x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bollywood celebrity making a public appearance? Head in the opposite direction

It suddenly dawned on me: I had unwittingly entered the aLamcy Plaza area on the day Kareena Kapoor was supposed to make an appearance at the mall.

A couple of weekends ago, I was driving back home towards Oud Metha from Jebel Ali after a press conference for the Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor's Heroine. Having taken a detour, it was early evening by the time I got to my neighbourhood and saw traffic just around the corner from my building. Out of the house since 7am, tired to the bone and keen to shave 30 seconds off my trip, I decided to take the back road - and made the U-turn that would have me cursing myself for the next hour or so.

What should have been a swift shortcut turned out to be a sedentary snake – no, wait, an impassable python – of car after car after car. After fuming for a good 15 minutes for having landed myself in this unprecedented jam in the most unlikely of places at the most unlikely of times, it suddenly dawned upon me: I had unwittingly entered the Lamcy Plaza area on the day Kareena Kapoor was supposed to make an appearance at the mall.

Major face-palm action.

Never – and I cannot say this with more emphasis – never, ever go near a Bollywood celebrity who's making a public appearance. Not if you want to emerge with your sanity intact.

I recall being stuck in my office on Sheikh Zayed Road a few years ago when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was shooting at the Trade Center roundabout. From my 15th-floor office window, I could see the traffic backed up on both sides as people came from far and wide to catch a single glimpse of the blue-eyed beauty.

What makes a person drive for an hour and then hang around for a couple more just to see a celebrity in person? What is it about seeing a star in real life that drives otherwise sane adults to insanity?

You would think that Preity Zinta, who was in France shooting for Ishkq in Paris, would receive a warm welcome when she returned home. What she got instead was a sprained ankle when she slipped on a wet pavement trying to avoid the 500 flashes simultaneously fired in her face by the waiting paparazzi.

The cast of Barfi! got it in Bangalore. Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D'Cruz and Ranbir Kapoor were in Phoenix Mall to promote the film when their fans broke through the barricades. The stars had to beat a hasty retreat through the back door.

And it doesn't happen only in India. A few years ago, Katrina Kaif got mobbed in a Dubai mall. A crowd apparently surrounded her and would not let her pass. What did they think would happen? They would get to keep her for themselves and live happily ever after? But poor Kat just keeps on getting it. Once, in Ludhiana, she actually fell right into the hands of a mad mob when the stage she was standing on collapsed. Three cheers for the burly bodyguards who are always at hand to save damsels in distress, though.

But Bollywood's men are not far behind. Mr Bodyguard himself is known to employ the services of several strongmen at a time: Salman Khan has had six bodyguards until now but, ever since the premiere of his new film, Ek Tha Tiger, he has had to double that number amid growing security concerns (including a mob outside his Mumbai residence over Eid, which dispersed only after the police intervened).

If you think 12 bodyguards are too many, wait until you hear the figure demanded by Mallika Sherawat. For her multi-city promotional tour of Kismat, Love, Paisa, Dilli, the starlet (yes, starlet) has demanded 30 bodyguards. She already has 15 but, apparently, they don't do the trick. It's going to cost the producer about Dh300,000 more than he was originally planning to spend. I bet he's wishing he had spent that cash on signing an A-list actress instead.

The writer is an honest-to-goodness desi girl living in Dubai