Ever since I came to Mumbai, nine years ago, my friends and relatives back in Kolkata would ask me whether I had seen any ‘celebrities’ around. Because this is Mumbai, the city of dreams, the home of Bollywood, surely actors and actresses, and directors and singers, just casually roam the streets. Why one might run into them while shopping for groceries!!
I am not saying its improbable. Heck, one of the signs of being a Mumbaikar is that when you see Sonam Kapoor sitting behind you in a cafe, you turn away, spitefully saying, Meh! She looks thinner onscreen. Or find Salman Khan walking in front of you with his entourage, and your only thought is Move aside! I am late. These are not fictional stories but actual experiences recounted to me by some of my friends. But Fortune hadn’t chosen to till yesterday bless me with the good fortune of having come face to face with a ‘Celebrity’. The closest I came was a car parked outside Nehru Science Gallery, which the watchman gleefully informed me was Sharukh Khan’s car. I was eight at the time, and was frankly quite enraptured (in retrospect I am pretty sure he was lying).
Once while on a guided city tour ride with my relatives who were visiting from Kolkata, while passing Akshay Kumar’s house the entire party got rather excited when we saw a black silhouette at the window. Turned out to be his servant…oh well! Similarly I have encountered the maid of Aishwarya Rai Bachan’s house, when she was busy cleaning the windows. Still better than nothing I thought.
But today, Fate finally decided to bless me with the sight of a real, true to God celebrity. Perchance I happened to be in the same building as the Excel Entertainment offices, and when the lift doors opened – there she was. Zoya Akhtar! The celebrated director of ‘Luck by Chance’ and ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’. Frankly I didn’t recognize her in the beginning. She looked so ordinary. Dressed in normal tee-shirt and slacks, with her hair tied back in a neat bun. She could have been any other woman. She could have been me. The realization took a moment to sink in. And when it did I think my mouth kind of fell open with shock and awe. For her part she gave me an exasperated look that clearly said she was tired of bimbos like me staring at her, and sidestepping me went off to wherever she was going.
When my shock wore off I started to realize how stupid I was to think of celebrities as perfection embodied. They are ordinary people, like me and you, just that they are extremely talented, and have used this talent to create a niche for themselves in the world. We can do it too. Hone our skills, so that someday when we walk out of a lift and run into a 18-year old girl, she stares at us open-mouthed.