x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A precious few minutes more with the stars of Rowdy Rathore

The publicist was adamant: absolutely no longer than five minutes. But the stars were just a little more accommodating.

It's been a crazy past couple of days, with the Rowdy Rathore team in town over the weekend for a promotional tour to drum up some excitement ahead of the film's May 31 release.

The team did a little bit more than just drum up excitement. They seem to have brought out a whole lot of crazy in a whole lot of people!

I'm not just talking about the thousands who turned up at the public meet-and-greet at Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai on Thursday, though that is worth a mention: a sea of crazed Bollywood fans wearing paper masks emblazoned with Akshay Kumar's face. There were even a couple of fake moustaches like the one Akki sports as Rathore. It was a sight to behold!

After the press conference at the Grand Hyatt hotel earlier the same day, my videographer and I were in the lobby waiting for our turn with Akki and team, when a couple of ladies remarked how lucky we were to get the opportunity to interview him.

"I wish I could interview Akshay," sighed one wistfully.

"What publication are you from?" I asked, thinking it's probably a very small one and that's why she was denied a slot.

"Oh, I'm not a journalist," she laughed. "I'm just a fan."

Oh, well that makes sense.

I explained to her that it is a bit difficult to get an interview slot with a celebrity (specially a gargantuan one like Akki) if you're not actually going to be writing about it for some mass media outlet. I got told off for being callous.

A publicist recited a list of don'ts in prep for the coveted interview slot: don't take any pictures during the interview, don't take more than one videographer in, don't ask questions not related to the film, don't overstay your slot.

"Five minutes. You have five minutes!" trilled the harried publicist.

I looked woefully at my list of questions. There was no way I would be able to ask Akki any part of this in five minutes.

The full extent of the day's craziness truly dawned upon me when I tried to hustle a few more minutes from an event organiser who wielded his power in a very disturbing way.

"Take it or leave it," he boomed, threatening to give my slot to another publication. Really, so this is how PR and publicity works now? Marvellous!

My five minutes with Akki were five minutes more than most others were getting, so I decided to take it. Surprisingly, Akki seemed more than happy to chat for way longer than the designated five minutes.

In fact, when the aforementioned publicist forced the session to a close, and I remarked that I would have liked to have asked director Prabhu Deva some questions too, Akki took the mic from me and gave it to Prabhu, encouraging me to carry on with my "five minutes".

You should have seen the publicist's face.

And that's when you wonder: how much of the "diva" image is actually the star, and how much of it is just some publicity/PR person with a little more clout than they are capable of gracefully coping with?