The other day I sent an SMS to a leading Mollywood actress: “Just as acting is your profession, journalism is my bread and butter. The only reason I am trying to get in touch with you is because my editors have asked me to write an article.” I sent it out of a sense of frustration. Earlier calls and SMSes went unanswered. But she responded to this particular message: “I am not giving any interviews at the moment.”
This was not entirely true. She had given interviews to mass-market Malayalam newspapers and magazines as well as the radio. It seems she, like a few others, lacks the confidence to speak to English language journalists.
But not one particular star, who exuded supreme self-confidence. And when I entered his trailer during a shoot at Kochi, he was lying sideways on a bed, his face resting on his upraised palm. Amazingly, throughout the interview, he remained in this position.
In 25 years of meeting celebrities at the state, national and international level, he is the only person who spoke to me lying.
Interestingly, later, another actor told me that when the star in his early days would beg journalists to write articles about him. He has followed the route of many successful people: go up the ladder and then pretend it did not exist at all.
In my experience, it is the rare Mollywood star who responds to an SMS or a call, unless you are among his favoured group of journalists. But some, like me, prefer a professional relationship. Unfortunately, this behaviour is being perpetuated. Young talents, who become successful, also act like their seniors. There is a new-generation director, as well as a young star, who were friendly when they began their careers. But once they notched up a couple of hits, they stopped responding to SMSes or calls.
On the other hand, Bollywood is far more professional. If you want an interview with a star, all you have to do is to get in touch with his or her publicist. If they feel it is worthwhile, time and date are fixed and the interview is done.
But, sometimes, Bollywood actors, who come to Mollywood, develop local attitudes. One such actor, who is on the fringes in Mumbai, gave me the run for two months. I could have given up, but took it as a challenge. The turning point came when I finally said, “I have worked in Mumbai and met many stars.” (Thereafter, I dropped a few names). The chastened actor gave me the interview immediately.
But there have been nice experiences, too. One such was when I met the late comic great, Cochin Haneefa. He spoke with an endearing humility, and provided a feast for my photographer colleague and myself. To be honest, we were shocked because we’re so used to getting a cup of tea only. After he passed away in 2010 at age 58, his wife Fasila told me, “My husband had a big heart.”