Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Abhi-Ash Bash… krazy kiya re!!

It was truly the (Grand) mother of all events! From the time India’s most “eligible bachelor” turned his sexy gaze on the “most beautiful woman in the world” it’s been hype hoopla and hungama all the way. Today Abhishek Bachchan and Ash Rai – oops, Bachchan – are man and wife, but you seriously think you’ve heard the last of them? Visit your friendly neighbourhood shrink people, because you ain’t heard – or seen – nothin’yet! Act II is about to begin with the feedbacks, reactions, observations, and most importantly, speculations! Can the gorgeous free-spirited super-star ever hope to fit into (allegedly) “Mama’s boys” life with confidence... into the (now-traditional, now new-age) Bachchan sansar with the required orthodox, lowkey, persona desired? While marketers are busy toting up a figure to gauge the collective worth of the brand Bachchan – last estimated at Rs.7 billion – the moot question is: Has the media finally lost it, in its self-appointed role as stalker & paparazzi on an over-drive?

Lowe’s Priti Nair believes that the frenzy has as much to do with the over-hyped times we live in as the significance of the event itself. “It’s tragic to see the depth Breaking News has nosedived to. A while ago – I am not kidding – it proudly trumpetted the price of onions. Imagine!” All the sickening and boring details, flashed & printed ad nauseam, Nair believes, is the new disease – the celebration of trivia and it has as much to do with the dumbing down of the media as fierce competition blitzes the media space. This results in mass frenzy, making mountains of molehills and some really “creative” spins designed to grab eyeballs & get a leg-up in rat race.

One of the Mumbai’s most celebrated theatre directors (No, not the one ‘n’ only AP, for chrissake!) offers his take. “There can be no greater icon in the history of Bollywood than AB, right? When his son – today a rising star in his own right – decides to marry the most beautiful, glamorous and hot-ticket star in Bollywood, c’mon, it’s a pre-sold knock-out event! Naturally, the media would go ga-ga. Instead of a blanket ban (causing them to go ballistic), wouldn’t it have been so much better if they were allocated some time to shoot their pictures and clear out?” he reasons.

True! By excluding the media and using security to take care of the VIP guests – and inadvertently rough them up! – the Bachchans mucked it up. Interestingly, it was this very same Mr. Bachchan who, a few months ago, went to the media with a full page ad endorsing his son’s Guru to the skies. “Close friends and family are all very well as are cute speeches about the rationale that defined his actions in the media. I think selective memory and exploiting the media, when required, is also not a great act. I am very disappointed,” he adds.
Brunch – has difficulty breathing when the issue is brought up! When we eventually manage to tear her away from watching POGO Channel, she somewhat recovers and begins to talk. “Guys, we are all up to our ears with the AbhiAsh thing and have decided, in principle, to shove any news related to the golden couple in the deep freeze for at least a couple of months. Which is why, I am staying away from all news channels and concentrating on POGO! Bas, bahut ho gaya, yaar!”

Poonam – a hard-core showbiz journo of many years – admits that it’s big stuff, but genuinely feels that the channels and publications overestimated the news value of the event and went insane flashing it 24X7. “It’s like this. After a point, even the most curious and excited fan gets fed-up of seeing the same boring visuals, flashed repeatedly across all channels. Why this madness? I guess it has to do with the insecurity of channels... This is hot stuff and they don’t want to miss a beat, in case another channel gets that sudden, unexpected and winning dramatic visual of the Big B, Jaya or the newly-wedded couple that instantly allows them to surge ahead. Scary huh?”

So, at the end of the day, what gives? It’s a tricky question. Traditionally, worldwide, the celeb-media face-off has always been combustible, a love-hate relationship with each feeding off the other. Increasingly, the thin line between private (no entry) and public (welcome) are blurring with the media, insisting that the celebs owe them one. While the Bachchans maintain that they have every right to hold a “small private wedding” to which the me- dia is not invited, critics aver that their pre-historic and regressive antics – temple-hopping, tree-wedding, astro-craze on one hand, and limited edition, starry designer functions with the newly-wedded couple rocking to the chartbusting Kajra-re on the other, makes a mockery of the whole thing. The simple truth is that celebrities are public property created, promoted, and in some fashion, owned by the media. Today, media has assumed the proportion of a Frankenstein and when towering mega-stars (who live in the public eye) suddenly decide to play coy and shut them off in an event that has swept most local, national and international news... Baby, you’re asking for trouble!

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