celebrity culture

Instagram is helping Bollywood stars take charge of their public selves like never before

By establishing a more direct mode of communication with their fans, film celebrities are giving the paparazzi a run for their money.

The Cannes Film Festival provided yet another opportunity for three Hindi film stars to take their fans to places that were inaccessible before.

From Deepika Padukone’s spaghetti lunch and Sonam Kapoor prepping for her appearance in a shimmering gown to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan hugging the people who made her look like Cinderella in Sex and the City – millions of celebrity fans were treated to carefully curated snapshots of the stars’ privileged lives. The smartphone, in the hands of star managers and family members, has become a friend, confidante and trusted conduit. It is a tool for the beautiful women to appear both accessible and fantastical at the same time, unlike the unsparing paparazzo, who would rather strip them of their aura. Had an enterprising photographer managed to get the same pictures without the star’s knowledge, it would have seen as a breach of privacy.

All three actors have had an uneasy relationship with the paparazzi. While Padukone had once taken on a section of the entertainment media for publishing top shots of her decolletage, Bachchan has kept photographers at an academic distance her entire professional life. Kapoor has never been a paparazzi darling. She puts so much of herself out there that there is precious little left for them to explore or imagine.

All the way from Madrid! Here's another exclusive image of @deepikapadukone's stunning look for #IIFARocks -Team DP

A post shared by Deepika Padukone (@deepikapadukone) on

Thanks to Instagram, however, stars who are otherwise hounded by the paparazzi and have often been on the back foot over controversial and candid pictures, have established a direct, more personal mode of communication with their fans. The shared images are carefully monitored, filtered and prettified. Even the most seemingly candid or casual shot has a purpose and a team behind it. For millions of fans around the world, these social media pictures are the prized dress circle tickets to the theatre of Bollywood.

For instance, Katrina Kaif, who has only recently taken to social media, shared pictures of herself wrapped in towels, shot for celebrity fashion photographer Mario Testino’s famous series. Not very long ago, when the star was in a relationship with Ranbir Kapoor, she was photographed with him at Ibiza beach in a mismatched bikini. Kaif had slammed the photographer – a tourist – calling it an invasion of privacy.

Priyanka Chopra, who has had to bear the brunt of several paparazzi pictures during her early Bollywood years, is another example of how empowering Instagram can be for a star. As she continues to sweep red carpets in dramatic trains and sensuous outfits, her posts and tweets offer her fans a peek into her charmed life – her swank apartment, dinners with her Hollywood buddies, a khichdi and chicken soup meal she cooked for a friend. A paparazzo can at best click pictures of her in Mumbai, but he will be hard-pressed to get into her Los Angeles kitchen or her New York City dressing room.

Instagram has helped stars sculpt their public personas to their liking – a job that been previously the preserve of magazine editors and Photoshop artists. Kaif is not exactly a conversationalist, neither is she known for her sense of humour. But her Instagram pictures, especially the ones in which she appears to channel her inner child, go some way towards making her seem more accessible and warm, even fun.

Alia Bhatt has been showing her fans glimpses of her quintessentially Mumbai life and loves – her new apartment, her book shelves, her sister, father, mentor, friends, shoes, clothes, and diet and exercise regimen. The pictures reinforce her youthful image while giving off the aura of a fun loving professional, independent woman who cannot be dismissed as a poster child of nepotism. Which media photographer in the world could do this for her?

Ranveer Singh, who along with Virat Kohli, Salman Khan and Shahid Kapoor, is one of the most followed Bollywood celebrities on Instagram, works hard to perpetuate his image – of an individualistic, goofy, eccentric star who wears his heart on his sleeve. From his gym sessions to behind-the-scenes of his films and rambunctious parties, Singh’s energetic Instagram presence has turned him into an advertiser’s darling. His mix of personal and commercial posts is perfectly tempered and designed to keep each one of his millions of fans familiar with and hooked to his idiosyncrasies. He carries the same energy over to the screen in his movies.

Geek Chic on Fleek 👓

A post shared by Ranveer Singh (@ranveersingh) on

Clearly, Instagram, while giving the stars complete control over their narratives, has defanged the paparazzi to a great extent. The once powerful arbiters of stardom have been reduced to hangers-on at airport departure and arrival gates or outside bars and pubs, hoping to catch an inebriated star and stoke a controversy.

Fans are not exactly complaining. For the average person out there, hanging on to every single shred of information on a star, the Instagram photo offers a vicarious pleasure that is also far more intimate and lived-in. By simply looking at the pictures and liking, sharing or commenting on them, devotees earn the privilege of a direct darshan, of engaging in conversation with a person who will always remain inaccessible otherwise. They are not in the frame or in the moment, but as followers, they complete the picture that the star wishes to paint. Every picture posted by a star thus breaches the proverbial fourth wall and reinforces it at the same time.

Detox at home 😃👌. Love it 🔝💯💯

A post shared by Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli) on

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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


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The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.