Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bollywood in the skies

Two twenty a.m., Mumbai International Airport, on my way to London. I was dead sleepy. As soon as we boarded the plane, I went into my usual routine - drank my sweet lime juice, got my spare blanket, changed into my jammies, and snuggled down as best as I could to do some serious aisle-watching.

Lots of interesting people were boarding, including a group of good-looking Hare Krishna devotees. How do they manage to make thin white cotton into a fashion statement? Or maybe I'm particularly susceptible to blue-eyed 40-year old men draped in see-through linen.

Anyway, the lecherous moment passed. The Hare Krishnas disappeared into Economy Class. They were followed by the regular folks - 70-year olds visiting their NRI children and grandchildren, Gujarati women with shopping bags, young couples on their honeymoon, tourists with skin like broiled lobster, the usual sales guys from Indian IT companies (think laptops plus moustaches), London businessmen returning home...there was enough and more to keep me engaged.

Finally, the train of people ended. Everyone settled down. Overhead compartments were shut. I'd just closed my eyes where there was a sort of buzzzzzzzzzz in the cabin. I opened my eyes a tiny bit. Two flight attendants were hovering around someone who had just boarded, laying out the complete red carpet. I looked to see who the new guy was - it took me a few seconds to realise it was a Hindi Movie Star. Not an aspiring wannabe. Not a mildly successful actor. He was the real McCoy, a Bollywood actor truly-bluely in the Super Star league.

It is hard to describe the buzz that a Bollywood star generates. There was a sort of starry-eyed bewilderment all round, as everyone in the cabin figured out for themselves who he was. As the buzz went around, what was a boring and sleepy flight seemed to suddenly come alive. The air in the cabin sparkled. Staid businessmen and bankers in Business Class craned their necks, wishing their seats weren't so darned private. It was a bit like when the three wise men discovered baby Jesus - there was a Star in our midst and nothing on that flight was the same any more.

At Heathrow airport, it was the same story. Wherever he walked, women were bowled over. The Punjabi matrons at immigration straightened their blouses and skirts. I'm sure some prayed their lipstick was ok. The lady from airport ground staff assigned to escort him chattered non-stop, her face was flushed, eyes sparkling. At baggage claim, co-passengers from the depths of the Economy Class discovered him standing for his bags, and went into that familiar starry-eyed look. Some just dropped everything else and stared. Others tried to be discreet, I guess all those years of training to be 'womanly' and modest just kicked in automatically.

I looked at the scene and thought, my God, it's amazing how Indian women react to male Bollywood stars. Brad Pitt was here a couple of months ago, but perhaps even he would not generate this sort of visceral reaction. Is it because these are Indian stars, and more real than a Brad Pitt? Or, er, is it all the singing-and-dancing in the modern Bollywood movie, does that generate its own different brand of heat?

And how does the star handle this adulation? How does anyone manage a million Indian female fantasies coming at them at a rate of twenty thousand per second?

The star in question seemed impervious to it all. He was polite, smiling at the lady who was with him, making small talk. Watching him handle the situation was quite an education.

I have to admit, I enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly.


Anonymous said...

OK, I am dying of curiosity now...who was he??!!

Anindita Sengupta said...

Who? Please tell! Absolutely dying :)

First time here...

Dhandal said...

which star r u talking abt?

Anonymous said...

who wasssssssssssss heeeeeeeeee plsssssssssssss m dying don't say shahrukh khan otherwise i ll die iwas in india during last march and lost weight trying to see him every day!but saaw salman sif zayed and that was fantastic !
pls tell us who was he?