News Column

'It's all PR generated'

July 7, 2013


July 07--Perennial film baddie, but all-round good-guy, Gulshan Grover exposes the inner workings of Bollywood

DESPITE HIS PREDILECTION for portraying the quintessential conniving rogue on-screen, in real life you're unlikely to find a more genial and frank character than Gulshan Grover. Admittedly the slicked back hair, skilfully coiffed beard and dark glasses suggest that iconic villains he has played such as 'Bad Man' in 1989's Ram Lakhan lay pretty close to the surface, but get talking about a variety of issues and thought-provoking conversation points will follow.

With four upcoming films opening in the space of a month and a half after Ramadan, the reason for the actor's visit to the Khaleej Times on Wednesday was pretty obvious. Having taken a year-long sabbatical from his native film industry to focus on Hollywood, Gulshan wished to convey that he was back. But, make no mistake. This was not your run-of-the-mill publicity blitz. An understated entrance and an hour's in-depth chat over a cup of coffee made this interview a bit special, especially when the 57-year old began revealing his disdain for regular movie promotions and the deception behind them.

"When our films are releasing we all look like politicians," Gulshan said. "We'll sit and smile and then never see that colleague whom we're laughing with again."

The refreshingly honest statement only became more intriguing the more he explained why using underhand tactics is now the only way to grab the media's attention.

"Our PRs tell us to make up stupid stories. When a film is releasing we need the media, so we need to give them something. We say a whole load of rubbish stories about incidents during filming, the food that we shared and that 'he's a prankster.' It's all PR generated. We work out the notes beforehand, discussing what will fly and what to say to whom so they have their 'exclusives.' It's a game."

Gulshan reasoned that journalists' intrusion into stars' lives is at an all-time high, not only because of the public's curiosity, but also because of this sort of compliance from the performers.

"There is a thirst for knowledge that needs to be quenched. Earlier it was just what sort of food we eat. Now people want to know about your home life. It's human nature. It's going to get worse and worse. We are indulging it."

Nowhere are these sentiments more apparent than in the recent tragic passing of upcoming starlet Jiah Khan. Many observers have commented on the distasteful way elements of her life have been raked over to fill news pages, some say to shamefully promote certain parties' interests.

Instead of shying away from discussing the matter of a young woman forced into taking her own life, or offering limp wristed condolences (as has been the case among most of the fraternity), Gulshan believes the film industry should learn from the episode.

"More than anything this did focus my attention on the loneliness of stardom. It has made me think about the hollowness of fame.

"It is easy to fall under the illusion that you are a star when you are young. It is easier to become a name these days. Wear something nice and say something fresh and you'll be in the paper. In Bombay there are 17 to 20 parties of various scales each week. You are called, persuaded, dragged and sometimes paid to go. 'Stardom' comes too quickly, but it is not real. They have no body of work to fall back on.

"When the work is not there and you have this expensive lifestyle and the 'friends' disappear, then it is a very lonely place. Not enough is said about this to warn youngsters entering the industry."

Gulshan also said that the insecurities young people face with their immaturity are only magnified when those around them are in the business of showing off.

"The thing to do now is go on holiday," he said. "I can use my friends as an example. Ajay Devgn is in London and so is Shah Rukh [Khan], someone else is in LA and everybody's Blackberry Messenger status has pictures of them posing in front of landmarks. I can imagine that if you were younger you'd feel bad about this and get into trouble trying to keep up. It creates unhappiness."

Perhaps not BBM, it being an invitation only network, but social media in general has been hailed as a pioneering bridge for performers to connect with their fans. Purporting to be starring in four movies hitting cinemas in almost as many weeks for his "admirers, not for commercial gain," it was put to Gulshan why he did not participate on any interactive platform.

"People who are successful in social media, honestly, are the ones who are calm and in control or are bulsh***ers. I am too emotional. I sometimes reply to a SMS too quick and I regret it.

"I am a nice guy; my fans know that. I'll meet them and when I do, they always ask 'when is the Bad Man returning?' These films are for them. I don't need to sit down and type, 'I did this,' and 'I did that."


"When he was younger we did not discuss movies. He was allowed to grow up normally. Every day his dream would change and we would let him find his path. He has his office in MGM in LA. I go there and I feel intimidated, so I don't think he will be leaving that any time soon."


(c)2013 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

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