A recent article by actor Prem Kumar in the Mathrubhumi daily, has all the ingredients that could spur the saner beings among us to think. In the article, he talks about various activities that constitute fandom and its bane. He shares his experience at a library anniversary inauguration. It is with remorse that he writes that no young man or woman was seen in the audience. When he voiced his concern regarding this to the others assembled there about this, the answer was that they had gone to the nearby theater where a movie was being released, to conduct a “Paal Abhishekam” (showering milk over the life-size cut outs of the lead actor of the movie).
The practice of bathing movie stars’ cut outs with milk used to be common in various parts of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where devotion to film stars knew no bounds. Every time there is the release of the movies of actors like Rajnikanth, Ajith, Vijay, Surya and others, this was a ritual performed with hundreds in attendance. Later on, the ritual seems to have travelled to Kerala, where the Malayalee fans associations too were glad to adopt and put into practice. These days, a movie release is no less than a gala event. There are fans associations for almost all lead actors in Malayalam film industry, and the paal abhishekams happen every time a megastar’s movie opens in theatres.
While many a time, the fans associations have made the respective actors proud, there have also been instances when the stars had had to apologize on behalf of their fans when things went out of control. Fans associations often play the role of good Samaritans too, engaging themselves in relief and charity work. For instance, national award winning actor and Kerala’s megastar Mammooty’s fans’ association had lent a helping hand for the natives of Nepal during the earthquake, while Mohanlal fans have undertaken various charity initiatives across Kerala. Fans associations of non-Malayalee actors too are strong in Kerala. Allu Arjun fans from Thrissur had distributed food for the people living on the streets on day of a strike, while most recently, the Vijay fans’ association at Kottarakara conducted a rally against the rising attacks against women.
Fandom, akin to the proverbial coin, too has two sides. Recently, there were incidents where a young director and an actress had to face the rage of the superstar fans. These apart, there are face offs between the fans of the two big stars during their movie releases. Online battles are also fought with all fury.
Fandom, in fact, has a hand in helping movies turn successful at the box office. When sometimes fandom leads an average movie to be a blockbuster, some which come with great story lines but minus popular stars get nowhere. There have been incidents when people applauded the movie when they get released on DVD and the online platforms after having beaten down by bad publicity and foul mouthing from the part of rival fans.
There will be fans and fan clubs as long as there are stars. And, there will be milk-bathing of star pictures and cutouts across Kerala for more time to come. However, fans associations, when they run berserk, could prove to be a bane. The stars, for whom these fans associations and groups function, need to take a stand on this. They need to guide their fans on what is right and what is wrong. Fandom is fine, but aggressive and immature acts in the name of devotion to the film stars would take us nowhere. What do you think?