Sarita A Tanwar (DNA; April 29, 2017)

Actors always have security with them whenever they travel to a public place for an event or a function, because they expect people to be present in huge numbers. Apart from the security provided at the venue, they all bring their own private security guards. This is true of actors as well as actresses. But most stars, when they are going shopping, or to get coffee, to watch a movie or to a restaurant, they don’t have their personal security, managers and their own private little army with them because they are on personal time. During events and premieres, they expect crowds because it is announced in advance, and ensure they are surrounded by security guards. But they do not expect crowds when they are on ‘me time’ and assume their spontaneity to be a safe zone. But sadly these days there is no such thing for celebrities. There are selfie hunters everywhere. And unlike photographers who are known to actors, these are strangers. And they are demanding and aggressive.

There is a reason why even male stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar are never without their personal bodyguards. Earlier when actors stepped out of their homes, all they had to worry about was being clicked sans make-up. Now, for the actresses at least, there is the very real danger of being groped and touched by crowds, who approach them on the pretext of clicking a selfie. As a woman, I feel very uncomfortable and suffocated when I see pictures of actresses surrounded by selfie seekers. It is invasion of their personal place. They get too close. And they are everywhere. At airports, outside restaurants, movie theaters and other places where actresses don’t travel with security. I remember soon after Piku released, I was at Deepika Padukone’s house and as I was leaving, she was planning to take her out-of-town friend to the Foodhall in Palladium, close to her house. I asked her if she was going with security and she laughed, “What! To buy groceries? Of course, not” I cautioned her to reconsider as it was a weekend, and on weekends that mall was packed with thousands of people. And it wouldn’t be safe for her to be in that sea of people. She refused to take me seriously, but ultimately better sense prevailed and she didn’t end up going.

Grocery grief
Another incident that comes to mind was one that Imran Khan had relayed to me. Like Deepika, he too believed that he didn’t need security to go buy groceries. A few years ago, when his bungalow was being renovated, he and his wife Avantika were renting an apartment in Bandra. One afternoon they decided to walk to the nearby (a few buildings away from their house) Nature’s Basket to shop for some food and drinks. They were spotted going in, and twenty minutes later, when they were ready to leave, there was a huge crowd outside. It was beginning to look like a stampede sort of situation. He’d given his driver the day off. The situation got so bad that he had to call uncle Aamir and ask him to send his driver and security guy to rescue them. It was perhaps not so much for his safety as for his wife but he learnt something that day. This was a few years ago. Now it’s gotten much worse. Selfie hunters now know the usual celebrity haunts and these stalkers show up there. The fiery Twinkle Khanna recently admonished photographers for showing up outside her store regularly, which began resulting in a crowd gathering outside every time she went to the store. Not everyone is as adept as her at scaring people away.

Sid, the arm-bar beau
Recently, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra were spotted leaving an eatery. And as usual, they walked out separately to avoid being clicked together. There was a group of boys who surrounded him as soon he stepped out of the restaurant. He realised that if he left, Alia would be alone at their mercy. And not caring for the paps, he turned back and put a protective arm around her to keep her safe from the crowd and escorted her to her car. She looks shaken in the pictures. Says an older actress, “This never used to happen in our time. This is a new menace. Large groups of men/boys collect when they see cameramen waiting outside a restaurant or a theater because obviously they are waiting for a celebrity and then when he or she emerges they all rush and surround them. It is a scary situation for any woman to be in. When surrounded by mobs, if someone takes advantage of the melee and misbehaves, it would be impossible to pinpoint the culprit.”

Selfie-hungry fans
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And if you go by the expressions of Bollywood actresses in these pictures. The message is loud and clear. Selfie-crazy fans are not only invading a celeb’s privacy but also scaring them with their proximity. While most celebrities pose for pics with fans because they appreciate their love and appreciation, it is a potentially dangerous situation. While one can understand the sentiment of a fan wanting a selfie with his idols, how many of these selfie hunters are really fans of the actors? And also, approaching the celeb concerned, and requesting them for a picture would be acceptable. Most of them don’t ask. They simply surround the celebrity and start clicking on the cameras for fifteen seconds of fame that comes their way when they upload that picture on social media.

Mujhe selfie se bachao!
Bipasha Basu too looked hassled, when a fan approached them for a selfie at an award show. While her hubby Karan Singh Grover happily posed for one with the fan, Bipasha could not escape faster from the situation. Also, see Shruti Haasan, intent on making a quick escape, even as the guy in the picture tries to get closer to her. While the actresses have it bad, the actors too are not spared, and are often trailed by fans wanting a quick selfie. Despite being hounded for pictures, most actors do oblige fans with a selfie. As seen in these pictures, John Abraham and Ayushmann Khurrana too look like they need to be rescued, as is obvious from the expressions of both Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt.