Several cricketers, Bollywood celebs including Hrithik Roshan, Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Kajal Aggarwal, Parineeti Chopra, Gul Panag among several others condemned the act.
In today’s #BigStory, we reached out to celebrities who shared their horrid experiences with fans, and the cautionary steps they take to safeguard their privacy. We also spoke to lawyers and psychologists who shared their perspectives on celebrity privacy and fandom. Read on.
Celebs recall their brush with fanatics
Instances of fanaticism have been commonplace in B-Town. Some of the most shocking ones recently have been those of Rishi Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar’s videos shot in the hospital and circulated on digital media. Not too long ago, Jacqueline Fernandes’ private moments with Sukesh Chandrasekhar were leaked amidst the money laundering controversy. Who could forget the private beach pictures of Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor from their Ibiza vacation that were clicked without their knowledge? Celebrity moms like Anushka Sharma, Neha Dhupia among others have gone to great extent to protect their kids from media glare.
Raveena Tandon too recalls fan incidents that went a bit too far. “There was this fan from Goa who was convinced that he was married to me! He would send me vials of blood through courier, he would send letters written in blood, and obscene photographs. He was absolutely sure that he was married to me and my kids were actually his kids. It was really crazy and scary. And then there was another person who had landed up on my gate. He would just sit outside my house. Once when my husband Anil (Thadani) was leaving in his car, a big stone was thrown at him! These are two incidents when I had a close call with fans. We had to call the cops because I was scared for Anil’s safety,” she tells ETimes.
Singer Savaniee Ravindrra too has had unpleasant experiences with fans. “Once, I was attending a funeral where people recognised me and started requesting pictures. I felt it was ridiculous because people don’t have the sensibilities of when and where and how to portray their love for you. Sometimes they cross the lines. I was never worried about my private moments being captured earlier, but since the few recent incidents, I am worried what if my personal space too was exposed?” she says.
The psychology of fans
Earlier this year, Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias shared a clip from a PDA-filled moment with a female fan on Instagram. The footage sees the musician initially kissing the woman on the cheek as she took a selfie. Things got more passionate after she turned her head to kiss Enrique on the lips. She continues to try to film the smooch but he pushes the woman away gently before leaving the spot. While Enrique did not seem to mind the proximity, there are celebs who choose to maintain boundaries. Jaya Bachchan, for instance, does not like getting pictured in public with strangers. Not long ago, a video of Shah Rukh Khan at the airport saw a fan getting too close for a selfie. Khan, who is a very fan-friendly star, was visibly perturbed by this behaviour and son Aryan quickly came to his rescue.
Psychologists say being a fan is fun, at least according to our brains. Because fun activities feel good, they cause our brains to release chemicals that the body enjoys. So people often seek more opportunities to recreate those feel-good responses. And to hold onto the memories, they document them in pictures or videos to remind them of their experience.
Psychiatrist Harish Shetty says privacy has different definitions in various eras. “Peeking into the lives of others and curiosity of their stories may appear devilish in Western cultures but it’s normal for us on this side of the world. For celebrities where both their
kirdaar and their lives are under the arc lights, every moment of closeness and being oneself becomes vitally important for preserving mental health. Fans and friends in their enthusiasm do not recognise boundaries. For them it is an association that merges and completely blends with their heroes. The fan is then the hero too. And as he displays the pictures he feels it’s him, it’s his own life he is displaying. He then becomes charitable and wants to give a glimpse to the bigger world. The fan also experiences power and glory while doing it,” he says.
With increasing instances of fans crossing the lines and getting too close for comfort, celebrities are left with no choice but to be extra cautious in public as well as private spaces, despite tight security. “You remember the videos of actresses bathing that had surfaced on the net about a decade ago? Since then I’ve been extremely cautious,” Dia Mirza tells ETimes. Better safe than sorry, Dia chooses to follow certain protocols to ensure her safety. “A thorough check for hidden cams, getting the hotel to assign a room after arrival, keeping the room number private etc are some of the protocols in place,” she adds.
Savaniee too has been bothered by the recent instances. “These incidents made me start thinking about it to make sure to take good care of myself while staying alone in a hotel room. Basic checks would be to always carry some safety tool with me, maybe a pepper spray and stuff like that. Women need to be very careful. You should always be prepared, so when I am travelling by road, I carry a small knife or a cutter just to feel safe and ensure I will be able to protect myself when needed,” she says.
Yusuf Ibrahim has been a bodyguard to some of the most established Bollywood celebs including Alia Bhatt. Talking about safety protocols, he says, “We run a thorough check before a celeb checks in a hotel room. We check for cameras or any other sort of surveillance. Once they are checked in, our rooms are close by, so we keep our door open to keep a watch. Even the hotel authorities are cooperative.”
Right to privacy as per the law
While it is true celebs somewhat owe their stardom to their legion of fans, some things are off limits. “Even the authorities under law are not given untrammeled power to infringe the right of privacy of any person without following due process,” says Supreme Court advocate Khushboo Jain. “The recent incident of trespassing in the room of Virat Kohli clearly appears to be unlawful activity. Another related aspect is that of a security breach. This carelessness and negligence on behalf of the hotel makes the hotel liable for legal action as it was their duty to maintain security on their premises and to make sure that individuals rights in such a case are not unnecessarily infringed.”
Ameet Naik of the law firm Naik Naik & Co adds, “The Virat Kohli incident is merely one iteration of a much larger issue of infringement of the right of privacy of celebrities and public figures. The right to privacy is a fundamental right of every person, which flows from Article 19 of the Constitution of India. However, most people wrongly assume that this is not applicable to celebrities and public figures due to their prominent features in the public eye. It is pertinent to note that all public figures have personality rights, which refers to a bundle of rights, largely comprising of the right to publicity, the right to keep one’s image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission or contractual compensation, and the right to privacy, the right to be left alone and not have one’s personality represented publicly without permission. Public figures can enforce their personality rights against persons who use name, image, likeness or personality without their consent, and in case the content is defamatory or slanderous, they may initiate action for defamation as well.”
Where to draw the line?
Time and again, celebrities have requested for space and privacy from the prying eyes of fans and the paparazzi. Back in 2013, Katrina was caught off-guard with the leaked pictures with her then boyfriend Ranbir. In an open letter, she called it an act of cowardice. “The pictures were taken while I was on holiday by someone who, in an act of cowardice, has shot without permission and then used the pictures for commercial gain… I request that all media running these pictures, please refrain from doing so,” she wrote.
Cricketer Harbhajan Singh is appalled with Virat’s privacy breach incident. Speaking to ETimes, he said that ‘the hotel authorities are completely at fault’. “We book our stay at hotels with utmost faith and despite that if these people are shooting videos in our rooms, that’s wrong! Why would you want to do that?” he questioned. “Forget celebrities, even a commoner would be scared out of wits if their hotel room is filmed. Privacy is sacrosanct and it is up to the hotel management to ensure the hotel staff on the floor should not carry any cameras. And in case of any untoward incident they should be held responsible. I had even seen when Rishi Kapoor was admitted to the hospital, somebody took a video of his last moments and leaked it out. People feel it’s cool, it’s fun to put such videos out, but it’s not,” he adds.
Virat’s wife Anushka Sharma too spoke up and wrote on social media, “Have experienced a few incidents where some fans have shown no compassion or grace in the past but this really is the worst thing. An absolute disgrace and violation of a human being and anyone who sees this and thinks “
celebrity ho! Toh deal karna padega” should know that you are also part of the problem. Exercising some self control helps everyone. Also if this is happening in your bedroom then where is the line?”
“What is truly appalling is that it looks like it’s been made by the housekeeping team. Which raises multiple issues of violation of privacy- by its custodians !” wrote Gul Panag. Arjun Kapoor called the behaviour ‘absolutely unethical and uncool’, whereas Varun Dhawan said it is horrible.
A similar incident happened with George Clooney and his attorney wife Amal Clooney when a person entered their home by Lake Como in 2017 to get a picture of their newborn twins for a French magazine. Clooney issued a statement that read, “Over the last week photographers from a magazine scaled our fence, climbed a tree and illegally took pictures of our infants inside our home. Make no mistake the photographers, the agency and the magazine will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The safety of our children demands it.”
Janhvi Kapoor who enjoys a massive fan following says, “I think that people in general need to learn how to respect boundaries. And I hope that people understand it’s a big part of being a decent citizen of society – respect each other’s boundaries.”
Savaniee believes fans should understand that celebs are also humans before they are artistes. “We have our own lives and they should respect that,” she signs off.