Fan-tastic

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By The city has many fan clubs, old and new, which work as highly demonstrative support groups bearing their idols' standard. Sudeshna Banerjee takes a look
  • Published 5.09.10
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Fans of Shah Rukh Khan take out a procession

Who is a fan? A person devoted, somewhat irrationally, to another whom he considers a higher being? To be in touch with something larger than life?

Singer Anjan Dutt has met up with many of his crazy fans. “I can’t give up shopping at New Market or drinking at Olympia. So I try to reason with them to stop them obsessing about me. The key is to turn their attention from me to my inspirations like country music, Darjeeling or the Anglo-Indian lifestyle.” Members of a now-defunct fan club called Addiction later became so friendly with Dutt that they held charity shows with him in the late-’90s.

“A fan derives vicarious pleasure in leading a surrogate life of his dreams,” says sociologist Prasanta Roy. Followers of star tweets, in his view, also qualify as fans. “They have that irrational quality. Look at the way Shashi Tharoor’s followers bonded with him through his roller-coaster ride. He may not be a star in the old-fashioned sense but he has all the new-age aspirational qualities.”

Here’s how some of Calcutta’s fan clubs, with a physical or a virtual address, try to live up to their idols…

Amitabh Bachchan: “God created human, Bachchan teaches humanity.” Struck by such banners at movie halls exhibiting Amitabh Bachchan films? No points for guessing who put them up.

All Bengal Amitabh Bachchan Fans’ Association, the oldest extant fan club in Bengal running since 1979, set up a temple in Bondel Road where on Guru Purnima, a priest worships the sandals Bachchan wore in Agneepath placed on the chair from Aks.

They go all out on Big B’s birthday on October 11, when he grants darshan to a handful. “Last year we brought out a Vijay Rath in Mumbai drawn by the same horse that Abhishek Bachchan rode on his wedding,” beams secretary Sanjay Patodia.

Mithun Chakraborty: He got his fan club, Mithun Friend’s Association, renamed in 1997. “We have senior people whom it is not right to call fans. So I suggested a new name: Mithun’s Citizens Welfare Organisation. It has 72 units across India with 1 lakh members. I have told them to stay involved in social work. Otherwise, a fan club shuts down once the star is gone,” says Mithun.

Adds founder-member Babun Roychowdhury: “We don’t encourage fans hankering for photographs. Nor do we go garland Dada’s pictures in halls. Dada tells us to save the money for charity. We don’t even call him to our social programmes. We run a centre to help the physically challenged and a self-help group for women in Chakdah, Nadia. Our Mithun birthday celebrations are blood donation camps.”

Jeet: A film release spurs fans into action. “We organise pujas in Jeet’s name praying for a hit at Dakshineswar and Puri,” says Somnath Kar, who runs Jeet Fan’s Club in Kalighat. The ritual at the theatre is just as important. “His cut-outs in every city hall are garlanded, 51 coconuts are broken to bring luck, laddus are distributed among the audience and confetti bombs are burst,” he adds.

A fan club, says Babua Bhowmik, who organises live shows with actors, is of great help when the star goes to the districts for shows. “When I take Jeet to Coochbehar or Malda, his fan club members give us protection in the face of mob frenzy,” he says.

Above all, a fan club boosts the celebrity’s ego. Says Jeet: “No amount of success matches the roar of a crowd of 15-20,000 people when they see me step out on stage.” He often has fans waiting outside his New Alipore house. “I try to meet them. When girls come with proposals of marriage, I appreciate their love but I can’t help them. But when elderly people meet me and give their blessings, I draw a lot of positivity.”

Dev: Idol worship has taken a new dimension on the Internet. Communities have been created on social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook, which can operate without a physical identity. Old-timers like Patodia may scoff at them but for the youth, Net is where loyalties lie. Sayantan Roy, a 21-year-old amateur web designer and a fan of Tollywood’s newest heartthrob Dev, has built www.devthesuperstar. com. “I had created an Orkut community last January, which proved a rage with 8,180 members. So I created this website and approached Devda to launch it. I get calls from fans daily, even from Bangladesh.” The site is the base for a fan club with a paid membership. “We send members identity cards, T-shirts and tickets for Dev films.” He has approached Dev with a request to start a blog on the site. “We also take his byte on occasions like Independence Day and upload it.”

Koel: Taking a cue from Sayantan, fans of other Tollywood stars are turning to the Net. Aritro Roy, a Class XII student of Bangur Boys School, has created www. tollyqueenkoel.com. The boy went to Koel Mullick’s Golf Club Road house on April 28, her birthday, to get her to launch the website. “We update news on Koeldi collected from media reports. Our site has already recorded 55,000 hits.”

Though Dev’s fans are seeking a physical address, Aritro prefers the Net. “This way, Koeldi’s fans will not be limited to one area.” Fans of Hiran and Payel are also developing sites with Sayantan’s guidance. He himself is planning one for Srabanti.

The interactive zones on these sites show what passion is about. Requests to the star for their contact number are aplenty. A Koel fan has pleaded with her not to marry soon. Anyone taking a dig at the star is hounded by others. “Our moderators ban those who make negative comments about Devda,” smiles Sayantan.

Producers channelise this passion to help their films. A contest specific to the site is running on Koel’s next film Prem by Chance. Sayantan says he has received requests from Dev’s producers to also help promote films that do not feature Dev.

Shah Rukh Khan: Formed in 1998, Shah Rukh Khan Fans Club flaunts its authorisation from Red Chillies Entertainment, SRK’s production company. Membership to the club in New Town costs Rs 300 and fetches a T-shirt, the club’s programme CDs and Kolkata Knight Riders home match tickets. “We get 500 tickets for KKR matches free. On November 2, his birthday, he always takes our call. We throw a party here. The poor are fed and blankets distributed,” says joint secretary Deepak Yadav. SRK’s KKR connection has caused a spurt in membership. Last year, a yajna was held before a makeshift temple with a photograph of the team.

Had SRK not been supportive, he admits, the club might not have managed to retain its 400-odd members. “The first question a new member asks is ‘When will I meet Shah Rukh?’,” Yadav smiles.

Sourav Ganguly: Sourav Fans’ Association, Kalighat, was formed when Greg Chappell dropped Sourav Ganguly from Team India. “We burnt Chappell’s effigy in front of the Eden Gardens and took out rallies,” says member Abhijeet Mukherjee. When the cricketer announced his retirement, the club staged a sit-in.

But Sourav has never met his fans from Kalighat. Add to that his retirement from international cricket and you know why the club’s member base has dwindled. “Since he is the KKR captain, we are still carrying on,” says Mukherjee.

Mukesh: Four members keep the flame alight at Mukesh Lovers’ Association with a low-key programme on the singer’s death anniversary in end-August. “Mukesh does not have young fans,” admits Partha Chakraborty, the founder-secretary, who sings in Mukesh’s style. They have neither managed to contact Nitin Mukesh, the singer’s son, nor can dream of rubbing shoulders with his actor-grandson Neil.

Amit Kumar: To commemorate Kishore Kumar’s birthday, members of son Amit Kumar’s fan club booked Nandan 2 from August 6 to 8 for a Kishore film festival. “We screened his films and a documentary on him by Sandip Ray. The festival was such a success that we plan to make it an annual event,” says Sudipta Chanda, the secretary of Amit Kumar Fan Club. The club also prints a calendar every year, which is usually launched by Amit Kumar.