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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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

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