Aditya Chopra was recently clicked while heading out to a birthday party. Typical of him, he had a hand covering his face partially, but he didn’t necessarily look away from multiple camera flashes clicking him all at once. And this has led to a large section of the press interpreting his behaviour as ‘not camera shy’ anymore.
Aditya Chopra’s relationship with Indian media is fascinating to study and analyze. The Yash Raj scion, who heads India’s original film studio and is friends with leading stars and filmmakers, has avoided interviews, photo ops and publicity so far. His father, Yash Chopra, gregarious and warm and a benchmark setting filmmaker-producer, was a media darling, given his open approach to interviews and media interactions. The son is the other extreme. Left alone for most of the 90s, Adi Chopra became a much wanted pap snap since the explosion of print and online media in the new millennium. Around 2011, one noticed a steady flow of press coverage about him being spotted, running away from cameras, of his regular film haunt being a single screen theatre, and of him getting clicked most unwillingly, began to appear steadily.
Chopra’s relationship with Rani Mukerji also began to make news around this time, when the actor was beginning to interact less frequently with the press, and had also become choosy about her films. She never entertained interest in her personal life. And the media displayed distinct signs of hunger for more. In fact, when the editor-in-chief of a leading Hindi news channel asked Rani directly, what is her relationship with Aditya Chopra, his question carried the heft and ominousness of a matter of national security. Mukerji coolly asked him to back off, as is her right.
This obsession with clicking Aditya Chopra reflects the irrationality of a voyeuristic media that is the current flavour of the season in India. It resembles the insanity that British media, especially photographers, show when they chase Meghan Markle and when newspapers in the UK judge her every move and outfit. This is also a section of the press that got dangerously close to pushing Princess Diana to accidental death. In all fairness, Indian paparazzi is far more respectful. It maintains distance and lets go of those that don’t want to be photographed. In fact, Shraddha Kapoor, who had fallen in the habit of refusing photos earlier in her career, had to woo them back over a lavish brunch. The men behind these lens leave Jaya Bachchan alone, who has a record of snapping and snipping at photographers at all times. So it’s not quite as aggressive as paparazzi abroad.
Still, this obsessions with clicking Aditya Chopra, and the tendency to analyse and assess every move of his, verges on the ridiculous. Consider this -- over the last couple of months, shows on Prime Video and Netflix that have become the toast of Indian audiences have makers that no one possibly remembers. One might recall Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, the writers of Made In Heaven, but who knows Adam McKay or anyone else in the writing-directing- producing team of The Giant Beast That Is The Global Economy? Who knows who made The Order or for that matter, Glow, Black Mirror and Delhi Crime? Actually, how many in the audience even know what the Russo Brothers look like, despite them helming the Avengers Infinity War and Endgame?
To audiences that crave solid content and decent entertainment, it doesn’t matter who the filmmaker, producer or writer is. Their personal life and personal choices hardly count, for what really matters is the films and series that they produce. As is evident from the massive success that Bohemian Rhapsody earned, Bryan Singer’s involvement, despite his taint with #MeToo didn’t deter aware audiences. In Hollywood and international cinema, filmmakers and producers speak up when there is a suitable reason to do so. Alfonso Cuaron advocated fair treatment of winners when he criticized the shortening of Oscar awards this year. Similarly, the elusive Christopher Nolan advocated the use of film stock instead of a complete switchover to digital, while promoting Dunkirk.
Getting clicked and making a splash is not usual nor much respected amongst filmmakers and creators worldwide.
Aditya Chopra should have the freedom to be left alone. He clearly wants it. As for the Indian media’s obsession with clicking him and discussing him, it gives him the best, most effective publicity ever. Be it the popular talk show that his friend Karan Johar hosts, Koffee With Karan, or other celebrity forums, talk of how he is, what he does and what he says, builds an aura of much desirable mystique around him. If at all, his name itself serves like a publicity magnet.
Chopra was clicked holding his daughter at his home, in a candid photo where he looked unhappy. It is not necessary to chase up someone who wants to stay private. It doesn’t serve a greater purpose and most definitely shouldn’t be treated as ‘news’. Let him be.