Spoilers Ahead by Rajeev Masand: The mind of a movie star

A journalist friend called up last evening fuming about having had to wait four hours only for a movie star to not show up for their pre-arranged interview. The actor had been running late from a talk show he was recording, but hadn’t had the courtesy to inform the scribes who were due to sit down with him next that he would be considerably late. The angry journos finally staged a walkout, much to the displeasure of the actor’s PR team, who kept insisting he’d show up any moment now. But four hours had passed already, and it wasn’t a good look for the star.

Actors have busy lives, chock-a-bloc schedules, and innumerable commitments. It can become hard to stick to a plan, given the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of the job. An actor could be heading into a dub, but might suddenly receive a call from his industry-mogul producer who’s so pleased with the trailer he’s cut for the new film they just made together that he insists the actor drop everything and come see the trailer right away. Depending on where the actor is in the Bollywood pecking order, he could either promise the producer that he’d stop by first thing after he finishes his dub. Or he’d just cancel his dubbing commitment (thereby inconveniencing his current producer)and head straight to massage the ego of his big-shot mogul-producer with whom he hopes to make more films in the months ahead.

The insecurity trap

Movie stars aren’t bad people. They don’t want you to stay hungry while they run four hours late for an appointment, they don’t want to cause you financial loss when they cancel the day’s shoot or dub, they don’t want to embarrass you when they change their mind last minute about showing up for a commitment they’d made to you weeks ago. Honestly, they’re not even thinking about you. And that’s just it. They’re focussed so intently on themselves and on doing what suits them best, that frankly, they couldn’t care less about the repercussions of their self-prioritising on others.

In my new role, working closely with actors, I have a ringside view of the way that their minds tend to work. First, let’s just understand that actors are extremely insecure people. How can they not be? All of them—even the ones who got a break relatively easily—are constantly reminded that it’s a jungle out there. One wrong move on your part and there are so many others waiting in the wings who can do your job just as well, if not better. One stupid tweet, one thoughtless comment and you’ll be cancelled faster than it takes to log into your Instagram account. Today you’re Number One, two wrong choices later you’re back at the end of the line. So the insecurity is permanent… even when they’re right on the top.

Then there is the fact that everything is in full public view. The film business may be the only area (barring perhaps politics) where everyone has access to the professional’s ‘report card’. If an actor’s delivered a lousy performance in a film, or if an actor’s film bombs, it’s there for the world to see. The humiliation, the failure, the rejection, the fall from grace—nothing is hidden from the world.

Charisma quotient

I’m not making a case to defend actors. They’re not ‘poor little rich folks’. You could argue that the ones who’re good at what they do (and many who aren’t) get very well compensated for everything the job takes from them. They’re recognised on the street, they travel more in a year than most of us will in a lifetime, they get more free stuff than they have room in their homes to keep, and the best of them are adored by strangers.

There’s no need to feel sorry for them. But it might serve you well to understand why they are the way they are, if you want to spare yourself the heartburn of them not living up to your expectations. Know that they’d be happy to do what you need them to, but only if it aligns with their own interests. It’s not personal… except that it is.

My journalist friend called to say the actor had reached out, apologising for his tardiness the day before, requesting if they could do the interview today. He promised he wouldn’t be late this time. True to his word, the actor was on time. He dialled up the charm, said sorry again in person, and the interview was recorded smoothly. By the time my friend got back home, he had forgotten how upset he was yesterday, and was clearly a convert, even quoting back and chuckling over the best bits from their conversation.

That’s a movie star.

Formerly a film journalist, Rajeev Masand currently heads a talent management agency in Mumbai

From HT Brunch, December 10, 2022

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch