13 Feb 2012

Pali Hill

Valentine's Day Guest Post By Sunaina Kumar
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani
She stands outside his house every single day. We meet Ranbir Kapoor's greatest fan.

The occasional car, autorickshaw and dog-walker pass by Krishna Raj, the iconic bungalow of actor Ranbir Kapoor, in the quiet and leafy Pali Hill area in Bandra. It’s six in the evening, the sun is about to set and the shadows are lengthening. The two guards outside the actor’s fortress do not need to consult the sun to know the time. They can set their watch by the appearance of one lonely shadow. There she stands every day of the week from evening till nearly midnight.

For about two years, Sapna Kamdar has maintained a rigid, unvarying schedule. Every evening she travels from her house in Wadala to Pali Hill in Bandra where she waits to catch a glimpse of the star. Sometimes she’s lucky, most times she’s not. It’s a lonely vigil, standing outside his bungalow, waiting, just waiting with faith and love and hope in her heart. She makes for a heartbreakingly poignant picture, a frail figure, clutching a book tightly in her hands reading under the lamppost, listening to music on her earphones. The uninterrupted tedium is broken at times when Ranbir’s driver or guard acknowledges her with a nod or a throwaway comment. They are all familiar with her and laughingly refer to her as “woh ladki jo saab ko dekhne roz aati hai”. As she merely stands on the road, they cannot stop her and view her as a mild diversion. This is her story.

It is also a story that attests to the intense power of film stars in our country, when cyber stalking is a mouse click away and one can know everything about stars from their dietary preferences to sleeping schedules, the symbiotic fan-star relationship, which feeds off each other can sometimes still take unusual forms. In 2011, filmmaker Jagannath Krishnan made Videokaaran, a documentary about a Mumbai slum boy Sagai Raj who ran an illegal video parlour and whose world view has been shaped by the movies of Rajinikanth, a homage to the power of cinema, which the multiplex audience often underrates.

(Mumbai Paused wrote about Sagai and Jagan here)

In the hierarchy of stars in Bandra (the three big Khans all live here), Salman and Shah Rukh draw hordes of gawpers, diehard fans and busloads of sightseeing tourists outside their homes. Ranbir Kapoor is well left alone, except for the occasional troops of giggling girls who descend, take quick pictures, shout out their love, and leave. As well as the stars, there is a hierarchy of fans in place, the thrill-seekers, the tourists and the regulars who check on their idols from week to week, but none come close to the daily adulation of Sapna Kamdar.

“Fans are the ones who come and go. I do not like to be compared with them. I’m more than a fan. I love him truly and he knows it,” she says. On his birthday in September, she sent him a card, the content of which she does not reveal. On her phone she displays her most prized photograph, a hum drum fan-star photo of herself and Ranbir taken just near his gate about a year back. “He stopped one day and asked me my name and why I never wave out to him like other fans. But I don’t like to do things that other fans do.” She does not have a single poster of his at home, she says, she carries him with her. She gleans information about him from film magazines and websites, and is up to date about his professional and personal commitments. “It’s a full time job just being me, as I wait for him to recognise my love.”

Sapna’s tale goes back to five years when she started trekking daily to her then deity Shah Rukh Khan’s house. She switched allegiances after watching Bachna Ae Haseeno, a film where Ranbir woos three different women. British critic Clive James has spoken of the invention of the film close up which has led to the formation of screen gods, as those on film screens appear larger than life, the audience often loses perspective. In Sapna’s mind, the character and the actor have melded to create an idol that she has placed on a higher pedestal.

An aspiring actress whose fandom has taken on an extreme shape, her background is surprisingly prosaic. After completing MBA through distance learning, and not finding a job of her choice, she began work as a primary school teacher. A half formed idea of becoming an actress took shape and she quit her job to join the legions of strugglers in the city.

In true struggler fashion, she painstakingly dresses up every single day. But unlike other strugglers, she does not do the rounds of studios scouring for work. Her search begins and ends outside Ranbir Kapoor’s house with the hope that she will one day be able to act with him. She exhibits the classic stalker signs, obvious loneliness and lack of self-esteem, which is exacerbated with an inflated sense of self-importance. She obviously does not see herself as a stalker. Her talk veers between astute street smart and spiritual mumbo jumbo.

“He can read my mind, my bhakti.” On many days she can be spotted scribbling into her notepad under the pooling light of the lamppost outside Ranbir’s gate. She has set herself the task of translating the works of her guru Shrimad Rajchandra from Gujarati into English. Her talk is peppered with doses of spirituality, her reverence for her matinee idol as deep as that for her God.

Psychologists in the USA, home of mass hysteria and celebrity worship have broken down the fame phenomenon into the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS). At one time fans could be divided into those who consume celebrities for entertainment and social purposes and those who display obsessional tendencies. The crux of the CAS theory is that celebrity worship forms a continuum, the scales are ever-changing and given the right set of circumstances, there is a stalker in all of us.

Who is this woman? She says she’s 35, but changes her mind like every other aspiring actress. She lives with her parents, but has never told her parents or friends about her daily ritual. She is looking for work but believes she will find work by standing outside a star’s house. She has done this for nearly five years and is yet to tire of it. In a city of dreams, she embodies both the living and the snuffing of dreams.

Sunaina Kumar writes for Tehelka from Mumbai and lives in Bandra. She and her husband used to see this lady at odd hours, in the rain and dark nights, standing all alone. They decided to go speak to her.


kavita said...

Modern day Meerabai !Great read .

Hindol Sengupta said...

Fascinating. Creepy and a gripping read.

Prajna said...

this one gave me goosebumps..

Srinivasan Pillai said...

a dream becoming reality or reality becoming a dream?

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