x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fans saddened after Bollywood stars arrive four hours late at promotion

The Bollywood actors Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor were four hours late for a promotion at Dubai and stayed only 15 minutes.

DUBAI // Promotional events for Bollywood movies must be better organised and stick to their schedules or run the risk of alienating fans, Hindi-language movie followers and experts have said.

The UAE has been a staging ground for Bollywood promotions because of the large South Asian population here.

However, the best-laid plans can go astray if not carried out properly. Fans say they have been annoyed by cases of actors' fleeting visits to promotional events, doubly bothersome as Indian movie stars are rarely on time. Poorly managed security is another issue.

"We came to be happy, to be joyful because we are really big fans, but we went away very sad," recalls Indira Suthar, a housewife who lives in Dubai.

She and about 300 others spent more than four hours at a desert camp near Dubai for a promotion of the Hindi movie Thank You, which was released on Thursday.

The well-known Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and the Indian actress Sonam Kapoor arrived at 11pm for the event, which had been scheduled for 7pm. The stars missed the promotional event, their presence at a ceremony of renewal of wedding vows for a couple that had won a studio contest. The celebrities then departed after being on stage for just 15 minutes.

"My children were very upset," Mrs Suthar, 38, said. "They were crying because they couldn't shake Akshay's hand and could not take photos. If a promise has been made to fans, they should keep it or our heart breaks."

Event managers said they had advised against bringing children to the function and had stated that only people who won a radio contest could meet the actors. But fans said they had received no such information.

"Which Bollywood star can meet 400 people? It's just not possible," said Fatima Hayat, the owner of Excellence, the event management company that handled the desert function. She said Kumar's co-stars were suffering from exhaustion and were therefore delayed.

"Waiting is not a good thing and I'm not promoting it, but the expectation of fans is always high and cannot always be met," Ms Hayat said.

For many Asians, Bollywood celebrities enjoy greater stature than their Hollywood counterparts. Event planners draw in crowds of adoring fans at popular malls and restaurants, but controlling the large groups proves difficult because of their enthusiasm. In several promotions over the past few years, bouncers have pushed away crowds surrounding actors.

While Hollywood promotions are often restricted to a select audience, comparable Bollywood events have an average of 500 people spilling into malls or attending parties for a glimpse of their favourites.

"As Indians we love interaction with artists, we like to be close to them," said Ms Hayat. "Our [local Indian] crowd is different and we have to accept it. The audience makes actors into stars and actors know that."

At the same time, she went on to sa that "we know security management is important. Nobody wants bad publicity".

Detailed planning, cordoning off the stage with barricades and controlling access to the actors are the keys, according to the management of Lamcy Plaza, a mall located in the Oud Metha area. More than 2,000 fans can converge there for a Bollywood promotion.

"It all comes down to planning days in advance," said Kabir Malkani, the mall's managing manager. "The strength of the crowd is too much and when they all start moving behind the stars, you need to be very careful."

rtalwar@thenational.ae