Beyond the silver screen: Does sharing the real life persona of cine stars give their roles a leg-up?

A single tweet from Ranveer Singh, where he presents his ‘real’ image, does more for him than what a classic Hindi film publicist could ever imagine.

 |  4-minute read |   17-02-2019
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Traditionally, popular Hindi cinema preferred its leading men and women to be schizophrenic about their real selves while interacting with the audiences.

Up until a few years ago, you would never get to know what was on the mind of a star — not anymore. 

Now, it’s near-impossible for actors to separate their 'off-screen' persona from the 'onscreen' image that the industry or PR firms would prefer to market.

Off-screen star

This can be seen from the manner in which a Ranveer Singh appears to be two distinctively different personalities when it comes to the silver screen and real life. While it will be stupid to infer Singh’s personality from what he portrays on the silver screen, and it would also be incorrect to attribute his fine performances on the way he appears in public life, there is no denying that his off-screen antics have contributed immensely to his superstardom.

Much like how some of the criticism coming Kangana Ranaut’s way for her acting roles could be rooted in the way she is viewed in real-life scenarios.

In stark contrast to how things used to be, today, a star’s 'reel' performance is more often than not judged on the basis of his or her ‘real’ life. Up until Ranaut spoke openly about nepotism in the film business, she was seen as a bindaas kind of gal who spoke what was on her mind — similarly, despite being impressed with his energy in Band, Baja, Baraat’s trailers, most people brushed Ranveer Singh as someone who came across as trying too hard to impress.

main_ranveer-singh-q_021619060458.jpgZany! No, really: Ranveer Singh’s off-screen image has come to define how audiences receive his on-screen work. (Photo: India Today)

Once they got to know about Singh’s real-life background — born into a well-off South Mumbai business family with a Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in the United States — everything changed.

The reason why Hindi cinema of yore insisted that stars keep their personal life and preferences hidden from the public was to maintain a certain image. From an anthropological point of view, this helped them achieve a certain degree of personification in their performances.

Social media icon

In other words, if you got too familiar with a Dilip Kumar or a Meena Kumari, you would not enjoy their tragic roles as much, or, if you found out that Kishore Kumar was not as goofy as his films made him out to be, you would cease to enjoy his shenanigans. In Articulating Digital Stardom, Barry King wrote that stars often used their own ‘star characters’ to create more dynamic characters as they come to embody a certain type through their body of work. The advent of new media and social media has allowed the star to connect with the viewer without the interference of a traditional PR agent — this has changed the way stars are created.

A single tweet from Ranveer Singh, where he presents his ‘real’ image, which also reflects a certain social ideology, does more for him than what a classic Hindi film publicist such as the late Bunny Ruben could ever imagine.

Politics of stardom

Anything that a star does today in public glare also becomes fastened into the mindset of the audience in relation to them.

If in the West, Clint Eastwood’s Republican-leaning thoughts can cast a shadow on anything that the multiple-Oscar-winning actor-director does, in India, Rajinikanth’s present political ambivalence sees people interpreting his statements and films according to their understanding. In the same way, Anupam Kher’s political preferences have changed the way a specific part of the audience views his contemporary films. They also recast his acting retrospectively.

In an era where opinion on certain issues seems to matter so much, and choosing to express it makes a public figure more authentic, is it then possible for an actor to not be ‘real’ — and yet be successful? One anomaly to this norm is Ranbir Kapoor, who, despite not being on any social media platform, is immensely successful.

Lately, a star's off-screen image is put to work on the audience more than ever before because a part of us wants the onscreen character to speak about things that are important to us in a way we can understand ourselves better.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Krish vs Kangana Ranaut: Why the director's chair always wobbles under 'star' power!


Gautam Chintamani Gautam Chintamani @gchintamani

Cinephile, observer of society and technology and author of the of Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna.

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