Bollywood’s young stars Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor wed this week in Mumbai. Finally, shall we say? Finally, because they had been dating for years, they were serious about their relationship for a while, and it was a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.' Finally, also because the two stars, who set the box office on fire with their acting chops, had been ‘married off’ several times with strategically-placed stories by their formidable public relations machines which feed into the voyeuristic celebrity section of the media, which in turn fuels the celebrity-watching frenzy in people.
Bhatt and Kapoor join a list of celebrity couples who tied the knot in relative privacy but in Mumbai. Some like Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli and Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh had opted for secluded international venues to keep the media-people frenzy at bay; it hardly helped. Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal’s destination wedding in India earlier this year had the paparazzi follow their every little move. At the Kapoor-Bhatt wedding too, the paparazzi photographers probably out-numbered the guests. The newly-wed couple played up to the paparazzi holding hands, smooching, and him sweeping her off her feet. On social media, there was no escaping the glitz and glam of #RanAlia wedding; traditional media too chipped in.
Celebrity watching, a pointless leisure pursuit, is an industry unto itself. The early days of salacious gossip about celebrities in the ‘filmy’ press or Page 3 stand transformed to cater to the manufactured needs of audiences. As the pandemic spread two years ago, the venerated BBC asked, in a piece, if the age of the celebrity was over because “the virus had disrupted the entire means of interaction between celebrities and people." Nothing of the sort happened; in India, it will not. In bad times – remember Aryan Khan case follow-ups? – or good, celebrities make ‘news’ because the media decides so and audiences demand it. Social media has strengthened the demand. The latest? Bhatt-Kapoor took four pheras instead of seven. It doesn’t matter, right? That’s exactly the point about the pointlessness of celebrity watching.