Post the arrival of foreign investment and cable television in the early ’90s, both business and entertainment in the country went through a major transformation. As a result, many norms changed and life didn’t remain as free-willed as in the past decades. It affected the crucial ‘trust factor’ in our lives quite decisively and then ‘insecurity’ sneaked in as a newly found characteristic of our living.
The same also evidently affected film publication, as this ‘missing trust factor’ became responsible for an attractive feature simply vanishing from the Hindi film magazines all of a sudden post the mid-90s.
Stating the details, as the readership in Hindi gained attention in the ’60s and ’70s, most of the Hindi film magazines started including a major attraction for the fans in their content. It was the trend wherein these publications used to essentially share the residential addresses of every featured artist in their editions prominently.
So at the end of most of the articles or interviews published, there used to be the complete postal address of the creative personality, whether he or she was a big star, a character artist, a reputed director, writer, lyricist, composer, producer or a talented debutante stepping into the industry. Besides, most of these magazines also had a regular feature of sending birthday wishes to all the artists born in that particular month and their names were duly shared along with their complete postal addresses, so that their fans can directly send their wishes through letters and cards.
As a matter of fact, small pocket-size ‘Film-Stars Directories’ were also available in the market at a price of just Rs. 1 or 2, which not only had the addresses but the phone numbers of all the renowned as well as lesser-known artists along with the details of the studios. These small books were popularly called ‘Pocket Books’ and they were openly sold by the road-side booksellers or vendors with no question of ‘Breach of Privacy’ ever raised by anyone.
At times, instances of fans intruding the personal space of the stars were surely there, but still no body complained about such inclusions in the magazines. To mention a few famous cases, recently in a TV show, Asha Parekh herself recalled a strange Chinese fan coming to her with a marriage proposal, who even started living outside her house, stalking the actress for a month. He was later arrested by police on her complaint and then even wrote a post card to the actress from prison, requesting her to get him out. In the same show, Waheeda Rehman shared how an architect used to write a 12-13 pages long letter to her every day, in which he constantly expressed his wish to make a monument for her, even better than the famous Taj Mahal. But above all, in the mid ‘70s, the reputed Madhuri magazine revealed a conspiracy to kidnap Zeenat Aman in its key feature, information of which thankfully got leaked and the police took action in time to prevent it. The episode was exactly like a film script, as here a few youngsters got inspired from Irving Wallace’s novel ‘The Fan Club’ and decided to do the kidnapping as described in it. Ironically, this particular story also had Zeenat’s address prominently stated towards the end of the article.
Perhaps we all were a little too open, not considering ‘the privacy matter’ so seriously in that era compared to the present times; or maybe things were so simple and uncomplicated that it generated more trust in life and people, celebrating the mutual love for cinema and success together.
However, as we reached the mid-90s, either the artists themselves raised an objection over the ‘inclusion of addresses’ or the publishers decided to avoid it due to the changing scenario. Consequently, this famous feature of Hindi film magazines suddenly vanished into the thin air, with only the columnist/interviewer’s name stated along the articles as byline.
Returning to the present era of social networking, where a fan can easily convey his personal wishes to the artists through their verified accounts, the hand-written letters are now considered as an expression of the past and an instant connect is the latest way of communication in the new millennium.
But then, whether this technological advancement has positively reduced the distance between the fans and their idols or actually increased it further is an important question that certainly needs to be pondered upon. No doubt a respectable distance makes a relationship more loving, deep and enjoyable with a touch of mystic charm; but unfortunately, that somehow seems to be getting lost in this present world of instant connectivity.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of 'Did You Know' series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)