I like watching movies, but when it comes to genuflection before the actors who star in them, I tend to draw a line. Maybe it’s the journalistic ego, that prevents us from acting as star-struck fans.
I recall as a young reporter who had gone to interview Eve Ensler, who had written the play ‘The Vagina Monologues’. Against the backdrop of the India Habitat Centre, even as I rattled off the questions, and she shot back with her replies, I couldn’t help but notice another pretty face, sitting casually on a slightly raised ledge by the steps outside the Stein Auditorium. I recognised her, from the movie My Cousin Vinny – though I do confess Joe Pesci’s performance impressed me more than hers, even if she did win the Oscar for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role (female).
Yup, it was Marisa Tomei, accompanying Ensler on her India trip. But apart from an exchange of pleasantries, didn’t feel any burning desire to ask for an autograph, or even a photograph with her – and I am pretty sure she wouldn’t have refused the request, had it come. My colleague was a step ahead – she failed to even recognise her! Just as well, though Ms Tomei hardly gave off any starry airs. Sometimes I wonder to this day if I should have just requested for a memento – as a trophy to show-off among friends. Why didn’t I? I can’t fathom it myself.
The other time I bumped into another screen face was in London’s Mayfair hotel, staying overnight en route to New York for some yawn-inducing speeches at the UNGA. I was in the elevator, when an entourage of men entered – about four of them. The centre of attraction of course was this one chap, a few inches taller than myself, who till then hadn’t had much of a dream run at the box office, save for his debut movie directed by his dad. Just an exchange of smiles, as he realised I had recognised him – but I guess my hands were too frozen to ask for a memento that would help remember our chance encounter year from then.
The next morning, there was another lifeline – as a peer and myself stood across the street from the hotel, enjoying a steaming cup of coffee from an eatery opposite the hotel, when he stepped out, only to be mobbed by the hordes of other hacks in the media party for an autograph. For a second, it was embarrassing – I mean, as journos, we are supposed to be immune to the temptation of stardom, but I guess, some of us too have feet of clay.
There was a brief acknowledgement of familiarity from sharing the same elevator the night before, as he crossed the road and headed off on his way. Didn’t think he’d last too long in the industry. Today of course, Mr Hrithik Roshan is one of the leading stars and a hot property at the box office.
So when a colleague sent a mail inviting everyone for a session with Naseeruddin Shah, I decided to make an exception. Maybe because, like Mr Shah, have dabbled in theatre, so was curious to meet a fellow theatre actor. And maybe also because, like Mr Shah, am getting on in years, so opportunities like these won’t be coming my way everyday!
Well, he lived up to his reputation of being honest and not given to unnecessary political correctness. To his credit, he still retains the ability to laugh at himself – unless of course that was also a performance for public consumption (there, the cynical hack in me surfaces again!). His co-star from his latest venture – Atul Kulkarni – was also there with him, but let’s face it, the cynosure of all eyes was the white-haired Shah in a room full of people where the average age would have been 30.
It wasn’t a boring interaction, as I had feared – and even managed to throw a couple of questions at him (which surprisingly managed to find their way to the print interview carried in the paper today). Overall, he seemed normal – well, actually, with actors, it’s difficult to tell if their normal act isn’t an act in itself and whether one is just getting carried away.
It’s a lot easier with politicians and corporate honchos and figuring them out.