Mumbai: Taking a lead from their Hollywood counterparts, India’s Hindi-language film stars are getting online, using the Internet to get closer to their fans.
Whereas only a few years ago, Bollywood stars were still responding to fan mail, signing photographs of themselves and sending them across India by post, the industry’s biggest names are now keeping followers up to date via the web.
Actresses from Shilpa Shetty and Celina Jaitley to actors Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are posting photos, videos and their thoughts on films and life on personal websites.
Listen to Sidin Vadukut talk to former Miss India and Bollywood actor Gul Panag about her experience on Twitter
Social networking sites like Facebook and its Indian equivalent Orkut are also a preferred medium to keep fans up to date with new releases and events.
And although no Bollywood star has yet to surpass US actor Ashton Kutcher’s massive 2.75 million followers on Twitter, Bollywood is also taking to the micro-blogging site to interact with fans without traditional media filters.
Leading star Priyanka Chopra says writing is therapeutic and that she is now hooked on Twitter.
“It started as a lark, a quest of discovery, and now I find my fingers twitching for my Nokia or my laptop wherever something interesting happens,” she told The Hindustan Times last week.
“I have great fun interacting with my ‘Tweeps’. At least they believe it’s the real me, unlike some of you guys, who still aren’t sure that it’s me reading your mails.”
Chopra’s Twitter feed -- www.twitter.com/priyankachopra -- reveals her recent thoughts on everything from Michael Jackson’s death to updates about her shooting schedule and even the monsoon rains.
Sonam Kapoor follows a similar line, “tweeting” on the banal, like her favourite television shows, to her next film project, “Aisha”, based on English author Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma”.
Mayank Shekhar, national cultural editor at The Hindustan Times, said the switch to technology -- despite the low Internet penetration in India -- makes perfect sense given the growing hunger for Bollywood news.
“There’s been an increase in the number of newspapers and television stations that are after the same five people. Most newspapers have five to 10 pages (on Bollywood) every day,” he told AFP.
“Editors want the story as it ups circulation. There’s so much written about these guys’ lives on a daily basis that’s not true, with blogs they can set the record straight.”
Electronic marketing also cuts down costs and avoids time-consuming news conferences, he added.
Bachchan, for example, updates his blog bigb.bigadda.com daily, musing at length on life and responding personally to his many fans’ comments. He also picks apart every news item written about him, giving his own response.
Most recently, the 66-year-old has been giving updates on his health after a recurring stomach complaint.
“Reporters got the entire story from his blog. All the information was in his post that day. It was as good as the reporter having spoken to him,” said Shekhar.
In a sign of the Internet’s influence as a source of Bollywood news, Bachchan courted controversy over remarks he made about the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire”.
Media took his comments that the film showed India’s “third-world underbelly” as a slight on British director Danny Boyle, although Bachchan denied he was being critical of the movie’s success.
Actor-producer-director Aamir Khan also flew into a storm after writing on his website www.aamirkhan.com that he had named one of his dogs “Shahrukh”, fuelling the rivalry between him and his namesake Shahrukh Khan.
But mostly, new technology is used to maintain a strong fan base.
“People find it awesome that a movie star writes to them,” said Shekhar.