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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delhi South chapter.

Bollywood’s obsession with love stories has been prevalent since time immemorial. It has lent itself to a longstanding history of mainstream Indian cinema and has provided audiences with memorable movies as well as songs. In the last couple of years, however, Bollywood is not just selling love stories on the silver screen but is also doing so through its actors and their lives. The personal lives of actors and celebrities have become increasingly commodified to the point where it is almost difficult to make a distinction between their job and their celebrity. An underlying question then, is – should there even be a distinction between the two, or is their celebrity now their job itself?

With the advent and rapid growth of social media platforms like Instagram, celebrities and their lives have become increasingly accessible to the public. The intensified paparazzi culture in India has also granted a ‘closer look,’ and thus very easy access to Bollywood actors and celebrities to the larger Indian demographic. Social media and paparazzi photographs coupled with modern Indian journalism, are quick to turn the ongoings of an actor’s life into a headline to be consumed as ‘national news.’ Of course, this points to the issue of the invasion of privacy of Indian celebrities. In light of this issue, it was only recently that Alia Bhatt spoke up about a few photographs posted on the Instagram page of a leading media/news company, that she said were a “gross invasion of privacy.” Many celebrities joined in support of her to call out the invasive photographs taken by photographers on a terrace of Bhatt’s neighboring building to capture her at her home. As the actress rightly complained, all lines were crossed in an attempt to get a photograph of her in a space the paparazzi, journalists, audiences, or the public at large, has no right over. Social media, paparazzi, and media and journalistic reporting, then, are three major pathways for actors’ private life being turned into public news.

The growing paparazzi culture in India is a major source of celebrity news and gossip. Pictures and videos of actors doing everyday tasks go viral on the internet in no time. Whether meeting friends, going to the gym or the airport, or even running errands, actors are captured doing the most mundane things. These pictures then become a main source for media channels to write about. Most often journalists interviewing actors end up asking questions about their private life more than they do about the movies that they are supposed to promote. So many interviews and conversations of actors promoting their upcoming movies start with questions pertaining to their personal lives instead. The trend of asking personal questions is also more often seen with female actors who are frequently asked about their relationships with their male and female counterparts, their newly married lives and/or babies, or their ideas and ‘plans’ for marriage, etc.

Social media also plays an important role in the propagation of actors’ identities as well as life events. The phenomenon of ‘celebrity weddings,’ for example, has turned romantic relationships into a spectacle in not just the concerned celebrities’ lives but also the life of an average Indian consumer. Celebrity weddings have also fueled unrealistic expectations of what an Indian wedding should look like with their extravagant and seemingly uniform aesthetics. It has also romanticized the idea of relationships being “private till permanent” but the question remains – were they really private? With journalists consistently asking questions about said relationships and actors being cryptic about it for years on end, media channels writing about the ‘rumored couples’ and their ‘rumored break-ups,’ and finally giving live and detailed updates about the wedding ceremony when the time comes, how private is this privacy? Whether there are rumors of drones being shut down at Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal’s wedding or that of TV broadcasting deals of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ weddings, social media finds its way to spread this information to any and everyone. Even when consumers aren’t and don’t want to specifically keep up-to-date with celebrity weddings, they are bombarded with every detail of these events on their feeds for weeks on end.

It is also true that many times even celebrities utilize their personal lives not only to stay relevant in the limelight but also sometimes to promote their movies. The debate between the private and professional lives of actors is one that has been brought up time and again by various actors. However, even while arguing for privacy and for wanting their private lives to be completely separate from life in the public domain (for public consumption), they often use their private lives to have a public life. Lines are blurred and personal relationships are used as per convenience to suit their purposes. The buzz around Brahmastra and its much-awaited release was largely centered on the Ranbir-Alia romance who themselves claim that the arch of their relationship can be studied along that of the making of the said movie. Many people maintain that they watched the movie primarily for the couple. Their budding relationship during the making of the film which eventually culminated in marriage only months before its release was also used as part of the promotional gimmicks. Spotify ads showed them grooving to the songs from Brahmastra in the setting of their home. This is just one such example of actors and makers of films using personal lives to promote their public lives.

The binary between these two aspects of a celebrity’s life seems to be distinguishing. The question remains whether that is a good or a bad thing. It’s not just about sharing parts of their personal lives, a right and choice celebrities are fully entitled to, however, it’s about the extent to which it is dragged and how it is utilized. Does it add to their profession or take away from it? Does it humanize them or set them apart?

Dippanshi Kapoor

Delhi South '24

A twenty year old English major, Dippanshi would rather observe the world than be a part of it. For someone who loves reading, writing, and watching movies, she is afraid she never does enough of any of these things.