Star interviews are a strange game played in Bollywood. It is that elusive weapon that brings a lot of entertainment journalists to their knees.
Star interviews are such a big deal that journalists covering Bollywood are ready to do anything to make an A-list star talk to them because it shows that the journalist has ‘access’,
The star too is aware of the importance of his interview to a journalist.
Entertainment reporting across the country sees rival media houses, journalists trying to upstage one another to get access to an A-list Bollywood star and secure an interview ahead of everybody else. The stars are aware of this race and handpick journalists very carefully through their staff.
In most cases, the journalist who will interview the star is hand-picked by their PR (media) managers who go by a standard checklist.
The check-list that a PR follows may be something like this — (a) the number of free mentions (read promotion) of the movie (sometimes the brand) that the star is promoting, the reach of the media house which the journalist is representing, the ‘slot’ that the journalist will be providing to the interview while airing it or printing it, the seniority of the journalist, the past record of the journalist (with the star) and lastly, whether the journalist agrees to the given conditions (it sometimes goes like ‘don’t ask him about his love life’).
The journalists who pass through this filtering process, manage to feature on the exclusive ‘media-list’ of star managers and get the privilege of interviewing the star, one-on-one.
There is further prioritisation that happens again but this time it depends on the demands of the journalists concerned. Some want to be first in the line at any cost, some want an exclusive photo-shoot along with the interview, some want the star in a well-decorated set with a five-camera set-up etc.
Once all that is sorted out, the star is ready to be interviewed.
Every star has their own way of giving an interview and each of them deal with journalists very differently. The interview that you see in any media is usually the finished product and doesn’t tell you the story of how the interview happened or how the star behaved during the course of the interview.
Today, I will tell you interesting anecdotes of how a star handles Bollywood journalists. To start with, I will talk about the top five male stars of Bollywood. So, here I go.
(a) Amitabh Bachchan: Amitabh Bachchan’s own camera-crew is also present at every media interview. This team will usually include a still camera person and a videographer. So, at the end of the interview, both Amitabh Bachchan and the reporter will have a tape and stills of the interview. The same process is followed for Abhishek Bachchan too. There is a no way a reporter can get away if he tampers with Bachchan’s words. Hence, most reporters are extremely careful when they are editing or transcribing an Amitabh Bachchan interview. Amitabh Bachchan’s interview always begins and ends exactly at the time that was decided earlier. Amitabh Bachchan is always punctual to a fault and if he gives you a time of 10.30 am, it means the interview might start at 10.29 am but not at 11 am. A journalist is expected to reach the venue well ahead of the interview time.
(b) Shah Rukh Khan: Shah Rukh likes to give one-on-ones in a relaxed atmosphere. If the journalist is already charmed by him then the doors of Mannat (Shah Rukh’s bungalow) will open to welcome the journalist inside.
More often than not, senior journalists get invited to his office on the second floor of Mannat Annexe (the building that is right behind the bungalow). Once you are seated in his spacious office, you will get a royal treatment from his staff because Shah Rukh is always ‘yet to arrive’.
Usually, Shah Rukh will be at least one hour late from the time of the interview. But if he is just one hour late then you are lucky. I have seen him three hours behind schedule and that is not unusual for him at all. Once he arrives for the interview, you (the journalist) belong to him.
Usually, Shah Rukh will give you as much time as you require unless he is pressed by his own staff to end the interview (it happens all the time because SRK loses track of time if he is engrossed in the interview).
In all cases without exception, it will be Shah Rukh in the driving seat even if you go into the conversation with an agenda or a well-planned line of questioning.
Shah Rukh will derail all your plans with his incisive, witty and off-the-cuff answers unless you are a seasoned journalist who’s well aware of Shah Rukh’s ways. Very few journos can hold on to their line of questioning when Shah Rukh takes charge. Most interviews end up the way Shah Rukh wants it, in spite of journalists putting in their best efforts.
He is a very difficult person to beat when it comes to mind games during interviews.
(c) Salman Khan: He is an antonym of Shah Rukh Khan. Salman Khan doesn’t know most of the journalists personally who operate in the field today. He doesn’t care about who he is speaking to and how ‘famous’ a journalist is.
If you ask him the right questions politely, you will always get the right answers. The operative word here is ‘being polite’. You cannot afford to be even be passively aggressive during a Salman Khan interview, then your interview will end in five minutes.
If Salman is in the mood or he likes the way you are dealing with him, he will tell you the whole truth and not care about the consequences. He is not known to be diplomatic or somebody who plays mind-games with you during an interview. He will say it the way he is thinking.
However, if he feels that you are there with an agenda of getting a headline or a punch-line, Salman Khan will clam up. I have seen him end an interview with just ‘yes’ and ‘no’ because he felt that the journalist is not being honest with his questions. He generally goes by his gut-feeling while giving an interview and in most cases, he doesn’t care about how the journalist is perceiving his answers.
He is also usually late for his interviews but his sense of time is better than Shah Rukh.
Aamir’s army will make sure that he won’t face any nasty surprise during the course of the interview. Most of the time, Aamir is aware of the line of questioning and in some cases, the exact questions that a journalist is going to ask him.
Even after all that, Aamir will never give a knee-jerk reaction to any question. He will let you finish the question, pause for a moment to collect his thoughts and then begin his answer. He will speak slowly and clearly. Aamir will always remain aware of the fact that every word of his is being recorded. If he feels that he has said something out-of-place, he will stop his interview and ask you to cut out the words that he has spoken. He never speaks fast and recollects his thoughts properly. Aamir is never politically incorrect unless he chooses to be and he chooses his words most carefully.
After Amitabh Bachchan, it’s Aamir Khan who is most punctual.
(e) Ranbir Kapoor: Most of the times, Ranbir Kapoor is not available to the media for exclusive one-on-ones unless he is promoting something, like his film.
Though Ranbir doesn’t give rehearsed answers, he gets extremely jittery if a journalist crosses the ‘line’ and starts asking about his love life. Because he is still not a superstar and on his way to become one, he exactly knows where he belongs in Bollywood and is aware that he is the undisputed youth icon in Bollywood today. He and his PR team handle this ‘image’ very carefully.
Like Shah Rukh, he also has his ways to charm journalists and usually acts charming when he is not pissed off with a journalist. Even though he has the most talked-about love life, it is almost impossible to make him talk about it. It doesn’t matter if you still manage to sneak in a question. It’s best to sneak in those ‘love questions’ towards the end of the interview because it starts making him fidgety.
Here is a viral video where Ranbir comes to Deepika Padukone’s rescue when a journalist asks her an uncomfortable question during a press conference of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Look how instantaneously he comes to her rescue and chides the journalist for the question, which even in my opinion was a foolish question to ask.
After Shah Rukh Khan, it is Ranbir Kapoor who likes to be in total control when he is sitting for one-on-ones. The one thing that separates Ranbir from all the above is his body language which is extremely relaxed in front of journalists. I have never seen him get intimidated by the press.
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