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Wow! Great first post and welcome to LJ. :)

Not to be a negative nelly but this selective bashing is common to many different fandoms. Team Edward fans hate everything about Jacob and vice versa. Hermione/Harry fans hate Hermione/Ron fans... Backstreet Boys fans hated N*Sync fans and as for East Asian media... wow. You will not believe the flame wars that get started over the latest actress who dared play the "other woman" in a TV drama opposite a popular couple.

What I think is unique about Indian film fandom is the devotion to their idols, especially in South India. The large cut-outs, the prayers, etc... It's really pretty amazing.

Thanks so much for the reply. I don't consider your comment negative at all, I do have very little experience with cinematic fandom outside of BW, all things vampire and Hogwarts being of precisely zero interest to me. My perception has been shaped by reading youtube comments and IMDb message boards, where the difference I describe above seems quite noticeable.

It's really not unique to Bollywood fans.


This was a recent incident where fans in Korea actually went and graffittied an actress's house because they didn't like her being linked up with their favorite idol.

That's interesting, and it may also reflect a lack of clarity in my attempts to express my point. Crazed fans attacking HER for being with HIM I can relate to; Justin & Selena are having the same problem, poor kids. That's not the sort of "exclusivity" I was thinking of. The mindset I was thinking about would have seen that Korean actor's house trashed by fans of another MALE actor, for being perceived as a rival. Any attack on HER would have come not from HIS fans, but from of fans another actress. So, it wouldn't be Akki fans egging KK's house for sullying their hero, it would be Rani fans angry at her for stealing the big parts.

Oh, that happens too... an actress replaces a more popular actress in a drama and all hell breaks loose on the forums.

It's a global fan phenomenon. ;)

I just thought of a good example - in the Twilight films, when Bryce Dallas Howard took over the role of Victoria from Rachelle Lefevre, fans went CRAZY.


The haterade against Bryce was flowing...

Yes, I remember that - I'm partial to readheads, and Ms Howard is a striking specimen thereof. That sort of thing is nearer what I had in mind, but to return to the forum I referred to, the (relative) newcomer I mentioned who is toxically vicious toward KK is a truly devout and worshipful fan of Madhuri. Those two aren't rivals and never will be. I don't see that being a Madz fan requires attacking someone who is no threat, not a competitor. Going back to Hogwarts and Hollywood, that seems akin to a Julianne Moore fan attacking Emma Watson.

Fans are fans - you can be talking to somebody that you think is perfectly normal but then mention the (US sports team) the Yankees and they turn into a raging looney because they are a (rival US sports team) Red Sox supporter.

It's a worldwide phenomenon.

In the US and UK I think you find it more with sports and music than films. Remember Rolling Stones v. Beatles? Blur v. Oasis?

Nothing remotely loony about a Red Sox fan getting upset at mention of the Yankees. As an Arsenal fan, I have an affinity with the Sox, even if they did kinda steal that Arsenal classic Fever Pitch.

I liked your post, and look forward to reading more. Yeah, filmigirl's right. Fandoms the world over (Bolly and non-bolly) are pretty virulent in their love and in their hate.

Feel free to follow me too (You may remember me from such twitter accounts as @kalikaliankhen ;)) and maybe one day you'll see me hold forth on something other than writers' block! That day has not yet arrived, however ;)

Thanks, Anzac amiga. I'm increasingly thinking I've failed to make clear the distinction I see, or perhaps it's only an illusory distinction after all. It just seems to me that while it's quite possible to be a devoted fan of both Castle AND Hawaii Five-0, (to take two completely random examples out of absolutely nowhere), that's not the norm in BW. If Akki's Vin Diesel and George Clooney is Akshaye Khanna, an Anglo might be a fierce fan of both, most desi fans would pick one and loathe the other, despite the differences in genre.

You're right about desi fans. They really bring a spiritual element that doesn't exist for occidental fandoms :)

Actually, it's interesting that you bring up Castle and H50. When I happened to mention the fact that I was going to watch some H50 during the Castle hiatus to one of my Castle buddies, she said "Ooh, they're the competition". So your random examples may not be quite as random as you thought! In US primetime TV, strong allegiances are built up among fans who watch things as they go to air. Whereas we who must rely on takeaways and DVDs don't get any pressure to watch anything at any given time, and don't really lean one way or the other! That sort of thing is manipulated by the TV networks, of course. Desi fandoms are something else again.

I love that both you and Filmi Girl touched on something I avoided - the religious nature of desi fandom. I wanted to avoid the potentially inflammatory consequences of that in my first post, but my initial musings on the subject explicitly contrasted India's syncretic religions, with its religiously exclusive enthusiasms. :)

FG et al are right - fandom exists worldwide, of course it does, but I think I know what you are getting at (because we were discussing it recently on Twitter!) - the pervasive all encompassing divisiveness that seems to exist in Indian cinema as opposed to in other spheres, where fandoms appear to be more niche and surround specific films or genres (with some examples already given).

I think what you are getting at is a broader picture based on the way the industry has developed - like how in Hollywood for example, there isn't such a focus on the STAR IMAGE within films - e.g. how in every film, SRK is playing some version of SRK above all else; Akki maintains his image of the poor boy made good; Govinda is always Govinda with a certain set of generic rules that allow him to project "Govinda" as a character.

In Hollywood and other industries (someone correct me if I am mistaken) it's not so muchstar driven like that - so the focus isn't on seeing a "Brad Pitt" film over a "Tom Cruise" film - and there isn't that competition set up from the get go, audiences don't have to pick which camp they are in, and choose their allegiance. In Hindi cinema, you can sort of see that competitive aspect built in from the start - if a Sallu pic goes up against a SRK pic - even if the trailers are released at the same time, the star image thing is there driving that competition and the fandom.

Thanks, nesspi. I think you've encapsulated the main reason for the difference, one I hadn't thought of properly:
"in every film, SRK is playing some version of SRK above all else; Akki maintains his image of the poor boy made good; Govinda is always Govinda with a certain set of generic rules that allow him to project "Govinda" as a character."

As you say, that makes sense of the exclusivity, and why a Sallu pic opening against an SRK pic would be considered competition, when their Anglo equivalents would not, but would be targetting different markets.

This was such an interesting read! And so well articulated.

However I, like some of the others, do not think that this observation of fiercely denigrating the competition of your idol is exclusive to desi filmi fandom. One example where this is quite common is tennis fandom - I've heard many anecdotes from my brother, who frequents such forums, of Nadal, Roger and Andy fans caustically criticizing and mocking every move of tennis players that are considered their favourite's rival. Some fans apparently don't see how you can appreciate both Federer and Nadal. And those posters do get pretty personal about the players they are ragging on.

So yeah, from actor bashing to charactcer bashing - I feel I've seen it or known it to happen in other fandoms too. Doctor Who, for example. Christopher Eccleston vs David Tennant vs Matt Smith is another debate that sometimes gets ugly.

Thanks, never_evil. I guess all the replies have really confirmed it beyond a shadow of a doubt: The problem was not unfamiliarity with desidom, but with fandom. To all of you for taking the time to enlighten me, many thanks!

Madhulika Liddle, author of The Englishman's Cameo (if you haven't read it, do!) was kind enough to send a comment to me after LJ's technical difficulties prevented her posting it here:
I was reminded of some of the early comments I received on my blog, Stuart... I remember drawing up a list ('Ten of my favourite Bollywood actresses') - listed for beauty, mainly, not acting ability. (Mark the word 'MY favourite'). Some of the comments I got were so vitriolic and downright foul that I had to delete them - I refused to have such fury vented on my blog. I can't understand this need to pull down other people's preferences, simply because you have your own. And should anybody - actor, singer, MD, (writer?!), be judged in such a general way? I think each person has their faults AND their virtues. So, while I may not often like Raj Kapoor, I do concede that Teesri Kasam was a superb film - and he was excellent in it.

Tolerance. Much more tolerance...

Thanks to @asimburney from upodcasting.com for also trying to comment here:
Great post & very interesting read!

I do find the intro to your post very thought-provoking coming from sort of an outsider-pov to the desi culture and peering inside is always fun to read.
Like you I wasn't raised in Pakistan (or India=let's just equate them for arguments sake)so I was always trying to analyze behavior & try to understand it. But my family was very much like DDLJ's Amrish Puri where we created a little Pakistan in our adopted countries, only watching Desi movies & speaking Urdu at home.
I had my teen years of rebellion where i wanted nothing to do with my heritage considering it backward & hypocritical,to later on my Malcolm X years where everything white was evil as it was built on the fortunes amassed by slavery & colonialism.I am happy to have reached a happy medium now where i can hate on both sides :-)
So this is my perspective, not more valuable than any other as there are so many.
A few things I have figured out which may clarify how Bollyfandom works. None of these traits are unique, you find them with all races but added with the desi sense of melodrama they take a more epic proportion.
Desis use language according to their emotion & don’t necessarily mean what they say. Let me use a positive example.My French wife noticed this in me when she said:"Do you know how many times you've said that is your FAVORITE song or your FAVORITE movie growing up? That's impossible,the word favorite implies there is only 1" She is completely right,I meant to tell her i loved something but expressed it like a proper desi.
So wishing a bloody death to all SRK fans doesn’t necessarily mean that exactly, its just a way of saying:I don’t care much for this Shah Rukh chap

Desiness in entrenched in plurality & deals with it by calling it out: If the US is a melting pot, India & Pakistan are cultural Lego Boxes(in the US everything just melts into becoming American) Different races, languages, religions really like side by side in desi land.
So they address each other with those differences without malice. We had a Chinese lady who had a grocery store in Karachi. Everybody used to call her Chini Aunty, in any other country this would be highly inappropriate but when asked, she said was raised in Pakistan & really didn’t mind, and even if she did, she got over it.
I know our friend FilmiGirl made a comment recently on her blog about Sonakshi Sinha's weight being a joke during the shooting of Joker, but this is normal everyday fun, which I can totally imagine. Someone in every desi family is always called moti or Kaali or in my case Lamboo (i'm really not tall) or my dad's favorite chapti naak (squished nose... again,not).At every family function your aunt will point out if youve lost weight or gained weight during the first minute she sees you in front of everybody, the word for word translation to English would be "Youve become fat" but in Urdu it's just day to day conversation
Point 3
The Desi national sport of teasing:this is a unique phenomenon I've never seen in any country to this extent.Youths mostly but this is done by uncle-types,aunties,girls,anyone will just hang about & tease/bully each other.
I put the slash in as it is beyond teasing but not bullying as non desis would understand, more like pushing ones buttons for the sake of fun.In a Hindi movie this is the moment where goons would take it too far with the hero's sister & then get a trashing (if it was Rohit Shetty, there would be many wires involved).But at our home it happens at the dinner table too.Sometimes you take it too far and someone ends up crying. but never is an apology given, you just move on with your life.(see point 2)

So when you combine all 3 points you get the Bollywood fan.
It is closely associated with the sport fan, where you pick a team, stick with it through thick and thin and keep track of the scores. You tease others & push their buttons, you troll websites & usually take it a step too far (the anonymity of the net has really not helped here, but that is the case on AICN or Slashfilm boards too ie Cool story bro). Sometimes you win, sometimes you end up crying...but whatever happens, the next day , you just get on with life again.

I've been endlessly debating wth myself whether or not to comment on this blog post but well...I thought I'd articulate this just so I can think it out better.

My comment relates to the (inadvertant) regionalism of the Indian fandom. At a general level, everyone (irrespective of which ethnic region of India they belong to) tend to have general likes and dislikes that cut across regional borders.

But that's not fandom, is it? Fandom is more passionate than general likes and dislikes - and here's where I have seen that unconscious regionalism creep in. I'll give just two examples to illustrate my point:
(i) I am yet to come across any Bengali who would prefer Kishore Kumar over Mohd Rafi (even though the said Bengali may passionately like several Rafi songs).
(ii) I have not seen any Allahabadi who would choose Shahrukh Khan over Amitabh Bachchan (even though said Allahabadi watches every SRK film first day first show).

This, I guess, is another facet of the irrationality of fandom - you may actually like someone but you say you like someone else just because that other person belongs to your "group".

Thanks so much for your comment, alfaazi, and I'm really glad you both decided to contribute, and that you were able to do so. I wonder if you could clarify the Kishore/Rafi example you mentioned. Rafi was Panjabi, snd Kumar Bangla, but you say that you have "yet to meet any Bengali who WOULD prefer Kumar over Rafi"? This has me a bit confused, I'm sorry.

Can I edit my comment? :-)

*red ears* Okay, that's an error. There's a missing 'not' there. Let's turn that into a non-negative sentence. It shoudl read:
I am yet to meet a Bengali who would prefer Rafi over Kishore.

Interesting post! And I didn't know you had a blog either! :) But thanks to your wonderful post on Pyaasa over at TBF's (that I read nodding my head in approval at every paragraph, especially the ones about Johhny Walker :D), now I know!

Of course I know exactly where all this is coming from, which makes it sort of an amusing read to me, and I do agree with most of your points. My only objection, or not even, maybe better called addition to your thoughts on the topic of fandom, is that not all hate vis-a-vis an actor, actress or director is caused by their existing or made-up rivalries. I for one have a serious aversion for certain directors or actors and it's not because they are rivals of other actors I love, but because I just... well... think they suck. For reasons that for some I can explain and for some I just can't put my finger on, but I know for a fact they have nothing to do with whoever the media decided to compare them to. I'm sure there are many people that see it the same way, and in fact it seems almost impossible to have a hobby where you only have likes and no dislikes. It's a truism that the more you know about a topic, the more opinionated you will be, for better or worse, or am I wrong? The more you become a fan of such a diverse industry, the more you discover that there are items in it that you heavily dislike. Maybe that's what you perceive as "contempt [that] is seemingly viewed as a requisite to prove your worth or merit as a true fan of whoever it is you support". Surely you have your own set of dislikes, I would be very surprised if you didn't.

I attribute the hate more to a third party that is indeed more vicious in India than in other parts of the world: the media. It would be interesting to really look into whether this fan-hate business actually comes from the fans and how much of it is induced by the media. I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the media pitching actors and actresses against each other which then causes people to take sides. The most recent example of this is a series of articles I was reading about Imran vs Ranbir back when Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Rockstar were scheduled to come out on the same day. All of a sudden a whole series of details were brought up to illustrate the "rivalry" between them, a rivalry I had never heard of before (and have not heard of since either). But just you watch how this will come back the next time they're both nominated for the same award or whatever other similar situation. I think that's what prompts fans to take sides to begin with, more so than an inner need to hate on everyone that is *not* your favourite dude or dudette. But I guess we'll never know because the latter is almost impossible to prove while the former is so tightly knit around any kind of news about a film or an actor that it's hard to fight being manipulated most of the times.

Dolce & Namak

Excellent points you raise, Dolce, you too, Namak. Thank you both so much for persevering and helping me figure LJ out a bit better! I'd love to pretend that I'm a highly evolved soul well above the sort of dislikes you mention, but of course it ain't so. SLB movies are anathema to me, and so is KJo's publc persona, especially in the unspeakably awful KwK.

I also agree very strongly about the media's role in "rivalries" and the like. This does seem to be a uniquely Indian thing, as is the now obligatory "are they, aren't they a joDi?" story with every lead pairing in every film. Or at least that is how it seems to me.

Should I stay or should I go?

I think LJ is a bit beyond me, so I'm going to try the simpler, more open waters of Blogger, from now on, http://likhaavat.blogspot.co.nz

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