numbers don’t run into double digits. Shilpa Shetty, who was resurrected to fame post a British reality show, tries a tad too hard to fit in. Her writings are amateurish, with smiley faces pasted all over. And for those who’ve missed out on her IPL drama, she’ll even word it out for you.

The followers
While Amitabh Bachchan rules the roost with a massive fan following, the others aren’t far behind. Aamir follows close behind, with the number of comments running into thousands. Just like the Big B, he too responds to a select few comments. Ours, however, went unnoticed! Shilpa is still to gain online admirers, her comments mainly run into single digits.
And we have also been told that Amitabh Bahchan has been paid a hefty amount to keep his blog alive, but since there’s no evidence, we will remain tight-lipped.
For the love of cinema
There are numerous other actors who dedicate websites to promote their films. They throw in a few interesting personal tit-bits to lure in the crowd, but once the film is released and the promotion done, the site is forgotten. Case in point being, Anil Kapoor and Ajay Devgan who’ve used the web for their films – Gandhi, My Father and U, Me Aur Hum, respectively.
Blogging might still be in its nascent stage, but web portals have aways been a rage in Bollywood. These are either put up by fans, who’ve dedicated the space to their favourite stars, or it’s the actors themselves who manage it. Celina Jaitley, Mallika Sherawat, Ajay Devgan, Dino Morea and Lara Dutta are among the many who use the web to give their fans a sneak peek into their lives away from the spotlight. These sites are rarely updated and often offer nothing more than what’s already available in the media.

Other networks
Apart from the conventional portals, there are social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter that are proving quite popular for the actors to project themselves and bond with their fans.
Looks like today there’s a considerable change in the way stars perceive their admirers. No more waiting, hours on end, for an autograph or even a snapshot. Now, the stars are willing to invite their fans into their lives for an indepth conversation. And judging by the tremendous response, we are sure the fans want more!

get linked
Aamir Khan:
Abhay Deol:
Amitabh Bachchan:
Anurag Kashyap:
Karan Johar:
Ram Gopal Varma:
Rahul Bose:
Rahul Khanna:
Salman Khan:
Shilpa Shetty:
Sudhir Mishra:

Published in e+, gulf news (May 28. 2009)

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