While celebrities need paps to promote their profiles, news outlets need celebrities to churn out content. One can’t exist without the other. It comes as no surprise then that someone like Ranbir Kapoor, who once snatched a paparazzo’s camera as he tried to trail the actor for a picture, has gradually become pap savvy. Often spotted acknowledging the paps and responding to their pleasantries, Ranbir recently invited the paparazzi home for an informal meet with Alia Bhatt and Neetu Kapoor in tow. The Kapoors acknowledged the hard work the lensmen put in and make them the stars they are, while also requesting them to not click pictures of their newborn baby Raha.
On the other hand, Shah Rukh Khan, who has always been known to be a people’s person, seems to be avoiding the cameras at red carpets and public places. Be it Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s engagement party or when he was spotted at a dubbing studio, fans noticed how SRK was not his usual self and avoided the cameras. As filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt tells ETimes, “The story of film fandom is a story of passion, admiration, and intense curiosity. Indians love cricketers and they love film stars. And the media panders to the needs of the people. They become the bridge between the stars and audience. They realise that the audience are not only interested in the professional aspect of a star, but also want to know the intimate details of a star’s personality. They want to know about their families. They want to know about everything that they do. They would love to be the fly on the wall and be a part of the stars by the diversion.”
In today’s #BigStory, we connect with the Bollywood paparazzi, stars and publicists to understand this changing equation between the celebs and the photographers. Read on.
To feed the increasing appetite for candid images of stars, paps have become increasingly aggressive in getting that perfect shot. They often pose questions to try and invoke a response from a star. Social media especially has turned the pap-celeb relationship from that of contention to collaboration. Many A-listers have reached an accommodation with the people who take their images.
“Yes, it is not wrong to say that the relationship between celebs and paps has improved lately,” agrees Bollywood paparazzo Varinder Chawla. “Social media allows us to put our point across directly to the stars and likewise they also communicate with us.”
One of India’s first paparazzi, Yogen Shah believes there has always been mutual respect between the stars and the paps. “Over the years we have become such good acquaintances with each other and we are cordial just like extended family. So if they request us not to click the pictures of their kids, it is not really an issue. There are times when they get miffed. It was always like this. I would not say that the equation has changed. In fact it is much better now. Back in the 90s’ or 2000s’, some stars would even slap if a line was crossed. That’s not the case at all today.”
Public relations manager Parul Gosain says how a star deals with the paps depends on where they are in their own life. “The reasons for avoiding them can be due to a strategy, to maintain a low profile due to circumstances, or pressures. But most celebs maintain a good rapport with paps,” she says.
Chawla agrees and cites the example of SRK. “Shah Rukh Khan has always maintained a cordial relationship with paps, be it freelance photographers or media. He has always been affable with photographers but I personally feel because of the Aryan Khan incident last year, he has been quite disturbed and he may be feeling that the paps have done too much negative reporting on social media, and hurt the Khan family. So maybe that’s why his behaviour has changed,” he says.
Karanvir Bohra’s lovable nature also reflects in his friendly interaction with paps or anybody in his vicinity. He confers with Chawla as he says, “It’s probably the state of mind that he’s going through at that point. Nobody does it on purpose. Similarly, Ranbir would not get along with paps earlier, but now he does. I have known him for a very long time, he is a very friendly person. SRK too is a friendly person, but sometimes, it does get a little overwhelming when there are so many people trying to take pictures,” he says.
One of the youngest paparazzo Sneh Zala feels the situation and circumstances around play a major role in the nature of the interactions. “At the right platforms and events, even SRK has been the most cordial and warmest person to the media and at certain instances. Even Ranbir Kapoor has avoided or requested to not click. At the end of the day, they are humans and we definitely try to abide by their requests,” he shares.
Pap’s the way
Stars may share their fit pics, announce a relationship, birth of a baby and such other life events on social media but the public mania for paparazzi shots continues to grow. For lower-tier celebrities, being papped regularly helps them to increase their social media following and secure brand work. A-listers are papped while on promotional tours for their projects. A common trope is actors suddenly hanging out frequently with their co-star. At other times, paps are used to rehabilitate a celeb’s public image after a controversy.
Neetu Kapoor, Uorfi Javed, Rakhi Sawant are increasingly popular for their delightful casual exchanges and friendly banters with the paps. “Pictures speak loudest,” says Gosain. “Neetu ji speaks to paps with affection as she senses their respect while Uorfi thrives on sensational pictures, so her relationship with paps is symbiotic. But in the absence of the media that is continuously chasing stories unlike earlier decades, paps have been filling the gap to provide visual news.”
Boosting brand value
Getting regularly papped facilitates visibility and adds to a star’s popularity. Every paparazzo today is on social media and has a sizeable following. “It’s not a full proof mantra for the brand building objective, but having said that, it does help to increase visibility and create a recall value in the public’s mind, adding to the popularity,” says Zala. “Today, even a middle aged man in a small town of Uttar Pradesh to Haryana knows who Uorfi Javed is. However, it doesn’t necessarily translate in followers and brand work as a lot of times our followers might not know about their work, but definitely know their faces and names.”
“Fans are now more interested in listening to what the stars have to say rather than just looking at their pictures,” says Chawla. “And the paps are well aware of this, so whenever they get a chance, they start casually chatting with them. The celeb replies start trending in no time, which is why Neetu Kapoor, Rakhi Sawant and all are popular on social media. Social media presence helps in branding as well.”
Adds Gosain, “Being papped does help in boosting brand value to some degree because there has to be something exciting about the celeb pics – a relationship status or kids or fashionista status or political views. Just bland pics won’t work.”
Sneh Zala, “It sure is a platform bringing the public closer to the stars but not necessarily a thumb rule. Even the most relevant and buzzing names could opt not to be clicked, while on the other hand despite being repeatedly clicked some people can fail to build and maintain a connection.”
No pictures, please!
While many stars have cracked the code and established a symbiotic equation with paps, some still have reservations about being papped. Jaya Bachchan is one such celeb often in the news for her reluctance to be clicked by the paparazzi. Others like Anushka Sharma, Neha Dhupia, Rani Mukerji are wary about the picture of their kids going into the press. Katrina Kaif, who is otherwise a friendly figure, was recently miffed when the paps tried to click her picture while she was on a walk with her trainer. Shah Rukh who was always a people’s person has been avoiding the cameras since the Aryan controversy. He avoids getting clicked on red carpets, and has even put up curtains in his car.
“These people have been in the limelight for years and are not seeking publicity to thrive. But star parents choosing to not let paps click pics is a very personal choice. There is an equal number of very big stars who let their kids get clicked,” says Gosain.
Shares Chawla, “Not just Jaya Bachchan, even Taapsee Pannu has issues with the paps. They make some negative comments to the paps, which is also why there is a little negative image on social media.”
Chawla also recalls the incident with Ranbir Kapoor. “Ranbir had spoken to me that night, he was thinking paps are invading his personal space. My photographer was trailing him for quite some time, so he stopped and snatched his camera,” he says.
Adds Zala, “Stardom does come with its pros and cons. While they are public figures, they still are human and deserve their personal space. It’s always a choice to be clicked, and we do respect their requests. Just like recently when Ranbir and Alia made a public request to avoid clicking Raha’s pictures, we have followed it strictly.”
Drawing the lines
While many are of the opinion that the paparazzi are too invasive into the stars’ lives, it cannot be denied that the audience is equally invasive and hungry for intimate details of the celebs’ lives. “If you’re a star and in public space, paps will click. How will they know what is a star’s list of do’s and don’ts?” questions Gosain. “Yes, getting into someone’s private space for a picture is wrong and paps shouldn’t do it. But I feel in the long run, paps will resort to getting pics that are prohibited. Because how long can the public be satisfied with just social media rehashed pics and paps clicked pics from events? Everyone will clamor for authentic news and pics.”
“To be honest, we are just doing our job, which is to offer a reflection into the lives of the stars to the public, and privacy is a part of their life,” says Zala. “Most stars have always been extremely sweet and warm towards us and if sometimes they expect to avoid the public eye when in personal space, it’s their right and we sure should let them be.”
Says Karanvir, “Yes, they are doing their job, but they also have to realise the era we’re in right now. It’s not just about doing the job, it’s also about getting the number of views and clicks that get monetised also. They’re looking at making money out of this now. So they also have to kind of draw the line somewhere. And I think it’s a big responsibility for a lot of senior paps and the media to kind of respect the space. While most of them do, there are few new Turks who just come and start taking the video of stars or they take pictures on their phone and upload. So there are a bunch of good people and in that same bunch, you have some rotten tomatoes also.”
Actress Yuvika Chaudhary says Every individual has a personal choice and behaviour, and celebs too can have their reasons to not want to get clicked. “But we all should maintain dignity, starkids should not be clicked. They have the right to mature and make their own decision whether they want to be a public figure or take up a different profession and live a private life. Having said that, the paps are doing their job and I appreciate their contribution to our popularity,” she adds.
“I don’t think we ever cross lines,” says Chawla. “Fans are more interested in a star’s personal life than their movies. And paps are doing exactly that. I don’t think we have ever broken into a celeb’s house or private party and clicked pictures, we only click in public places. One thing that has become a big issue for paps is the fans and their comments, whether it is airport or gym or party. When we are clicking photos and videos, some fans pass inappropriate comments and that gets recorded in the video. Many a times, celebs feel it is the paps who are passing those comments.”
Mahesh Bhatt says it like it is. “Stars only like to amplify their good profile. But there’s also a strange, kinky need in the audience to see the darker or the vulnerable side of the people that they admire. And that’s when the paparazzi catches them in strange situations and that kind of puts the star in a very embarrassing position. Now you can’t have it both ways. If you stand in the sun you get sunburned. But I think in the digital age, it is a realisation that we are all connected in one instant and the media will be intrusive because the audience is intrusive. I feel that the actors must realise that there must be a way that they work out some kind of arrangement where they do this job of reaching the masses through the most pleasant and the most effective way. Finally, the most important thing is all human relationships are based on give and take. So, if the actor and the media and the paparazzi realise this, you take something, you give something. The longer this balance is maintained a relationship will flourish.”
There is a mutual respect that the stars and paps have for each other that allows them to co-exist in the ever-so-chaotic industry. Whether it was Karan Johar’s 50th birthday bash, or the recent wedding of Suniel Shetty’s daughter Athiya Shetty with cricketer KL Rahul, the celebs made sure the paps were well taken care of and made arrangements for food, water and other basic amenities. “After all, what’s an event without the paps?” says Gosain. “They are the most significant window to publicity. Even those who crib about paps get worried if they are not clicked any longer.”
Adds Zala, “Over the recent years, pap culture has rapidly bloomed in our country, so much so that it’s inevitable. So the industry is definitely adapting to it and creating provisions to facilitate both, the stars as well as the paps. With designated arrangements, we are honoured for our work and even the stars are ensured of their privacy. It’s a win-win for both!”
“It’s true that most Bollywood celebs treat us with a lot of love and respect, be it at private functions or red carpet events. Even paps should draw some lines,” says Chawla.
Jackie Shroff sums it up saying, “Both celebs and paparazzi need each other, it’s simple. Everyone has a say, everyone wants to express. Everyone has an opinion. The best option is to follow the trend, ride the wave, and not swim against the tide, but flow with flow. The stars and the press should respect each other.”