Spoilers Ahead by Rajeev Masand: Hidden treasures
The big surprise on The Romantics is seeing the reclusive director Aditya Chopra. Why do some celebrities stay out of the spotlight?
There is a lot to appreciate in The Romantics, the new four-part docuseries on Netflix that celebrates the contribution of Yash Chopra and his banner Yash Raj Films to Indian cinema. While most movie nerds who’ve watched the series agree that it is rich in nostalgia and smartly frames the journey of Hindi cinema (and specifically YRF) against the history of India, the one thing everyone is talking about is the surprise appearance of studio scion Aditya Chopra who sits down for his first on-camera interview since…forever.
Aditya Chopra is that rare creature in Bollywood who shunned the spotlight from the word go. He is possibly the only director ever who doesn’t appear on camera to talk up his own film in its behind-the-scenes “making of” video. Not once in the 28 years since the release of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge could he be seduced into publicly discussing the making of his blockbuster or the larger impact it’s had on modern Hindi cinema. You’ve never seen him on a red carpet or at a film party, he’s never been on Rendezvous with Simi Garewal or Koffee with Karan, and he isn’t on social media.
He is such a famous recluse that for years people suspected that Adi simply doesn’t exist; a joke Abhishek Bachchan cheekily repeats on the Netflix show. When the paparazzi once spotted him leaving a cinema some years ago, he fled. The resulting photographs show a man trying to cover his face while making a dash for it. Until he showed up on The Romantics, looking relaxed and perfectly happy to address his aversion to living in the public glare, you could say he was one of Bollywood’s most powerful men that most people had never seen.
It’s an especially remarkable feat in a business where one’s power and popularity are calculated by the ability to sell tickets (and brands) as a result of one’s recognisability. Think Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh.
Instagram, of course, has made it easier for celebrities to choose just how much of their lives they’re willing to throw open. Even the fiercely private Zeenat Aman signed up a few weeks ago, sharing pictures with her dog Lily, relaxing at a friend’s home in Alibaug, taking an autorickshaw ride, and more; each photograph accompanied by personal musings about life, family and the movies.
Rekha is a lot less likely to jump onto the social media bandwagon. She has always maintained that her enduring appeal is a result of the mystery she has succeeded to maintain around herself for all these years. So while you will see her on red carpets and at award ceremonies, don’t expect an Architectural Digest photo spread that takes you inside her home, and don’t even dream about the possibility of her going live on Insta to commemorate 40 years of a landmark film.
Being reclusive is a life choice, sure, but it can be hard for those in one’s orbit. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mother told me years ago that she had to stop going for her morning walk to the park near their home in Versova because aspiring actors and writers routinely walked up to her, begging her to introduce them to her son. My favourite story, though, involves Aditya Chopra’s wife, actress Rani Mukerji, who joked that she was secretly relieved when the paparazzi finally managed to land a picture of their daughter on Aditya’s watch. “If it had been me who was out with Adhira when the paps struck, I would have never heard the end of it from my husband.”
From HT Brunch, February 25, 2023
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