May 25, 2010

TWITTERATI - Bollywood Stars & Tweets

“I wonder when we’re gonna get sick of Twitter,” tweeted Shruthi Haasan last week. Fans may be asking the same question, But given the celebrity traffic on the micro-blogging site, The singer-actress’s fraternity doesn’t seem to share her fatigue. If 67-year-old Amitabh Bachchan signed up this month with his first tweet reading: “hey baby !! I made it on twitter !!! Yeeaaaaaahhhh !!”,Then at age 78, Shammi Kapoor tweets all hours of the night and day. Ashton Kutcher to Abhishek Bachchan, Demi Moore to Deepika Padukone, Sean Penn to Shah Rukh Khan, Shane Warne to Sachin Tendulkar, Twitter is one starry, starry site. With minute-by-minute updates of who ate what for lunch, Who is having friends over for dinner and who is going on a fancy holiday, the private lives of the rich and famous are now just a mouse click away...

Why Twitter?

While their Hollywood counterparts had discovered the joys of Twitter some time ago, Bollywood stars have only just woken up to the power of 140 characters. “I am on Twitter because it gives me an opportunity and a platform to be able to share and voice my opinions on matters that concern me and like-minded people,” says Twitter poster-girl Gul Panag, one of the first from Bollywood to sign up. For Priyanka Chopra — whose love affair with Twitter started about six months ago — it represents “freedom of expression at its best”. “I love the interactivity of it and the fact that you get a pulse of what the world is thinking and doing, not just through your followers but also through the people you follow,” says the Dostana girl who refers to her followers as “Twitter Rockstars”.

The prospect of direct interaction with fans and the promise of instant feedback have prompted many celebrities to go tweet, tweet, tweet. “Twitter is almost like having a chat session with my followers on a regular basis. There is a reaction to every tweet I make, there’s feedback, suggestions, opinions and that’s what makes it so interesting. This happens as a one-on-one between my followers and me with no one in between, making it very real and honest,” says Priyanka.

Removing the mass media as a go-between, celebrities are getting their message out loud and clear. “Twitter works very well for the stars because it gives them an opportunity to connect with their fans directly and pass on, what they believe, is undistorted and undiluted information, and not have anyone cross-examine them for it,” says Bharathi Pradhan, The Telegraph columnist and editor of The Film Street Journal.

Not to mention the ego boost!


Fans, of course, are lapping up all the attention. Which admirer wouldn’t love the chance to see private pictures posted online — without the chance of them being discredited as doctored? Genelia D’Souza and Priyanka Chopra have put up pictures of the sets they shoot on while Uday Chopra has posted clips of the food he eats! And then there is all that trivia. Did you know that Abhishek Bachchan listens to David Guetta all the time and is a die-hard Chelsea fan? Or that Sachin Tendulkar cherishes a guitar autographed by U2’s Bono? And that almost every other night, Paris Hilton talks about being in her pyjamas and cuddling her dog to sleep as she watches the latest episode of Glee?

The Q&A session with followers — started by Shah Rukh Khan and now aped by many — in which a fan can ask their idol any question directly, is another pop hit. How Shah Rukh met wife Gauri, how Arjun Rampal woos wife Mehr Jessia, what Hrithik Roshan is afraid of, which fan trait irritates Shahid Kapur the most… such is the substance of the chatter.

“I like reading about what Shah Rukh had for dinner and what Hrithik does when he is not shooting. It’s information that comes straight from the star and isn’t something that one gets to read in interviews. I am sure the followers love it,” says television presenter Gaurav Kapoor.

Celebrities are making the most of the direct channel of communication with the world. Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur recently apologised on Twitter to actor Anil Kapoor after learning that the Slumdog Millionaire man was miffed that Kapur had recommended him as a judge for a reality show. Tennis star Sania Mirza launched on Twitter a stout defense of Shoaib Malik in the days preceding their controversial marriage. Director Karan Johar even took on fellow filmmaker Priyadarshan after the latter alleged that the controversy surrounding Karan’s My Name Is Khan was a publicity stunt while Hrithik Roshan apologised to the media after losing his cool during a temple visit recently. “Why call a press conference and spend time and money when you can just log on to Twitter and put forth your point of view to millions in a minute?” asks adman Prahlad Kakkar.


But it isn’t only just fun and games for our celebs on Twitter. Most have discovered the power of the medium and are now using it extensively — sometimes directly, sometimes subtly — to promote themselves and their films. Shah Rukh and Hrithik became Twitter-active just when their biggies My Name Is Khan and Kites were up for release. Mallika Sherawat has been going “Hisssss” on Twitter for a year now. Posting (favourable) reviews of their films and retweeting gushing fan feedback is the done thing for the stars. “Through Twitter, they not only promote their own films but put in a good word for others too,” laughs Bharathi Pradhan. Case in point: In a recent tweet, Karan Johar described Kites as “outstanding” while a few months ago, Preity Zinta tweeted about Amitabh Bachchan’s abysmal Teen Patti being a “must-watch”!

Tollywood too has become tweet-smart. Filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury is promoting his upcoming Ekti Tarar Khonje on Facebook and Twitter. “It’s free and reaches out to 5,000-10,000 followers in a few seconds,” he says. Director Aparna Sen joined Twitter just weeks before the release of her film The Japanese Wife and together with her actress-daughter Konkona Sensharma and actor Rahul Bose, they went all out to promote the film online.

If films are being promoted, then why should star-led brands be far behind? “My brand new electric pink sony cyber shot arriving tday!!yuummiiieeee....can’t wait!!” was a recent tweet from Deepika Padukone. If Genelia posts pictures from the sets of shoots for brands she endorses, then actor Dino Morea uses Twitter to promote his Cool Maal range of merchandise.

And who knows where the Twitter invasion will end? With the Net slowly moving in on every aspect of the entertainment space, Twitter was the chosen forum for the unveiling of the first look of Karan Johar’s I Hate Luv Storys, starring Imran Khan and Sonam Kapoor. “Twitter may have lower penetration than various other mass media but there is no denying its effectiveness,” says Kakkar. “Twitter has already begun to be a fit in the marketing plans of many films. But at this stage, it is an effective addition to a robust marketing plan and not a substitute for one,” adds Priyanka Chopra.

Final proof of celeb dependence on Twitter? Karan Johar and Anupam Kher have both requested their Twitter followers to suggest the titles for their upcoming films!


But is Twitter the cause of decay in celebrity mystique? “Too much accessibility to the star downs the wow quotient. When you invite easy feedback you become closer to criticism,” feels t2 columnist Mssssssir. Case in point: actress Celina Jaitley was recently abused by a follower when she tweeted about equal right for the gay community. “Stars are respected for their brand image. If you are just a click away from knowing what the star is doing, then the fan craze dwindles,” agrees Kakkar.

And there is such a thing as too much information. Holly star couple Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore even communicate with each other (and flirt!) through Twitter!

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury has a different viewpoint, though. “Shah Rukh tweeting about how he is spending time with his family will be interesting to most followers and might even help them realise the importance of family time at some level,” he says. “It’s a place for us all to share our lives and I tweet in that spirit. And since I am a private person by nature, I only tweet about things I am comfortable about sharing,” adds Priyanka.

Not everyone is comfortable with revealing all on Twitter. The makers of Anjaana Anjaani, Priyanka’s new film with Ranbir Kapoor, have made the stars sign a confidentiality agreement promising that they will not talk about the film on Twitter!

As Preity Zinta recently tweeted: “Sitting with some friends and they all think Twitter is dangerous!”

But it’s a danger that our stars are happy to flirt with — at least for now.